Samer Abu Ltaif to Head Microsoft in Gulf

Microsoft sign at the entrance of Microsoft Dubai office.

The multinational hi-tech company Microsoft announced its appointment of Samer Abu Ltaif to be the new president for Middle East and Africa.

Abu Ltaif joined Microsoft in 2004 and served as the regional general manager of Microsoft Gulf. He had a crucial role in expanding the company’s Gulf presence and developing the 1,400 partners in the region.

He will be taking over from Ali Faramawy, who was the head of the MEA region for the past 13 years. After his stint as corporate vice president Faramawy will take over as the global head of the Emerging Markets Digital Transformation Organization.

“MEA has tremendous potential. The rich diversity across the region, combined with the fast-growing youth population and innovative spirit, opens up enormous opportunity,” Abu Ltaif said.

He will remain based in Dubai, which is one of the key hubs for Microsoft in the region.
The Dubai office of Microsoft was launched 15 years ago at the beginning of Dubai’s Internet City.

Enel Helping Oil Giants Make Transition to Renewable Energy

Annual electricity net generation from renewable energy in the world (1980-2011). Graphic courtesy of Lery007

Italian utility owner Enel SpA says now is the tine to approach middle eastern countries to get on board with renewable energy supplies as the cost of solar power falls along with oil.

Francesco Starace, CEO of Rome-based Enel said in an interview held in Abu Dhabi that, “We will wait for the first tenders in Saudi Arabia.” Dubai the second largest emirate in the United Arab Emirates, after Abu Dhabi, has begun a renewable program, along with Abu Dhabi. Starace said he would like to see Enel participate in that.

Starace has taken a pro-active position on developing greener sources of energy while scaling back on large power stations. Enel reintegrated its renewable energy division, Enel Green Power, last year, and is predicting a 39 percent cut in the use of fossil fuels over the coming five years for generating power. Two oil giants, Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter, and the UAE, the fourth largest oil producer in OPEC, both would like to shrink their oil dependence and generate more power from solar and other sources.

Enel concluded an agreement with the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority to help improve the emirate’s power grid. They also reached an agreement with the Saudi Electricity Company in January, 2017. Over the next five years Saudi Arabia would like to generate 10 gigawatts of power from solar, wind and other types of renewable energy, said Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih. By 2050 DEWA hopes to be able to produce three-quarters of its power from renewable sources.


BMW Appoints New Head of Middle East Sales and Marketing

MW Tower and museum, Munich, Germany. Photo by Diego Delso, Wikimedia Commons, License CC-BY-SA 3.0"

BMW Tower and museum, Munich, Germany. Photo by Diego Delso, Wikimedia Commons, License CC-BY-SA 3.0

As of October 1, BMW will have a new director of sales and marketing in the Middle East, Dr. Hamid Haqparwar. He will take over his new role in the BMW Middle East headquarters in Dubai, succeeding Ralf Bissinger. Bissinger will be moving on to Thailand in senior management in one of the largest BMW dealerships there.

Haqparwar has held several senior management positions in different areas around the world. His job in Dubai is a return for him to the Middle East where he spent a few years as head of product and price management and then Area Manager for Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain and Iraq.

“It’s a great pleasure to welcome Hamid back to the Middle East where he has solid understanding of the diversity of the region, and considerable experience working closely with our importers.

“Developing new perspectives from his roles in India, will also enable him to contribute to the strengthening of our position in the luxury automotive segment in the Middle East.   I look forward to welcoming Hamid as a member of our management team,”

intoned Johannes Seibert, BMW Group Middle East managing director.

Self-Driving Pods Coming to Middle East

Careem, an app-based car hiring service, announced that it will be partnering with Italy-based NEXT Future Transportation to bring self-driving vehicles to the Middle East and North Africa.

The deal comes in the wake of the joint announcement by Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and the vice president of the UAE that they will be setting as a goal for 25 percent of vehicular travel in Dubai to be driverless by the year 2030.

