Wharton MENA Conference 2015

From MENA to the World

Saturday, March 21, 2015 - Wharton Campus


Private Equity

As markets continue to mature in more developed economies, private equity in MENA presents growth prospects for investors and industries. Private Equity is at a relatively early stage of growth in the Middle East, as the MENA economies are recovering from the financial crisis and the Arab Spring. The panel will attempt to answer some of the questions surrounding the trends and challenges of Private Equity in the Middle East: Do the back-to-back events (Financial Crisis, Arab Spring) present a good opportunity for PE firms to start deploying their money? Are PE firms finding good opportunities in the market? What special challenges do PE firms face in the MENA region? What is the future of Private Equity in MENA?


Mohsen Khalil - Former Global Director, Climate Business Group, International Finance Corporation / CEO, Makvest LLC
Mohsen Khalil

Mohsen Khalil

Former Global Director, Climate Business Group, International Finance Corporation
CEO, Makvest LLC

Mohsen Khalil is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of MAKVEST, LLC, an advisory/investment company that provides financial advisory services to companies operating in or focusing on emerging markets. MAKVEST assists companies in developing expansion strategies and scaling internationally through organic growth or mergers/acquisitions, and securing growth capital through various instruments in equity, mezzanine or project finance. In additon, Dr. Khalil serves as board director and advisor for many companies and investment funds at different stages of growth.

Dr. Khalil has extensive experience in emerging markets and particular expertise in telecoms, information technologies, infrastructure, cleantech and venture capital. He served a long executive career with the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the World Bank. His latest appointment till end 2011 was as Global Head of the Climate Business Group of IFC.

Before that, Dr. Khalil was the joint Director at the World Bank and IFC of the Global Information and Communication Technologies Department. In this capacity, Dr. Khalil led the World Bank Group’s activities in the area of telecommunications and information technologies worldwide. He also served as Director of IFC’s Central Asia, Middle East and North Africa Department, and as Chief Investment Officer in the Infrastructure Department.

Before joining the World Bank Group, while also a Professor of Business at the American University of Beirut, Dr. Khalil served as Chief Advisor to the Lebanese Minister of Post and Telecommunications, Board Director of Lebanon’s Autonomous Fund for Housing, and advisor to various governments and major corporations in the Middle East. He also worked with McKinsey & Co. Management Consultants, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and MITRE Corporation.

Saqib Rashid - Director, The Abraaj Group Aamir Abdul Rehman - Managing Director, Fajr Capital Group
Aamir Abdul Rehman

Aamir Abdul Rehman

Managing Director
Fajr Capital Group

Aamir Abdul Rehman is a Managing Director at the Fajr Capital Group, an investment group whose shareholders include sovereign and private investors from the GCC and ASEAN regions. Its investor include the Abu Dhabi Investment Council, Khazanah Nasional Berhad (Malaysia), the Government of Brunei, MASIC (the Alsubeaei Group of Saudi Arabia), and the HSBC Group. In addition to his Group-level responsibilities, Aamir leads Fajr Capital Advisors, the financial arrangement and advisory arm of Fajr Capital. The firm advises governments, multi-lateral bodies, and private investors on matters pertaining to public policy, investment flows, and Islamic finance. Prior to joining Fajr Capital, Mr. Rehman was Global Head of Strategy at HSBC Amanah, where he oversaw strategy development across the full range of HSBC Amanah’s business lines and regions. Prior to HSBC, he was a consultant with the Boston Consulting Group, advising Fortune 500 and prominent global clients. He is author of Dubai & Co.: Global Strategies for Doing Business in the Gulf States (McGraw-Hill 2007) and Gulf Capital and Islamic Finance: The Rise of the New Global Players (McGraw-Hill 2009). He holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Harvard University, and an MBA from the Harvard Business School.

Youth and Employment

The MENA region has the highest youth unemployment rate in the world, with 27.2 percent of people under 25 without a job. A challenge as well as an opportunity, this reality is undoubtedly a defining issue of current policy and economic trends. This panel will discuss the current status of youth unemployment in the MENA region; it’s impact on the region’s development, and strategies for solving the crisis. What are the main drivers of the youth bulge—supply or demand? How has it impacted recent political uprisings? What conditions are necessary for change?


Dr. Amel Mili - Arabic Program Director, The Lauder Institute, University of Pennsylvania (Moderator)
Dr. Amel Mili

Dr. Amel Mili

Arabic Program Director, The Lauder Institute
University of Pennsylvania

Amel Mili holds a JD in Private Law from the Law School of Tunis and a Master’s in Public Administration from The University of Tunis.  She also holds a Master’s and a PhD in Global Affairs/ Political Science from Rutgers University, Newark.  From 1991 to 2009, and except for a leave of absence to pursue her graduate studies at Rutgers, Amel served as a Magistrate in the Administrative Tribunal of Tunisia, a special supreme court modeled on France’s Conseil d’Etat.   During her tenure with the tribunal, she also served on short-term assignments in Quebec City, Canada, and in Paris, France. Amel joined the Lauder Institute in January 2010. She became an OPI rater in 2012 and is completing her full certification as an OPI tester in Arabic language.

