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Digital Mashreq Forum

June 29-30, 2019

King Hussein Business Park, Amman, Jordan



Under the Patronage of HRH Crown Prince Al Hussein Bin Abdullah II, the Government of Jordan and the World Bank Group are organizing a high-level conference on Digital Economy and Entrepreneurship Development in Mashreq countries on June 29 and 30, 2019 at the King Hussein Business Park in Amman.

The two-day Digital Mashreq Forum will bring together partners from governments and private sector representatives from Jordan, Lebanon, and Iraq as well as executives from international and regional businesses and investors. 

Follow the discussions via #DigitalMashreq 

Rewatch the sessions from Day 1, here.

  • Digital transformation presents a unique opportunity to help Mashreq economies address several social and economic challenges which are stalling the path to sustainable economic growth and inclusive societies. Many emerging countries have chosen the digital path and are driving rapid digital transformation of their economic activities, industrial sectors, and trade relationships. This growth in the digital economy is shaping the present and future of global economic activities as it brings about higher productivity, efficiencies, quicker inclusion of lagging economic and social groups, not to mention improving governance and transparency.

    Accordingly, the Jordanian Ministry of Digital Economy and Entrepreneurship and the World Bank have come together to organize the first regional Digital Mashreq Forum in Amman from June 29 to 30, 2019. This two-day high-level regional event will serve as a platform to discuss the role of digitalization in shaping the region’s future through the lens of government and business leaders.

    Policymakers, international and regional businesses, startups, and investors will discuss policies, challenges, and initiatives to boost digital economies in the Mashreq region. Panelists will share their knowledge and experiences and provide an outlook and key recommendations for a new digital Mashreq in areas relevant to digital infrastructure, platforms, skills, payments, and entrepreneurship. 

    The forum will cover the following main streams: 

    1. Country-level plans for digital economy development;
    2. Digital skills needed for tomorrow’s jobs;
    3. Potential for Mashreq as IT/Business Processing Outsourcing (ITO/BPO) destination;
    4. Business networking and learning events. 

    The forum will showcase Mashreq as a regional hub for IT and Business Process Outsourcing and provide business networking opportunities for entrepreneurs and investors. 

    It is anticipated that this forum will become an annual event to review progress and make new commitments each year to advance the digital transformation agenda in countries of the region. 


  • 8:30 – 9:00 Registration and Coffee 
    9:00 – 9:30Opening and Welcome Notes by: 
    ●        Mr. Ferid Belhaj, Vice President, Middle East and North Africa, World Bank
    ●        HE Mr. Fuad Hussein, Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Affairs and Minister of Finance, Iraq 
    ●        HE Mr. Adel Afiouni, Minister of State for Information Technology, Lebanon
    ●        HE Dr. Omar Razzaz, Prime Minister of Jordan
    9:30 – 10:20Mashreq's Quest for Inclusive Development
    Moderated by Dr. Rabah Arezki, World Bank Chief Economist, MENA 
    National plans of ICT Ministers in the Mashreq
    The World Bank Chief Economist for Middle East and North Africa Mr. Rabah Arezki will present trends for digital economy in MENA, followed by presentations from Information, Communications, and Digital Economy Ministers about their national digital transformation plans, with specific targets relevant to broadband expansion, digital payments, and digital skills development. Panelists:
    -          HE Mr. Adel Afiouni, Minister of State for Information Technology, Lebanon
    -          HE Mr. Naeem Al-Rubaie, Minister of Communications, Iraq
    -          HE Mr. Mothanna Gharaibeh, Minister of Digital Economy and Entrepreneurship, Jordan
    10:20 – 10:50Coffee Break
    10:50 – 11:00Ignite Talk: Mr. David Prais, Chairman, Greater London Investment Fund
    11:00 – 11:50Perspectives of Global Technology Companies 
    Moderated by Dr. Najy Benhassine, World Bank Regional Director, MENA 
    Discuss critical factors for achieving Mashreq’s digital economy development targets and the potential role global technology companies could play in supporting governments’ plans. The session will also discuss how to better position the region as a favorable destination for foreign global technology companies, to provide technology support/ development services to regional and global markets. Panelists:
    -          Mr. Bashar Kilani, Region Executive, IBM Middle East
    -          Ms. Leila Serhan, Public Sector Director at Microsoft - Gulf Region
    -          Mr. Diego Massidda, CEO, Partner Markets at Vodafone Group
    -          Mr. Osama Al-Zoubi, Chief Technology Officer, CISCO, MEA
    11:50 – 12:00Ignite Talk: Mr. Walid Faza, Partner and Chief Operating Officer, MSA Capital
    12:00 - 12:50Next Generation Digital Infrastructure 
    Moderated by Ms. Salam Yamout, Regional Director, Middle East Internet Society 
    Discuss the World Bank Mashreq 2.0 Report “Digital Transformation for Inclusive Growth and Jobs” and pre-requisites to achieve the digital connectivity targets in the Mashreq. The World Bank Lead Digital Development Specialist Mr. Carlo Rossotto will present the findings and recommendations of the report, followed by a panel discussion with:
    -          Mr. Hee-su Kim, Executive Vice President, Korea Telecom
    -          Mr. Amr Hashem, Technology Director, GSMA
    -          Mr. Michael Kende, Former Chief Economist, ISOC
    -          Mr. Carlo Rossotto, Lead Digital Development Specialist, World Bank 
    12:50 – 13:00Ignite Talk: Ms. Dina Saoudi, Co-Founder, Seven Circles
     13:00 - 14:15Lunch
    14:15 – 14:30Startup Pitches (11 startups from Mashreq)
    14:30 – 15:30Boosting Digital Entrepreneurship in Mashreq 
    Moderated by Philip Bahoshy, CEO and Founder, Magnitt
    Panel on regional trends in entrepreneurship development, with ecosystem players and entrepreneurs from the Mashreq region who will share their experiences and impact, discuss challenges and opportunities facing their growth in their home countries, and conclude with key recommendations to scale digital entrepreneurship in each country. Panelists:
    -          Mr. Laith Al Qasem, Acting CEO, ISSF Jordan
    -          Mr. Bassel Aoun, Program Manager, iSME Lebanon
    -          Mr. Bassam Falah, CEO, Innovest Iraq
    -          Mr. Mohammed Al-Shaker, CEO, Arabia Weather
    -          Mr. Nicolas Rouhana, General Manager, IM Capital
    -          Ms. Alice Bosley, Co-Founder and Executive Director, 51Labs
    15:30 – 16:00Ignite talks by Investors:
    -          Mr. Walid Hanna, CEO, MEVP
    -          Mr. Riley Rodgers, Principal, Valia VC

