Meet the Saudi woman at the heart of British-Arab cultural, commercial relations

Meet the Saudi woman at the heart of British-Arab cultural, commercial relations
Afnan Al-Shuaiby is the secretary-general and chief executive of the Arab British Chamber of Commerce. (Photo courtesy: Arab British Chamber of Commerce)
Updated 06 March 2018

Meet the Saudi woman at the heart of British-Arab cultural, commercial relations

Meet the Saudi woman at the heart of British-Arab cultural, commercial relations

LONDON: Ten years ago, the board of directors of the Arab British Chamber of Commerce (ABCC) approved the appointment of Afnan Al-Shuaiby as secretary-general and chief executive of the chamber, making her the first woman to hold the position.
With the ABCC having just celebrated its 40th anniversary, it is clear this dynamic Saudi national has made a significant contribution to building both commercial and cultural bridges.
In terms of numbers, you can point to a three-fold increase in Arab-British trade, up from $9 billion in 2001 to $30 billion in 2015, but what is harder to measure is the bank of goodwill created by the steady building of solid, dependable relations with key decision makers across the Middle East.
Al-Shuaiby would emphasize that it is a whole team effort that lies behind the successful initiatives of recent years, but ABCC Chairman Baroness Symons, in her address to the assembled guests at a recent gala dinner celebrating the anniversary, made a special point of paying tribute to Al-Shuaiby’s achievements, pointing out that she had served the Chamber for a quarter of its 40 year history. She described her as “a most positive, brilliant example of an Arab businesswoman,” whose contribution to the work of the chamber was recognized internationally.
Asked about the evolution of the Chamber’s work, AlShuaiby said:
“Forty years ago, when the Chamber was established, Arab-British cooperation was based largely on the oil and gas industry. Since then, we have witnessed huge transformations in the world and Arab economies: Innovation, artificial intelligence, automation and robotics are now key concerns.
“The ABCC was founded to promote the Arab world as a business destination in the 1970s. As the world economy has changed, the Arab-British trading relationship has improved; today the United Kingdom and Arab States enjoy a dynamic relationship, spanning economic, financial, strategic and cultural spheres.”
Asked for her opinion on areas which need work to achieve mutually acceptable outcomes, Al-Shuaiby said:
“Firstly, some see budget cuts in Arab states, brought on by lower energy prices, as a cause for concern, leading to fewer contracts.
“Secondly, some investors have found the stringent regulatory environment in many Arab States a challenge. One solution for both of these is already happening on a grand scale. Projects in many Arab States, such as Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, seek to reduce governmental reliance on energy by diversifying their economies and reducing the role of government. The resultant economic liberalization can only be wholly positive for trade because it means an enhanced role for the private sector and entrepreneurship.”
It is clear Al-Shuaiby is held in high regard, but what are her notable characteristics?
In person she comes across as thoughtful and quite measured in her manner. She is friendly and courteous, but self-contained. She is always immaculately dressed and appears to glide along with calm and ease. But we should not underestimate the challenges of the job, particularly at a time of heightened tensions across the region and within the GCC.
A look at her career profile gives some clues as to why she commands respect across the board. Previously, she worked as adviser to the president of the US Saudi Arabian Business Council in Washington, DC. She was educated at King Saud University, Riyadh, graduating with a degree in English Literature, and went on to complete a Masters of Art in Educational Administration at the American University in Washington, followed by a PhD in Leadership Administration.
Al-Shuaiby holds a certificate in Peace and Conflict Resolution from the School of International Business at the American University in Washington and has a certificate in Executive Education from the Harvard Kennedy School. She was also selected by the International Alliance for Women (TIAW) as a recipient of the 2011 TIAW World of Difference 100 Award in 2011.
She was also named Diplomat of the Year for the Middle East (2011) by Diplomat magazine.
On top of all this, she holds a private pilot’s license.
So where does her drive come from? She credits her family with giving her the right kind of encouragement and support to fulfil her ambitions. She is also keen to see other women achieving their career goals and is a board member of the Arab International Women’s Forum, which links Arab business and professional women in the 22 Arab countries with each other and with their counterparts in the international community.
She is deeply committed to furthering opportunities for women to achieve their career goals. She sees signs for optimism in this regard, but recognizes there is much work to be done.
“This is certainly something I care deeply about and have worked on during my tenure at the Chamber. A particular highlight was the ‘Role of Arab Women – Supporting Open Economies and Inclusive Growth’ event that we co-hosted. I spoke about the Chamber’s strong commitment to forging relationships between Arab businesswomen and their UK counterparts and this continues to be the case. As I note ambitious Arab diversification projects as well as technological and social changes taking place imperceptibly every day, I am cautiously optimistic about the future. Naturally there is some distance to go but the Chamber and I will be behind Arab career women throughout.”


