Dr. Florence Eid-Oakden
Founder & CEO of Arabia Monitor
"The way out of MENA’s unemployment
trap is through higher private
sector investment and growth."
Dr. Florence Eid-Oakden is the Founder & CEO of Arabia Monitor, a research firm focused on the Middle East & North Africa (MENA) region, and President of Arabia Advisors. Previously she was Managing Director for MENA at Passport Capital, having established and headed their London office, which covered the Middle East and Europe. Prior to that, Dr. Eid-Oakden was Vice President & Senior Economist for the MENA region at JPMorgan, and Professor of Finance & Economics at the MBA level, the American University of Beirut.
She holds a Ph.D. in Organization Economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (2000), and has held Visiting Professorships at INSEAD and HEC – Paris. Florence has worked for the World Bank on Latin America and North Africa, the Ford Foundation in New York and with Save the Children in Beirut.
She has been a contributing author to the World Economic Forum’s Arab World Competitiveness Reports (2003, 2005). She is a Member of the Board of Directors of the Arab Banking Corporation International Bank in London and in Jordan, has served as a board member of SHUAA Capital and was a Trustee of the American University of Paris, a Patron of the Contemporary Arts Society in London, sat on the Advisory Board of QFINANCE – Qatar, and is a member of the Young Arab Leaders, the Young Presidents Organization and L.I.B.A.N. Florence appears periodically on CNBC Europe, CNBC Arabia, CNN, and the BBC.
Risks and opportunities of doing business in the Middle East
Economics in a Turbulent World
Entrepreneurial Finance: What it Means for MENA
ASEAN-MENA: Emerging hubs of South-South trade
Interview with Dr. Florence Eid-Oakden
Do you believe that geopolitics in the Middle East has an impact on global markets?
MENA is endowed with 70% of the world’s proven oil reserves, but is also a turbulent region, rife with conflict. Disruptions in Libyan oil supply – on the back of political and security turmoil – have placed upward pressure on global oil markets in the past year. But also in the real economy, geopolitical conflicts in the MENA region could impact sizeable foreign interests, as evidenced by China’s involvement in Iraq and South Sudan. Egypt is an important import destination for several European economies that would be impacted should its economy collapse. Egypt’s political and economic importance to the region is partly why the GCC states hastened to prop up its government finances in the aftermath of the Arab Spring. All of these factors continue to add a risk premium to the price of oil.
Can businesses from outside the region benefit from working with the emerging Middle East?
Arabia Monitor has studied extensively the investment and trade ties between MENA and other emerging regions. We highlighted growing interest from Chinese firms in oil sector investments throughout Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Iran and South Sudan but also a deepening of this relationship beyond oil to include petrochemicals, automobiles and construction.
Our studies on Turkish-Arab relations point to sizeable investments in Egypt’s textile industry, Iraq’s real estate construction and the GCC’s ambitious infrastructure pipeline. The region’s strategic position between East and West, particularly for hubs like Dubai and Morocco, for example, is ideal for cross-continental business. Dubai has firmly established itself as a service, logistics, and transport gateway for Asian businesses looking to work with the African continent and vice versa. Morocco is positioning itself as a Dubai of sorts for European businesses looking to do business in West Africa.
How do you see the economic role of women developing across the region? Will women become the leading force for businesses?
Women make very good entrepreneurs, and in an environment of rapid social and economic change, we tend to see an accelerated pace of entrepreneurship driven by women. This is the case in the Arab world today, resulting in an increase in female leadership across the board. It is fascinating to observe how many taboos are being broken.
Lower access to resources such as capital and education typically curtail the participation rates of less privileged women. Cultural and social barriers to entry also pose challenges. But in many instances, the impediment to businesswomen’s advancement is themselves. The silent, unnoticed deterrent, inhibiting this half of society from partaking in business activities is resignation to traditionally imposed stigmas and to intimidation by male dominated spheres. Many have opposed the implementation of quotas for female participation in politics or in corporate boards on the grounds that they underscore the inequality of women. But realistic means of coaxing females into male dominated business and politics spheres are necessary to get the ball rolling. A woman on a board of a corporation might not be able to single-handedly transform the organization overnight. But she would have a more vocal say on gender-related matters especially at top management levels.
People across the region have now come to terms with the need to jump start female involvement in business, as the time for natural evolution has passed. The tsunami that has engulfed the MENA region as of late, further accentuated this sense of urgency for deep-seated changes.
Are there increased opportunities for employment among younger people in the region post Arab Spring or are they becoming economically and politically disengaged?
In our view, the next generation of reforms in MENA’s labour markets will have to encourage entrepreneurship. Fresh, well-educated, graduates are anxious to prove themselves, start making a living, and are willing to take risks and innovate. The challenge is to maximize their chances, equip them with the skills needed in their markets, and link them with capital when their ideas have promise.
MENA’s population has quintupled since 1950, and is expected to double from today’s 350 million, in the next 50 years. Unemployment rates for the non-oil-producing economies of MENA average 20%, among the highest in the world. Unemployment for those under 25 is over 40%, with serious economic/social exclusion and brain drain implications. The way out of MENA’s unemployment trap is through higher private sector investment and growth.
I have mentioned earlier the widening divergences between the MENA countries on the economic, social and political fronts. These will become less tenable as MENA is more interconnected and better integrated. A disillusioned young population, aspiring to life expectations of peers regionally and abroad, but suffering at home from the highest rates of unemployment in the world will be increasingly difficult to satisfy and will become more active in the streets (25% MENA average youth unemployment vs. 14.6% in LatAm, 13.1% in South East Asia and 17.5% in G7 countries).
How to book Dr. Florence Eid-Oakden
Florence Eid is a highly accomplished speaker. Her presentations are full of powerful and effective messages, which she delivers in her personal and highly professional style.
She has an unrivalled breadth and depth of experience within the macroeconomic and geopolitical landscape of the MENA region and is highly sought after for keynote speeches, executive symposiums and panel discussions.
If you would like to book Florence Eid for your next event, please call Dagmar O’Toole on +44 1628 601 462 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.