Amel’s professional interests include law; political science (gender politics, democratic transition, globalization, the Arab Spring), language education (balancing language skills and contents, balancing theory and practice, balancing depth and breadth, balancing business and culture, Analyzing the status of Arabic) and law (Constitutional law; administrative law, family law and Gender).  She has published articles in journals and conferences, as well as a textbook for teaching Arabic to Business students. She is currently preparing a book for University Press of New England/ Brandeis University Press titled Gender and the Arab Spring; this book is due to appear in 2016. Amel served as program co-chairwoman of the First International Workshop on Digital Technologies for Teaching and Learning Arabic (held in Tunis, Tunisia, in May 2012).

Amel’s personal interests include advocating gender equality, minorities’ rights, and supporting organizations that promote justice.

Nawara Chakaki - Head of Operations, BarakaBits.com
Nawara Chakaki

Nawara Chakaki

Editor-in-Chief and Head of Operations

As editor-in-chief for BarakaBits.com Nawara is leading a movement in the media to change the narrative on the Middle East to a positive one. She’s an advocate for a positive outlook, running a team of journalists on the ground who deliver stories on people and organizations doing good in the region. Nawara combines her passion for social advocacy with her talent as a digital native to deliver web-friendly content.

Prior to BarakaBits.com Nawara lead program development and public relations for non-profits addressing children’s causes. Nawara worked with Syria Relief and Development and Kidsave International in the USA and Rainbow for a Better Childhood in Syria. She worked diligently to improve the conditions of institutionalized orphans and abandoned children and advocated for integrating them into mainstream society through lobbying and publishing on the matter.

Nawara channeled her creative skills for arts and design through retail. Trained in one of DC’s leading boutique design firms, she went on to establish a series of retail operations expressing her creative talent. She founded Turquoiz in the USA, Noon Gallery in the Old City of Damascus and supported the growth of other boutique retail operations in the USA and Syria. Her interest in conserving artistic culture and heritage lead her to co-establish Alwan Afreen. She is currently working on a book showcasing the beautiful weavings of Syrian Kurds in Afreen.

Nawara earned her degree in International Business from George Washington University and holds over 10 years in the nonprofit and social enterprise sector.

Rachel Rubin - Public Diplomacy and Youth Engagement, Bureau of Near Eastern Affair, U.S. Department of State
Rachel Rubin

Rachel Rubin

Public Diplomacy Desk Officer, Bureau of Near Eastern Affair
US Department of State

Rachel Rubin is a Public Diplomacy Desk Officer in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, Office of Press and Public Diplomacy. The Office of Public Diplomacy supports U.S. Embassies in the Middle East and North Africa with academic and cultural programming including the Fulbright Scholarship program, the Humphrey Fellowship, the Critical Language Scholarship and others. Rachel focuses on youth engagement and special programs in the MENA region, and prior to working as a Public Diplomacy Desk Officer she served at the U.S. Embassy in Tunisia in the Public Affairs section. Before joining the State Department, Rachel was a Fulbright Research Fellow in Morocco and completed her Masters in International Affairs at the George Washington University. Fluent in French and Arabic, Rachel has studied and conducted academic research in France, Jordan and Egypt.

Real Estate

The escalating geopolitical situation in the MENA region has had many effects on the real estate sector in the region. There are many countries that have benefited from this turmoil, as they have proven to be a safe haven, while many others have been hit hard. Where do investment professionals see opportunities and risks going forward? What are the trends that are expected, and what will be the drivers behind them? Our panelists will discuss their views on the different real estate asset types and markets in light of the political instability surrounding the region.


Emily Crutcher - Vice President, Jones Lang LaSalle
Emily Crutcher

Emily Crutcher

Vice President
Jones Lang LaSalle

Ms. Crutcher is a Vice President at JLL’s Public Institutions group based in New York City. Her responsibilities include analyzing the financial and strategic viability of real estate development projects, delivering insightful market reports, providing risk-adjusted real estate investment strategies, and conducting comprehensive portfolio analyses to a wide range of public sector clients across the Northeast region. From 2007 to 2012, Ms. Crutcher worked in JLL’s Dubai office servicing clients across the Middle East and Africa. Ms. Crutcher’s diverse experience enabled her to provide government agencies, private developers, High Net Worth Individuals and investors with innovative real estate solutions. She worked with prominent clients such as Majid Al Futtaim Properties, the Municipality of Abu Dhabi and the Knowledge Economic City in Saudi Arabia.

