The 100 Most Powerful Arab Women 2015 in Investment and Industry

Welcome to CEO Middle East’s fifth annual list of the world’s most powerful Arab women — our yearly look at the most important female influencers across the Arab world.
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4. (5) Lubna Olayan
\nCEO
\nOlayan Financing Company
\nSaudi Arabia
\nBanking & finance

\nIt’s no surprise to see Lubna Olayan in the top five yet again, given her status as Saudi Arabia’s most prolific businesswoman.

\nOlayan is the CEO of Riyadh-based Olayan Financing Company, a group founded by her father in 1947 which has become one of the kingdom’s most successful conglomerates with operations across distribution, manufacturing, services and investments.\nSitting on the board of the group along with her brother Khaled and sisters Hayat and Hutham, it is thought that the private family has accumulated a fortune topping $10 billion.

\nWith operations and participation in more than 40 companies, OFC is also one of the leading investors in the Saudi and regional stock markets.

\nAs well as her work with OFC, Olayan is on the board of trustees of the Arab Thought Foundation - a think-tank focussing on issues within the Arab world - as well as a non-executive director to WPP, and on the advisory boards for Rolls-Royce and Ctigroup. She is a member of the International Business Council of the Word Economic Forum.

\nFurther positions include sitting on the board of directors of INSEAD, membership of of college and university boards, and seats on boards of philanthropic organisations such as Alfanar, and medical associations.
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8. Salwa Idrissi Akhannouch
\nCEO and founder
\nAksal Group
\nMorocco
\nRetail

\nAs the head of Akwa Group, a distributor of petroleum products, and the CEO of retail and luxury group Aksal, Akhannouch is one of Morocco’s wealthiest female entrepreneurs.

\nDespite being born into privilege, Akhannouch decided to take the harder route to wealth and success. No doubt benefitting from her grandfather’s tea empire and husband’s political standing, the high-flier has worked tirelessly to put – and keep – herself at the top of the luxury market in North Africa.

\nHer career started in 1993 when she launched a distribution company for floor laying materials, but things have changed a lot in the intervening years.

\nAmong other things, she holds exclusive rights in Morocco to distribute various fashion brands such as Zara, Banana Republic and Gap, and has built an impressive real estate portfolio, including 50 percent of Morocco Mall – Africa’s largest shopping centre, which attracts 15 million visitors each year.
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11. (6) Nayla Hayek
\nChairwoman
\nSwatch Group
\nUAE (Lebanon)
\nRetail

\nThe latter of those two positions came to pass in 2013 after Swatch acquired the company in a deal thought to be worth up to $1 billion, and it’s certainly a job that keeps Hayek busy with plans to grow from 20 Harry Winston boutiques to 30 by the end of 2015.

\nHarry Wnston made headlines in 2014 when it bought the flawless blue diamond, the Winston B, in May 2014 for $23.8 million.

\nSwatch was co-founded by Hayek’s father, who died in 2010, leaving Hayek and her brother to oversee the company which employs almost 34,000 people in 50 countries. In 2014, net profits fell to $1.33bn, although the firm announced last month it would be introducing a smart watch.

\nThe executive’s passion for horses had led to her being an International Arabian horse judge, as well as owning more than 60 purebred Arabian horses. She splits her time between Biel, Switzerland, and Dubai.
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23. (20) Fatima Al Jaber
\nGroup chief operating officer
\nAl Jaber Group
\nUAE
\nConstruction

\nIn her role as chief operating officer, Fatima Al Jaber oversees more than 60,000 members of staff at the Al Jaber Group, as well as managing around $5 billion in assets.

\nSince taking the position in 2007, Al Jaber has taken charge of some of the UAE’s most iconic construction projects. The company was founded by her father more than 40 years ago, and Al Jaber herself has become one of the region’s most high-profile and respected businesswomen, as well as an advocate for women’s and young people’s rights.

\nShe holds the distinction of becoming the first Emirati woman to be elected to the board of directors at the Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce in 2009, and help numerous positions in the Abu Dhabi municipal government.
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29. (25) Raja Al Gurg
\nManaging director
\nEasa Saleh Al Gurg Group
\nUAE
\nConstruction

\nThere is no escaping Raja Al Gurg’s high standing within the region’s business landscape.

\nNot only does she excel as managing director of the Easa Saleh Al Gurg Group, but the high-profile business woman sits as a board member of the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and INdustry, president of the Dubai Business Women’s Council, and board member of the Dubai Women Association.

\nAnd it doesn’t stop there. Her other positions include member of the Dubai Government’s Economic Council, Federation of the UAE Chambers of Commerce and Industry Business Women’s Committee, Arab International Women’s Forum, and the National Advisory Council for Zayed University’s College of Business Sciences.

\nShe is also deputy chairperson of the Dubai Medical Authoriy and chairperson of the Board of Directors of Al Jalila Foundation.
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30. (18) Hamdiyah Al Jaff
\nChairman
\nTrade Bank of Iraq
\nIraq
\nBanking & finance

\nAs the chairman of the Trade Bank of Iraq, Hamdiyah Al Jaff run’s Iraq’s biggest financial institution.

\nThe Trade Bank of Iraq was set up by the US after the invasion of the country in 2003 and has become enormously influential due to the fact it is owned by the government and provides most of the letters of credit for government purchases.

\nAs the bank was established specifically to assist with the reconstruction of Iraq, Al Jaff has a huge say on how the country’s various new projects and infrastructure will be financed.
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31. (21) Shaikha Al Bahar
\nDeputy group CEO
\nNational Bank of Kuwait
\nKuwait
\nBanking & finance

\nA year into her tenure as deputy group CEO of National Bank of Kuwait, things appear to be going well for Shaikha Al Bahar.

