Innovation and Inspiration

The Harvard Arab Alumni Association (HAAA) held its 11th annual Harvard Arab World Conference at the Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah Hotel in Muscat, Oman, on Saturday April 2, 2016. 

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The conference, which was open to the public, brought nearly 350 participants representing a diverse community of Harvard alumni, professors, thinkers, entrepreneurs, policy makers and leaders all sharing an interest and commitment to the renewal and development of the Arab world. The conference comes to Oman for the first time after being held in past years in Abu Dhabi, Amman, Cairo, Damascus, Doha, Dubai, Rabat and Tunis.

Titled Innovation: Inspiring a New Arab World”, the conference explored a multitude of innovative initiatives emerging out of the Arab World and not only tackled topics of technology and the economic sphere, but also discussed the opportunities in the areas of education, the arts, religion and policy. The conference also featured the first ever HAAA-sponsored startup pitch competition in the Arab World. A high profile panel of judges including investors and industry experts decided on the winner.

This year’s programme featured a large number of distinguished speakers, including Opening Keynote Addresses by HE Yusuf bin Alawi, Minister Responsible for Foreign Affairs of the Sultanate of Oman and Mohammed bin Mahfoudh Al Ardhi, Executive Chairman of Investcorp and Chairman of the National Bank of Oman. HE Ambassador Marc J. Sievers, the US Ambassador to Oman also delivered welcome remarks.

In addition, the event included five focused panels:

  • “Innovative Politics: Finding Common Grounds in Regional Conflicts”
  • “Building the Innovation Economy”
  • “Innovation in Arab Schools”
  • “Innovation in the Art and Culture”
  • “Intellectual Innovation: A New Islamic Narrative”
  • “Innovation & Entrepreneurship”

These panels featured over 25 speakers from across the Arab world and globally, including:

  • E. Mr. Haidar Al Attas, Former Prime Minister of Yemen
  • Haya Al Ghanim, Director of Innovation, Qatar Science & Technology Park
  • Aimen bin Ahmed Al Hosni, CEO, Oman Airports Management Company
  • Maysa Jalbout, CEO of the Abdullah Al Ghurair Foundation for Education
  • Muna Abu Sulayman Co-founder, Meedan.com, Co-host, MBC
  • Mudassir Sheikha, CEO of Careem

Carine Abi Akar (’13), Board Member of the HAAA and Conference Co-Chair noted that this year’s conference “focused on driving positive change, and celebrated the Arab world’s embrace of innovation as a catalyst for transformation in a multitude of areas from technology to art.”

Ahmed T. el-Gaili (’03), President of the HAAA and Conference Co-Chair also added that “the HAWC is an opportunity to convene the next generation of thinkers in the region alongside accomplished leaders from a variety of fields. Through such events we hope to foster a constructive conversation around critical issues facing the Arab world.”

HAAA also hosted, on April 1, an Admissions Information Session for students interested in applying to Harvard College, and the different graduate schools throughout the university.  In addition, at the closing of the conference Omani business group, The Khimji Ramdas Group, signed a letter of intent with Harvard University announcing plans to set up a $250,000 scholarship fund for students from Oman who have enrolled in various graduate programmes at Harvard.