Ms. Crutcher earned her Bachelor of Arts degree at Duke University and also completed a summer program in Urban Planning at the Harvard Graduate School of Design.

Jahed Rahman - Director of Hospitality and Leisure, Aldar Properties
Jahed Rahman

Jahed Rahman

Director of Hospitality and Leisure
Aldar Properties

Jahed heads the hospitality and leisure division of Aldar Properties, a leading listed real estate developer in the Middle East. Jahed is tasked with responsibility for the overall strategy of the division as well as financial performance of the existing portfolio and future developments. Jahed was previously a senior member of the Investment Banking Department at Credit Suisse focusing on Mergers & Acquisitions in the Emerging Markets, initially based in London and subsequently in the Dubai office. He joined Aldar after being part of the team that advised the company on their merger with Abu Dhabi peer Sorouh Real Estate. Prior to working at Credit Suisse, Jahed was part of the Natural Resources Corporate Finance team at Dresdner Kleinwort in London. Here, he was focused on advising global oil & gas and metals & mining corporations on their international expansion/repositioning strategies. He started his career working within the Corporate Finance team at PricewaterhouseCoopers. Jahed earned both his Master of Arts and Bachelor of Arts in Law at The Queen’s College, Oxford University. He has also completed a Financial Executives course at INSEAD.


Entrepreneurship in the Middle East has been historically dominated by family businesses that built franchise empires. That has changed through government-funded entrepreneurship funds. and more recently through venture capitalists and startup accelerators that are attracting young aspiring entrepreneurs with innovative ideas. Meanwhile, free zones in the GCC have also had success attracting entrepreneurs from around the world to start their business in the high-growth low-cost environments. However, there are still many challenges facing entrepreneurs and the question remains, are government funded programs still needed or is it time for private investors to invest in these aspiring entrepreneurs?


Einas Ibrahim - CEO and Founder, Talem Advisory (Moderator)
Einas Ibrahim

Einas Ibrahim

CEO and Founder
Talem Advisory

Einas is the CEO and founder of Talem Advisory, a management consulting company providing advisory, operations and financial services to early-stage ventures and small businesses including several incubator and accelerator programs such as Astia, Women Innovate Mobile (WIM), AngelHack and 3 Day Startup (3DS).

Einas is an active member of the New York City entrepreneurship community and is often invited to serve as a judge or a panel guest at various events such as the Startup Leadership Program (SLP) and the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Association at NYU Poly and Harvard Arab Weekend.

Prior to Einas choice to work with the startup community of New York, she was part of the competitive Finance Leadership program at Ethicon, one of the Medical Devices and Diagnostics companies of Johnson and Johnson.

Einas had a consulting career in IT and software development for over 7 years where she developed database driven applications, managed various software projects, lead teams and was responsible for communication with the client and various stakeholders.

Einas holds an MBA in Finance and Entrepreneurial Management from the Wharton business school where she was awarded a fellowship for distinguished verbal and written communication skills.

Dr. Hanine Estephan - Oliver Wyman
Dr. Hanine Estephan

Dr. Hanine Estephan

Senior Associate, Oliver Wyman
Co-founder and CEO, Epigenetica

Dr. Hanine Estephan is a health expert with over 10 years of experience in healthcare operations, strategy and research. She focuses on healthcare financing and health care delivery. Hanine currently works at Oliver Wyman – Dubai office in their global healthcare practice.

Prior to joining Oliver Wyman, Dr. Estephan provided technical assistance on national health strategies, public health expenditure and universal health coverage projects while consulting for the World Bank where she was awarded 2014 MENA Vice Presidency Unit Team Award.

Dr. Estephan also worked as head of business development in one of the leading hospitals in the MENA region.

Dr. Estephan holds a doctorate degree in Epidemiology with a focus on health policy from Harvard University. She has also received a master’s degree in Health Management and Policy from the American University of Beirut.

Dr. Estephan currently holds the position of the vice president of the Harvard Lebanese Alumni Club; she speaks English, Arabic and French and enjoys painting, and scuba diving.

Khalil Shadid - Founder and CEO, ReserveOut
Khalil Shadid

Khalil Shadid

Founder and CEO

Khalil was raised in Jerusalem and finished high school in Ramallah before moving to North Carolina for university. In 2004, he joined Cisco Systems, the world’s leading computer networking company, after completing a double major in computer engineering and electrical engineering at North Carolina State University. Khalil was initially part of a team focused on new technologies, specifically voice over IP, and was part of the backbone team that supported global clients. Khalil then moved to New York City to join Cisco’s sales and marketing organization where he held various roles in technical and consultative selling of communications technologies to global fortune 500 companies spanning different industries. In 2011 left Cisco to work on something that combines his passions, technology and food, and started www.ReserveOut.com.