The pods are being developed by NEXT with unique features making them an intriguing solution for the development of this up and coming technology. They are battery powered, can drive individually or can attach to form bus-like vehicles, and will allow passengers to move between pods.

The company said that the pods will make transportation safer, more efficient, and better for the environment than today’s means of transportation. They will also facilitate less road congestion.

The primary function of this technology is to provide door to door mass transportation resulting in faster and more efficient daily commuting to and from work in the UAE, according to Careem.

“We are honored to create a strategic partnership with such an innovative company as NEXT,” said Careem co-founder and managing director Mudassir Sheikha. “NEXT offers a unique and compelling vision for mass transit. We look forward to working closely with NEXT to pioneer their solutions in the region.”

Apple Making Moves to Open Retail Store in Middle East

Apple Inc, the wildly successful consumer electronics mega company, has no retail outlets in the Middle East. All that is about to change, however, at least according to rumors circulating around the region.

Outside of Istanbul, Turkey, Apple has no stores in the Middle East; yet, according to updated jobs listings on their website, Apple is indeed looking for employees in the United Arab Emirates for a few key retail positions. The most likely candidates for Apple stores are Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

Apple is looking for workers to fit the descriptions of creative, expert, genius and store leader.

In a related development, Apple posted a listing in March to find a candidate who can forge ahead with retail hiring in the UAE.

Apple gets its products into the ME market via third party outlets and online shopping. Apple has had an online store in the UAE since 2011.

Exactly when and where consumers can expect to see these stores is still a mystery. Rumors are pointing to August 2014 for a possible opening date for Apple, while the Mall of the Emirates is a possible location for Apple’s first store.

WEF Panel Discusses Economic Trends for 2015

Global economic trends were at the top of the agenda at this year’s World Economic Forum. Held in Dubai’s Madinat Jumeirah from November 9 until November 11, the summit brought together some of the world’s most notable leaders in the business and economic realm.

Majid Jafar

Majid Jafar at World Economic Forum

A panel discussion on global trends in 2015 offered a wide variety of perspectives from WEF’s Global Knowledge Networks. Included on the panel were Kuwaiti government minister Rola A. Dashti; CEO of Crescent Petroleum Majid Jafar; Kevin Rudd, former prime minister of Australia; Adam Posen, President of the Peterson Institute for International Economics; and Amina Mohammed, Special Adviser on Post-2015 Development Planning at the United Nations.

Majid Jafar, who also the vice-chairman of the WEF’s Global Agenda Council on Youth Unemployment as well as CEO of Crescent Petroleum, said that:

“On the one hand the government asked the private sector to create jobs, but if the governments are rising salaries or hiring more, the two are actually at odds.”

He added that it is necessary that there be collective action between governments and the private sector.

Amina Mohammed and Rola Dashti agreed that one thing the world is in dire need of is quality education, stating that regional countries are today living through a culture of credentials, but not of knowledge. Adam Posen focused his words on the problem and challenge of regional economies integrating into the global economic marketplace.

The annual summit addressed about 80 issues of international concern, bringing together over 1000 delegates and world leaders such as Al Gore, Gordon Brown and Jose Manuel Barroso.

Mall of Oman Coming Soon

Coming Soon: the Mall of Oman

Coming Soon: the Mall of Oman

Dubai-based developer Majid Al Futtaim Properties (MAFP) is about to embark on an ambitious building spree throughout the Middle East and North Africa (MENA.) On the list of construction projects slated to go up between 2014 and 2016 are hotels, complementary mixed-use communities, and of course shopping malls.  The ‘Mall of Oman’ is planned to be constructed in the Bauwsher district of Muscat, and is budgeted to cost about OMR 180 million ($467 million.)

The mall will be the largest in the Sultanate when it is completed with 350 retail shops, entertainment center and restaurants in a space occupying 157,000 square meters.