    16:00 – 16:30

    Amman Communique
    Country-level plans to implement a regional agenda for digital economy development


    The World Bank Regional Director Mr. Saroj Kumar Jha will share key remarks from the first day sessions followed by announcing “Amman Communique” that states the new approach of Mashreq Governments to support the development of Digital Economies in the region.

    16:30 – 17:00


    17:00 – 19:00Business Networking Event (Entrepreneurs and Investors)
    B2B Networking meetings between regional and global investors and 45 entrepreneurs from Mashreq, arranged in a speed dating format. The session is organized in partnership with ISSF and business intermediaries including AmCham/TechWadi and UK TechHub. The B2B meetings will be supported by World Bank’s Refugee Investment and Matchmaking Platform, funded by UK Aid and the WB SDG Trust Fund.
  • 8:30 - 9:00Coffee and networking 
    9:00 – 9:10Recap of Day One and Day Ahead: Ms. Nabila Assaf, Practice Manager, World Bank
    9:10 – 9:20Ignite Talk - Mr. Ahmed Alfi, Chairman, Sawari Ventures
    9:20- 10:20Deep Dive 1: Skilling up Mashreq Initiative: Digital skills for tomorrow’s jobs 
    Moderated by Ms. Zeina Saab, Co-Founder, SE Factory
    Launch the World Bank’s Skilling Up Mashreq Initiative (SUM), followed by a presentation of successful global practices in building India’s skills development ecosystem by Ms. Nidhi Batra, Head of International Collaboration at the Indian National Skills Development Corporation (NSDC). The session will host a panel to discuss regional experiences in Mashreq. Panelists:
    -          Ms. Stephanie Abi Abdallah, Programs Director, BDD Lebanon
    -          Mr. Alaa Ensheiwat, Chairman, ICT Skills Council - Jordan
    -          Mr. Zaid Aridah, ICT Director, Hussein Technical University (HTU) - Jordan
    -          Ms. Ali Tareq, Co-Founder, The Station Baghdad 
    -          Mr. Zain Awan, Growth and Operations Manager, Re:Coded House - Iraq
    -          Ms. Nidhi Batra, Head of International Collaboration, NSDC - India
    10:20 – 10:30Ignite Talk - Mr. Sharif El Badawi, Chairman of TechWadi & Partner at 500 Startups 
    10:30 – 11:20Deep Dive 2: FinTech - Digital Payment Regulations and Solutions 
    Moderated by Mr. Harish Natarajan, Lead Financial Sector Specialist, World Bank 
    Potential interventions to achieve a universal digital payment system in Mashreq
    Discuss with government players and private sector companies’ innovative approaches to increase access to financial services in Mashreq countries at a lower cost. The session will also highlight the needed legal and regulatory reforms to enable FinTech activities. Panelists:
    -          Mr. Najib Choucair, Director, Banking Department, Banque du Liban
    -          Ms. Maha Al Bahou, CEO - Jordan Payments & Clearing Company (JoPACC)
    -          Ms. Eman Adnan, Deputy Director of Payments Department, Central Bank of Iraq
    -          Mr. Samir Satchu, Sr. Director, Careem Pay
    -          Mr. Ahmad Hanandeh, CEO, SWITCH Iraq
    11:20- 11:50Panel: “Why Silicon Valley is looking at MENA? 
    Moderated by Mr. Ahmed Muhaisen, Chief of Staff, TechWadi
    -          Mr. Andrew Zalasin, GP, Valve VC
    -          Mr. Chris Rogers, Partner, Lumia Capital
    11:50 – 12:10Break
    12:10 – 12:40Ignite Talk by Investors:
    -          Mr. Raed Masri, Partner, Transform VC
    -          Mr. Jad Salame, CEO, Phoenician Funds