UAE selects first Arab woman astronaut

UAE selects first Arab woman astronaut
Updated 10 April 2021

UAE selects first Arab woman astronaut

UAE selects first Arab woman astronaut
  • Dubai ruler said both astronauts were selected among over 4,000 applicants

DUBAI: The UAE has chosen two Emirati astronauts including the first woman in the Arab world to be part of the country’s astronaut corps, UAE Prime Minister and Vice President Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al-Maktoum tweeted.
“We announce today, thank God, two new Emirati astronauts ... among them the first Arab woman astronaut ... Nora Al-Matrooshi along with Mohammed Al-Mulla.”
He said both astronauts were selected among over 4,000 applicants.
“Their training will begin soon within the NASA astronaut program ... We congratulate the country on them. We count on them to raise the name of the UAE in the sky,” he added.
The total number of astronauts selected in the UAE so far has reached four with Hazza Al-Mansouri being the first Emirati man in space, and reserve astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi.


Mother of Koji: Saudis turn to social media and anime memories to welcome Japanese envoy’s wife to KSA

Mother of Koji: Saudis turn to social media and anime memories to welcome Japanese envoy’s wife to KSA
Ambassador Iwai Fumio. (Photo/Twitter)
Updated 10 April 2021

Mother of Koji: Saudis turn to social media and anime memories to welcome Japanese envoy’s wife to KSA

Mother of Koji: Saudis turn to social media and anime memories to welcome Japanese envoy’s wife to KSA
  • Iwai, who gained more popularity thanks to his fluency in Arabic, received many messages dubbing him as “Abu Koji” or “Father of Koji”

JAPAN: The Japanese ambassador to Saudi Arabia’s wife Mrs. Iwai, fondly nicknamed Um Koji, has been welcomed in Riyadh with humor and style.
After Ambassador Iwai Fumio posted a tweet welcoming his wife to the country, many Saudis responded with greetings and memes of anime character Grendizer, as her son’s name is similar to a famous character from the show.
The envoy’s tweet said: “My wife arrived in Riyadh safely last night. She and our daughter were staying with me in Saudi Arabia 10 years ago, and I am sure that she, like me, will admire the many remarkable changes that occurred in the Kingdom during her absence, and I wish for ‘Um Koji’ to enjoy her time in Saudi Arabia among kind people.”
In Arabic, “Um” means mother, and traditionally, mothers and fathers are called using the prefix “Um” or “Abu” and then the eldest son’s name, in this instance “Um Koji” or “mother of Koji.”

Iwai, who gained more popularity thanks to his fluency in Arabic, received many messages dubbing him as ‘Abu Koji’ or ‘Father of Koji.’

Iwai, who gained more popularity thanks to his fluency in Arabic, received many messages dubbing him as “Abu Koji” or “Father of Koji.”
One Saudi Twitter user, Dr. Naif, responded to the ambassador’s post saying: “Greetings to Um Koji” along with a picture of the animated character.
Another Saudi social media user tweeted Iwai to inform him that most people in Saudi Arabia were first introduced to the name Koji through “Grendizer.”

HIGHLIGHT

Koji is a popular anime character around the world, but especially in Saudi Arabia, where the animated series ‘Grendizer’ was a staple cartoon in Arab households during the 1980s and 1990s.  

The post said: “Praise be to God for the safety of Um Kuji, Mr. Ambassador, and I would like to inform you that the Saudis knew the name Koji for the first time from this character.”
Iwai replied to this tweet saying: “This person is more famous than my eldest son Koji.”
A third Twitter user, Mohammed Al-Fal, warmly welcomed Iwai’s wife: “Welcome to the Kingdom of humanity, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which has is linked excellent relations with Japan based on fruitful cooperation to enhance international peace and security, away from interference in the internal affairs of both countries. Japan is a miracle that all the people of the East are proud of, especially the Saudis.”
Iwai responded with: “I thank you very much for your welcome and kind words about the distinguished relations between my country, Japan, and Saudi Arabia.”


Saudi FM invites Filipino minister to AlUla after Bocelli concert piques interest

Saudi FM invites Filipino minister to AlUla after Bocelli concert piques interest
Updated 09 April 2021

Saudi FM invites Filipino minister to AlUla after Bocelli concert piques interest

Saudi FM invites Filipino minister to AlUla after Bocelli concert piques interest
  • Prince Faisal bin Farhan explained that the concert was held in AlUla and invited the minister to visit the city
  • Bocelli serenaded a limited number of concert-goers at the heritage site due to social distancing measures on Thursday

LONDON: Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister has invited a Filipino minister to AlUla after the lawmaker tweeted asking how to access Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli’s recent performance in the historic city.
Prince Faisal bin Farhan explained that the concert was held in AlUla and said “It would be a pleasure to host your Excellency there during your next visit to Saudi.”
Teodoro L. Locsin Jr. serves as the Secretary of Foreign Affairs and is a former journalist.

Bocelli enchanted his audience in AlUla on Thursday in what is believed to be the first-ever performance within the walls of the ancient desert city.
It was the tenor’s third performance in the Kingdom, and Bocelli serenaded a limited number of concert-goers at the heritage site due to social distancing measures.