George Kostas, CEO of Majid Al Futtaim Properties said: “Oman’s new shopping and entertainment destination is expected to generate 1500 jobs for its construction and a further 3500 jobs once opened, and will enhance the Sultanate’s retail and entertainment offering for both residents and tourists. The Mall of Oman will also provide an opportunity for our retail partners to further establish their businesses in the Muscat market.”

The MAFP group has three business units including shopping malls, hotels and housing developments. They are invested in or manage 12 income producing properties in the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Bahrain, Egypt and Lebanon.

Chief Executive Officer Iyad Malas of MAFP commented:

“The year 2013 was a year of solid top line growth for the business. Revenue growth remained stable at 10 per cent year-on-year, while Ebitda grew to 11 per cent, reflecting strong performance across all parts of the business. We not only delivered robust business results but have also increased efficiency by uniting our companies under one umbrella corporate brand — Majid Al Futtaim — as we embark on the next chapter of our regional expansion plans.”

World Expo 2020 Creating Jobs in Dubai

Expo 2020 DubaiNow that Dubai has been awarded the coveted prize of hosting the World Expo in 2020, the Emirate is gearing up for a construction boom. Third in stature and size after the Olympics and World Cup, the World Expo should do much to increase Dubai’s status as a world destination.

The Expo is expected to create in the vicinity of 220,000 jobs, but the fear is more people than jobs will flock to Dubai in search of work, creating competition for the desired employment. Last year the population of Dubai was 9.2 million, but the prediction is that the numbers will increase to 12.2 million by 2018.

Research analyst Fatima Sherif of Euromonitor International said the coming Expo could cause a huge pouring in of hopeful job-seekers. However only those with the correct and required work visa can stay in the country on a permanent basis. She believes that any increase in job demand will be met with job opportunities in other sectors.

“Despite this, the job market is expected to become more competitive in the UAE as more expatriates seek job opportunities in this part of the world,” Sherif said.

Auris Opening Hotel in Port of Sohar

Hatem Gasmi

The managing director of Dubai-based Auris Hotel Management, Hatem Gasmi, announced that his company will be opening a new four-star, 70-room hotel in Sohar within the next eight months, making it the first property outside Dubai launched by Auris.

The hotel will be located approximately 12 kilometers from Sohar’s airport and will be receiving business as well as leisure guests to the port city.

Gasmi said, "We are in the final stages of design and furnishing – everything is there. It will cater to the needs of the business traveler in Sohar."

The hotel will make a point of attracting family guests by instituting a non-alcohol policy on the premises. Business guests will be enticed with a conference area which can accommodate 200 people in two rooms; a business lounge; two restaurants; and separate health clubs for men and women.

Gasmi stated that the investments which the government made totaling $12 billion towards building up the area will turn Sohar into a “major industrial hub.”

UAE Federal National Council Requests Dress Code Law from Minister of Culture

Abdul Rahman Mohammed Al Owais

One member of the Federal National Council of the United Arab Emirates, Hamad Ahmad Al Rahoumi from Dubai would like to see a law in place which would require residents and tourists to adhere to a modest dress code which respects the culture and sensibilities of the people of the UAE.

Al Rahoumi was speaking with the Minister of Culture Abdul Rahman Mohammad Al Owais with the goal of persuading him that such a law is needed to protect the culture of decency and modesty that is practiced in the UAE.

“There has to be respect for the people in the UAE. Residents and tourists should dress modestly and not spread their bad habits for our children to see and imitate,” Al Rahoumi said.

“I am not demanding that visitors and residents wear our clothes, but their dress should be respectful and not revealing,” he added.

Al Rahoumi also said that the law should include other “unacceptable” behaviors like kissing in public places.

The FNC represented said that visitors should be told in advance about the law; that it is offensive to dress in mini-skirts and shorts in the UAE, in shopping malls or outside on the streets.

“Dress code brochures should be given out at the airport and when the passport is stamped with the visa. Also, there should be big posters in malls and everywhere showing the rules and how women should dress decently.”