\nPreviously CEO of the National Bank of Kuwait’s home operations, her promotion was a huge vote of confidence and came as part of the lender’s reshuffle following the the departure of long-term group CEO Ibrahim Dabdoub.

\nAlso on the board of the International Bank of Qatar, a director of Mobile Telecommunications Company KSC, vice chairman of Watani Investment Company KSCC, and vice chair of Watani Investment Company KSC, Al Bahar is an important figure in Kuwait’s business landscape.
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51 (27). Maha Al Ghunaim
\nChairwoman
\nGlobal Investment House
\nKuwait
\nBanking and finance

\nMaha Al Ghunaim was one of five friends who founded Global Investment House in 1998.

\nThe company is now one of the region’s biggest investment firms, and when she took it public on the London Stock Exchange in 2008 it became the first Kuwaiti company to list on the exchange. GIH was forced to delist due to the credit crunch, but its refinancing model became a model for other companies to follow. In February this year the GIH inaugurated its new premises in Dubai International Financial Centre, prompting Al Ghunaim to say: “Global DIFC marks a milestone in the future of Global as it strengthens our presence in one of the major capital markets in the region.”
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53 (48). Salma Hareb
\nCEO
\nJebel Ali Free Zone Authority
\nUAE
\nIndustry

\nWith more than 7,000 companies under Jafza’s umbrella, Salma Hareb is overseeing one of the most important groups for Dubai’s economy.

\nThe free zone contributes 21 percent of Dubai’s GDP on a year-to-year basis, accounts for more than 50 percent of the emirate’s total sports, and sustains the employment of more than 1380,000 people. Former lab technologist Hareb started out as a planner for Jafza, but quickly moved up the ranks and in 2005 was appointed the CEO of the free zone and its parent company, Economic Zones World. In the process she became the first woman in the Middle East to lead a free zone. At the end of 2014, Hareb collected on behalf of JafZa the Sheikh Khalifa Excellence Award - Diamond Category, in recognition of the free zone’s consistent growth, innovation, CSR initiatives and increased communication with customers and employees.
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68 (33). Nahed Taher
\nCEO
\nGulf One\nInvestment Bank
\nSaudi Arabia
\nBanking & finance

\nThe Saudi-born CEO holds the accolade of being the first woman in the Gulf to head up an investment bank.

\nAs the leader of Gulf One Investment Bank, which she co-founded in 2005 after a tenure as a senior economist at Saudi Arabia’s NCB, Taher was the first of a growing number of women to break the glass ceiling. She turned down a high-powered job with the International Monetary Fund before taking the job with NCB, saying at the time that she wanted to “do something for my own country”. Having excelled in a male-dominated field, Taher is also a strong advocate for a greater role for women in the kingdom.
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75 (69). Ingie Chalhoub
\nPresident and managing director
\nEtoile Group
\nUAE
\nRetail

\nSince establishing the Etoile Group in 1983, Ingie Chalhoub has been an integral figure in the UAE’s luxury retail sector.

\nThe president and managing director of the group has brought more than 200 international ultra-luxury brands to the region, including Chanel, Valentino, Ralph Lauren, Tod’s, John Galliano and Hogan. Operating more than 60 high-end fashion boutiques across six countries, she employs 400 people and has launched her own fashion line - Ingie Paris.
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77. Elissa Freiha
\nFounder and director
\nWOMENA
\nUAE
\nInvestment

\nOne half of the founding partners of WOMENA, Elissa Freiha is changing the face of investment in the MENA region.

\nThe Emirati of Lebanese and American descent launched the women-only investment platform with her partner Chantalle Dumonceaux, in 2013 to provide Gulf-based high-net-worth women a supportive, professional network and dependable guidance to invest in new companies. Having previously worked in publishing, food and beverage, and entertainment, Freiha oversees the marketing, business development, sales, events, and member satisfaction elements of the business. WOMENA hosts monthly meetings with its members, who are introduced to pre-screened entrepreneurs, offering both sides the opportunity to form a strong investment partnership.
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79 (74). Hind Seddiqi
\nVice president
\nAhmed Siddiqi and Sons
\nUAE
\nRetail

\nOne of the most powerful women in the jewellery industry, Hind Seddiqi is also a role model for Emirati women, having broken with tradition in her family’s business.

\nShe became the first female family member to join the corporate office of Ahmed Siddiqi & Sons, the luxury watch company which came into being in the 1940s. There were no family favours, however, as Seddiqi started out as an intern with the company, rising step by step to the role of VP. Overseeing all marketing and promotional actives for the chain, she has helped enhance the company’s already high reputation, putting into practice a comprehensive plan to guide the business and its retailing of more than 90 percent of the world’s best known luxury watch brands.
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83 (70). Nisreen Shocair
\nCEO
\nVirgin Megastore Middle East
\nUAE (Lebanon)
\nRetail

\nAs president of Virgin Megastore Middle East, Nisreen Shocair has overseen an impressive transformation of the brand.

\nDeveloping the traditional CD and DVD store into a wide-ranging music, video and multimedia entertainment destination, Shocair has changed the company’s target demographic and increased the number of items on offer, so much so that the Megastores are almost unrecognisable from a few years ago. Expansion throughout the region has enhanced the company’s standing, as has its new concept stores which offer a more lifestyle-angled shopping experience. Growing up in Nigeria, Shocair worked at Blockbuster and Sony before making her way to Virgin, and is also active in the development of start-ups.