100 Most Powerful Arabs 2018
Wed 27 Jun 2018 09:18 AM
Bader Al-Kharafi

Company: Zain

Designation: Vice chairman and group CEO

It has been a busy year for Bader Nasser Al-Kharafi. His reputation for pushing limits makes him no stranger to international headlines with yet another Ramadan message going viral internationally, this time in the form of a humanitarian political video that received 14 million views in under a month.

The vice chairman and group CEO of the telecoms giant Zain, Mr Al-Kharafi has been praised for his many accomplishments this year in the fields of education, women empowerment, youth empowerment and innovation. This distinguished him as a global leader on all fronts.

With telecoms companies facing enormous pressure to pivot from their core competencies due to their decreasing margins, Mr Al-Kharafi has managed to steer the company into many prosperous ventures. He executed the first deal of its kind in the region with the sale and lease back of the telecoms towers, a $165m dollar cash injection into the company. Mr Al-Kharafi also led the sale of the company’s treasury shares in one of the biggest deals at $846m dollars, substantially increasing shareholder value.

His innovative approach has also saved many jobs and instead empowered his employees. By creating an in-house co-working space and incubation centre “Zinc”, Bader Al-Kharafi invited all staff members to submit any idea or business venture they had in mind. Zain would then partner with the entrepreneurs, providing resources to grow the ideas into successful businesses. His solution not only streamlined the company and reduced cost, but has empowered individuals rather than making them redundant. This resulted in a successful model other companies can follow as a positive solution for economic prosperity.

During a keynote speech at the Human Capital Forum, he highlighted many hard-to-swallow truths about the region. Education and women empowerment took centre stage; he shared shocking statistics which included the return on investment in terms of education as well as gender equality in comparison to international indices. He provided creative solutions and long-term plans which he has adopted in his companies.

Equality in action

He has ensured that 2018 has been a wonderful time for women at Zain. Al-Kharafi and his team had launched a Women Empowerment Programme across Zain which aspires to achieve equality in the workplace. “We have two clear targets for our programme, one is to increase female leadership from 14.5 percent to 25 percent by 2020 and the other is to progress through the three stages of evolution for a gender diverse workforce,” he said.  They are well on their way to achieving these goals.

Al-Kharafi is also Vice Chairman of INJAZ Kuwait, a non-profit organisation that inspires entrepreneurship, financial literacy and work readiness among the Arab youth. With education at the forefront of his mind, Al-Kharafi envisions education reform even at younger ages that will cultivate creativity, collaboration and foster tenacity.

“We are creating a pool of regurgitators. We must harvest critical thinking and creativity for future workforce readiness,” he said, and with his team has thus far developed a creative education programme aimed at 6-11 year old’s. By developing the “four Cs” of collaboration, communication, creativity and critical thinking in children, the programme “IN.DIG.GO” prepares children to overcome mental blocks in creative and personal development.

By providing evidence of the success of the programme, the ultimate goal is to engage the Ministry of Education to adopt the learning processes into the countries schooling system.

As chairman of the Kuwait Food Bank, the first Food Bank in the GCC, he and his team gave out over 10,000 meals in the Grand Mosque of Kuwait every day. It is also the first to organise food trucks to effectively feed workers in Ramadan.

He was also appointed as a board member of The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Sustainability Board this year, which is mandated to provide sustainable and innovative solutions for refugees in the MENA region.