Mrs. World gives up crown after onstage melee in Sri Lanka

Mrs. World gives up crown after onstage melee in Sri Lanka
Updated 09 April 2021

Mrs. World gives up crown after onstage melee in Sri Lanka

Mrs. World gives up crown after onstage melee in Sri Lanka
  • Reigning Mrs. World took crown away from Sri Lanka pageant winner
  • Mrs. World 2020 Caroline Jurie now facing criminal charges

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka: The reigning Mrs. World on Friday relinquished her title while defending her decision to pull the crown off the head of the winner of this year’s Mrs. Sri Lanka, whom she falsely claimed to be a divorcee and unqualified to take part in the contest.
Caroline Jurie, the winner of Mrs. World 2020, has been accused of hurting Pushpika De Silva, who on Sunday was crowned Mrs. Sri Lanka at a televised pageant in Colombo. Jurie was arrested on Thursday and later released on bail.
In a statement Friday, Jurie said she stood against “injustice” and called the judging of the pageant “tainted.”
“My only intention was to stand up for the injustice caused to the competitors throughout this competition which was tainted with heavy politicization.”
Jurie said she wanted to ensure that every contestant had an equal opportunity, because she had seen “from the beginning” that the contest was corrupted. She stressed that she did not favor anyone.
“I am now ready to hand over the crown,” she said at at the end of the video, before removing the crown from her head.
Jurie, who is also Sri Lankan, faces allegations that she injured De Silva during Sunday’s on-stage melee.

Pushpika De Silva poses for photographs with her Mrs Sri Lanka crown after it was forcibly removed by the reigning Mrs World, Caroline Jurie at the Mrs Sri Lanka contest, in Colombo on April 6, 2021. (REUTERS)

Moments after De Silva won the title, Jurie came on stage and snatched the crown from her, claiming she is divorced and ineligible to participate in the contest. Jurie then handed the crown to the first-runner up, declaring that woman the winner.
De Silva denied being divorced.
“Being apart is one. Divorce is something else. I’m still an un divorced woman,” she said on Facebook.
But on Friday, Jurie said: “How I is see it, the purpose of Mrs. World is to celebrate all women who are married and still strive to conquer their dreams, despite the commitment and responsibilities a married woman strives to fulfill.”
She added that the pageant “was certainly not created to discriminate divorced women but to celebrate the dreams of the married woman.”
Sri Lankan police said they received a complaint from De Silva that she suffered injuries when her crown was removed. Police arrested Jurie and a model, Chula Padmendram, on Thursday on charges of “simple hurt and criminal force. The two women were later released on bail and have been ordered to appear in court on April 19.
The incident at Sunday’s pageant, which was attended by the prime minister’s wife, created a huge uproar in the Indian Ocean island nation. Organizers of the pageant on Monday said they would return the crown to De Silva.
Sri Lanka will be hosting the final Mrs. World contest this year.
Meanwhile, Jurie said she will stand for what she believes is right. “I stand for values, even if it means I have to stand alone,” she said.


Norway PM fined for violating coronavirus restrictions

Norway PM fined for violating coronavirus restrictions
Updated 09 April 2021

Norway PM fined for violating coronavirus restrictions

Norway PM fined for violating coronavirus restrictions
  • The head of government was fined 20,000 Norwegian kroner, or about $2,300

OSLO: Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg received a hefty fine on Friday for breaking the country’s virus curbs by organizing a family birthday dinner that she ended up not attending, police said.
Police concluded that the dinner organized in part by Solberg had exceeded the number of guests allowed at private functions.
For the infraction, the head of government was fined 20,000 Norwegian kroner (about $2,300).
“Even if the law is equal for everyone, everyone is not equal,” Commissioner Ole Saeverud told a press conference.
“Solberg is the country’s foremost elected official and has, on a number of occasions, been the leading figure in the government’s decisions on measures to counter the pandemics,” Saeverud added.
“It is therefore considered justified to give a sanction to maintain public confidence in the health rules,” he argued.
Public broadcaster NRK revealed in mid-March that Solberg celebrated her 60th birthday with her family at a ski resort under conditions that seemed to violate health guidelines.
On 25 February, 13 members of her family had dined at a restaurant in the town of Geilo, although rules limited the number of participants in a private event in a public space to 10.
Solberg herself had not attended the dinner as she needed to go to the hospital to deal with eye issues, but police still held her responsible for organizing the event.
After the event came to light, Solberg made a public apology and said she was prepared to pay potential fines.
On Friday, the prime minister reiterated her apology and said she wouldn’t appeal the decision.
“We should not have broken the rules and I want to apologize again,” she told broadcaster TV2.
The affair, which has made the rounds on social networks, has tarnished the image of the leader – who has generally been praised for the government’s handling of the health crisis – ahead of the parliamentary elections on 13 September.
Commenting for news website ABC Nyheter, journalist David Stenerud called it “a good day for Norwegian rule of law.”
“It’s remarkable that our own Prime Minister was investigated for breaking the rules she imposed on us. And even more incredible that she is now convicted,” Astrid Meland, editorial writer for newspaper Verdens Gang, wrote.