    -          Ms. Noor Sweid, Partner, Global Ventures
    12:40 – 13:30Deep Dive 3: Models for IT and Business Process Outsourcing 
    Moderated by Ali Abukumail, Sr. Private Sector Specialist, World Bank
    Discuss the growing global demand for ITO/BPO, the state of Mashreq countries, and potential global models/ platforms for engaging labor force in the digital economy. The session will also discuss potential models for connecting underserved communities to global virtual value chains.  Panelists:
    -          Mr. Amit Aggarwal, CEO, NASSCOM
    -          Mr. Phillip Chikwiramakomo, Senior Director, Samasource
    -          Ms. Sudha G. Narayan, Asst. General Manager, Aspire
    -          Ms. Zeena Majali, Co-Founder, Crystel
    13:30 – 14:30Lunch
    14:30 – 15:00Panel: “Mashreq’s Entrepreneurs’ Access to Saudi Market”, tapping into regional opportunities. 
    Moderated by Mr. Justin Hill, Senior Private Sector Specialist, The World Bank. Panelists:
    -          Dr. Ayedh H. Alotaibi, Deputy Governor for Investment Climate, Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA).
    -          Mr. Esam Al-Thukair, Vice Governor of Entrepreneurship, Saudi General Authority for SMEs (Monsha’at). 
    15:00 – 16:30Breakout sessions (1)
    Main AuditoriumPress Conference Room, Bldg. 16

    From start to scale: Setting up your business is one thing, successfully scaling is another.

    (powered by AmCham/ TechWadi)


    -    Mr. Sami Ghoche, Co-Founder, Forethought

    -    Mr. Amr Shady, CEO, Tribal Credit

    -    Mr. Zafer Younis, CEO, Caas Technologies Inc.

    -    Mr. Hisham Jazzar, Partner, Rising Tide

    -    Ms. Noor Sweid, Partner, Global Ventures)

    -    Mr. Sharif El Badawi, Partner, 500 Startups

    Followed by a 30 min session on:

    Developing a Successful Funding Strategy by Mr. Riley Rodgers, Principal, Valia VC

    Digital Skills Development in India: Experiences of NASSCOM and NSDC.

    (powered by NASSCOM and NSDC)

    Present the case of NASSCOM in supporting the development of the ITO/BPO industry in India, including trends and market positioning, then focus on the development of digital skills by both NASSCOM and NSDC.


    Mr. Amit Aggarwal, CEO of NASSCOM

    Ms. Nidhi Batra, Head of International Collaboration, NSDC

    Ms. Sabeena Mathayas, Technical Lead – Standards, NSDC

    16:30 – 18:00

    Breakout sessions (2)

    VC Fundraising: What LPs look for?

    (powered by ISSF)

    Session Summary: What do LPs look for? What are their key diligence questions? And what makes them write a check?

    Explaining the points of view of impact LPs, institutional LPs and family offices.


    -          Mr. Laith Al Qasem, Acting CEO, ISSF

    -          Ms. Noor Sweid, Partner, Global Ventures)

    -          Mr. Sharif El Badawi, Partner, 500 Startups

    -          Mr. Riley Rodgers, Principle, Valia Capital

    Pursuing Excellence in Your Startup/ Enterprise Pitch:

    (powered by Pitchworthy)


    Drawing lessons from leading research, global best practices, and high-performance athletic training to help you pitch at a world-class level.


    -          Mr. David Munir Nabti, Founder and CEO of Pitchworthy

    -          Mr. Bilal Ghalib, Co-Founder of Pitchworthy

  • The Digital Mashreq Forum is organized by the Jordanian Ministry of Digital Economy and Entrepreneurship and the World Bank Group in partnership with: