Haifa Fahoum Al-Kaylani: The development economist and women’s rights advocate making a difference

Haifa Al-Kaylani, founder and chairman of the Arab International Women’s Forum.
Updated 06 March 2018
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Haifa Fahoum Al-Kaylani: The development economist and women’s rights advocate making a difference

LONDON: Development economist Haifa Fahoum Al-Kaylani has a well-deserved international reputation for her commitment to empowering women. She is unusual in having access at the highest levels to governments, business and NGOs globally.
“It is important to work with the public and private sector and civil society to achieve accessibility, progress and peace and provide opportunities for the future,” she said.
As the founder and chairman of the Arab International Women’s Forum she has driven major initiatives to help women in the MENA region achieve equality and parity in the workplace, whether as high flying executives in blue chip companies or hard toiling agricultural laborer. She is constantly working to improve legislative protection for women, open up educational pathways and foster cultural shifts that allow women to fulfil their roles both career wise and in their roles as mothers and nurturers of the next generation.
She takes a positive view of what has been achieved to date and emphasized that it is important to acknowledge progress as “it comes on the back of a lot of effort by women themselves and others in the community.”
She noted: “Over the last year I have seen a lot of progress in the Arab world in women’s leadership. We have seen women assuming high level positions in the private sector, in government and in the judiciary and legislature. Our region is leading the way in technology and women are very much involved in the tech business, benefitting from the innovation and driving new projects and setting up SMEs.”
With reference to the Tech Sector, Al-Kaylani pointed to a recent initiative undertaken in Lebanon.
“In Lebanon the Central Bank has given a guarantee to the commercial banks to grant loans to viable tech projects by young entrepreneurs. This is unusual as the Central Bank would normally focus on running the monetary and fiscal policies but this new measure is to support what they believe can be a vibrant tech sector driven by young enterprise.”
She also pointed to important measures introduced to protect women.
“Looking at the region, we have seen legal reforms, especially in Lebanon, Jordan and Tunisia, to protect women from domestic violence. Egypt also passed a law granting women inheritance rights on an equal basis with men. The UAE is leading the way on maternity rights for mothers and the recently launched Ministry of Happiness and Wellbeing is outstanding.
“Jordan recently appointed its first female judge, Ihsan Zuhdi Barakat, to the Supreme Court.
With reference to Saudi Arabia, she said: “We have seen young women graduating with outstanding accomplishments across all fields of study. They are attaining success at the highest levels including within the Consultative Assembly. They have been moving forward very well in their roles in the economy and in education and it is welcome that they are now able to attend public events in sports and be legally empowered to drive. A lot is happening – all indicators of positive change. Women are keen to play their role in the economic development of Saudi Arabia as outlined in the very valuable 2030 Vision of HRH Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.”
While recognizing the significant progress that has been made, Al-Kaylani is clear that there are many challenges that must be faced and overcome.
“The region needs to bridge the gender gap which includes promoting financial incentives and support for women. Finance remains a barrier. We still need to promote technological literacy and improve the infrastructure. We need to focus on capacity building and to build on advocacy to reshape cultural attitudes as we still suffer from certain societal and cultural norms. We need to inspire women’s self-belief in themselves. This is crucially important”, she said.
Al-Kaylani believes that female role models have a major impact in driving change within society that is beneficial to women.
“We need more visible role models. Active, vibrant, dynamic, accomplished role models are extremely important – they help to change mindsets and inspire the younger generations,” she said.
She recalled: “I remember from our many events over the years that young women, especially those from the UAE, would say that Sheikha Lubna Qasimi was their inspiration.
“They all wanted to be like Sheikha Lubna – and she remains a trailblazer. She was the first woman to hold a cabinet position in the UAE and with so many accomplishments.”
She wants to see a culture in which the rights of women are recognized and embedded in law.
“We need to move ahead with reforming the laws in the region to give women equal pay for equal work, more maternity leave and acknowledge the work as homemakers. This is very important to secure the legal provisions that guarantee the rights of women as full members of society,” she said.
Last December, as part of its Young Arab Women Leaders initiative, following on from the successful Young Arab Women Leaders conferences held across the MENA region, AIWF partnered with the Royal Academy of Engineering, the World Bank and PwC, in London, to promote women-led innovation in STEM (Science, technology, engineering and mathematics).
Al-Kaylani, who hosted and chaired the conference, noted the valuable participation of the Saudi scientist Hyat Sindi, who is an Adviser on Science, Technology and Innovation to the President of the Islamic Development Bank in Jeddah.
Al-Kaylani serves as a Fellow of the Harvard Advanced Leadership Initiative 2017, and as a Commissioner on the ILO Global Commission on the Future of Work. Her commitments see her travelling constantly, always with the aim of using her talents to make a difference.
She is clear about what she brings to the table.
“At heart I am a Development Economist through and through. Wherever I see an angle where I can add value, especially as an Arab woman with roots in the region as well as being a global citizen, I participate. I focus on where I see an impact that will create economic growth, development and equality of opportunity – breaking stereotypes. I am also at heart a bridge builder and wherever I see a chance to build better understanding of my region and the Middle East, I am proud to serve,” she said.
Her latest initiative is in the field of Sustainable Agriculture. She has just launched a project to develop a Social Enterprise that will provide an innovative model for sustainable development through agriculture across the MENA region. The project, based in Jordan, will introduce 21st Century technology and innovation to the oldest industry in the world – farming.
As she stated in a recent speech at Harvard: “Many countries in the Middle East are considered both water and food insecure. This problem is exacerbated by climatic changes, scarcity of water resources and the challenges the region is encountering in absorbing the huge flux of refugees from Syria.
“The population of Arab States is expected to reach 487 million by the year 2025 and food production will have to increase by 70 percent in order to sustain the growing population.
“The looming scarcity of water in the Middle East is a huge challenge that requires an urgent response, as access to water is a fundamental need for food security, human health and agriculture.”
The project in Jordan is intended to be scaled-up and replicated across the wider MENA region in the years to come.
At the conclusion of the interview, Arab News asked Al-Kaylani, to describe the qualities and outlook that enable people to create positive change. A positive approach, she said, is key.
“You cannot make any difference in this world or move any agenda forward without a positive, determined, well informed and well researched approach.
“Over my 30-year career, it’s been a learning process for me throughout and also an opportunity to exchange and engage with others – to give and receive. I have always tried to work on common agendas that have an impact on improving peoples’ lives.”


Mozambique’s gas-fueled future threatened by militants

Updated 24 June 2018
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Mozambique’s gas-fueled future threatened by militants

  • An unprecedented wave of militant attacks in northern Mozambique has raised fears the country will fail to fully cash in on a gas bonanza
  • Since October, more than 30 people have been killed in brazen assaults on unarmed villagers

MAPUTO: An unprecedented wave of militant attacks in northern Mozambique has raised fears the country will fail to fully cash in on a gas bonanza.
After 180 trillion cubic feet (5.1 trillion cubic meters) of natural gas were discovered off the country’s northeastern shore, Mozambique entertained dreams of following Qatar down the path toward wealth. The government even predicted that by 2035, the country’s GDP per head could increase sevenfold.
But the southeast African country’s golden vision has been thrown into doubt by an explosion of bloodthirsty assaults by a shadowy militant group in the region where the industry plans to base its hub.
Since October, more than 30 people have been killed in brazen assaults on unarmed villagers.
Security forces have rushed reinforcements to be area yet seem powerless to stem the attacks. Terrorized, many civilians have fled their homes and a cloud hangs over the great expansion plans.
US oil and gas giant Anadarko, the largest exploration company in the region, has invested $4 billion (3.4 billion euros) so far — it plans to put in $20 billion over the lifetime of the gasfields.
But following a US embassy alert on June 8 that warned of an imminent attack on the regional gas hub Palma, Anadarko temporary suspended some activities and moved affected workers and contractors to a secure site.
Canada’s Wentworth Resources has already suffered delays to its projects as a result of the insecurity, forcing it to seek a year-long extension for its initial exploration.
In its successful application to the authorities, Wentworth said the attacks had “prevented safe access to the area for Wentworth staff and contractors.”
There have been more than 10 attacks on villages since October, featuring beheadings and arson. None has targeted gas operations.
“Due to the attacks, we took additional measures to protect not only the oil and gas companies operating in that area, but also to protect the communities,” said Joaquim Sive, the police commander in Cabo Delgado.
Eric Morier-Genoud, a researcher at Queen’s University Belfast, said any attack against the gas “majors” would be an “escalation from which the militants would come out the losers.”
“At this point... based on the information we have, we classify the attacks as an insignificant risk to the economy,” Rogerio Zandamela, the governor of Mozambique’s central bank, told AFP.
In contrast to this, the central bank did consider a spate of attacks carried out by a militia loyal to the main opposition Renamo party in the country’s center in 2015 and 2016 as an economic risk.
“There was much more clarity about the conflict in central Mozambique... We cannot equate the north with the south,” Zandamela said. “The information available on the conflict in Cabo Delgado is very limited.”
Police have stepped up security around gas projects — particularly those close to areas that have come under attack, national police spokesman Inacio Dina told AFP.
An official at Anadarko, who declined to be named, said “There have been no threats specific to our project. However, it is a cause for concern, and therefore, as operations continue, we have undertaken appropriate measures.”
The company has a gas operations camp in a forest on the Afungi Peninsula.
Police and army units have established a command post in the forest following the attacks.
But a source at Anadarko told AFP that the firm has also stepped up its own security efforts, increasing its private protection force by two-thirds — a move that will have an impact on costs.
Despite such problems, foreign investors for now still have a big appetite for a share of Mozambique’s gas treasures.
Japan’s Tokyo Gas and Britain’s Centrica inked supply deals with Anadarko on June 15 — just a day after a machete attack on the village of Ibu.
Even so, experts say the instability in the northeast could still prove costly. It could cut into the dividend that Mozambique expects from the huge find.
“(The gas projects) are at risk in their early stages, as attacks can adversely affect logistics. Materials must reach Palma by land,” said Maputo-based political science researcher Joao Pereira.
“The insurgency is most likely to delay rather than derail development of the sector,” said Ed Hobey-Hamsher, an analyst at global risk consultancy Verisk Maplecroft.
“Attacks will certainly make the investment more expensive because of security needs reducing revenues for the state.”