10 Social Entrepreneurs changing the Middle East


By: Hyacinth Mascarenhas

The term social entrepreneurship seems to be echoed frequently in every almost business sphere from classrooms to boardrooms. Those who do decide to venture into the field have already begun to spark and create ripples of change within societies across the globe. As ambitious and persistent individuals, they aim to tackle major societal issues, propose new ideas for change and try to solve the problem by encouraging society to take new leaps. Elan has highlighted individuals creating change in the Middle East in various spheres including business, government, societal and environmental issues and solve their community’s problems:

Khalid AlKhudair


In a country where women are still forbidden to drive, Khalid AlKhudair established Glowork, a website that aims to bring empowerment to women in the region. As Saudi Arabia’s portal for female recruitment, Glowork.net also won the first place for best innovative solution for job creation in a competition organized by the United Nation and the International Labor Organization through the Youth Employment Network.

Since its launch in 2011, Glowork helped create more than 2500 vacancies for women, innovate a virtual office solution to create opportunities for those in rural areas, and educate women on the hiring process and the job market.

Kamel Al Asmar


With the aim to promote professional volunteerism in the Levant region and encourage youth to participate and create change within their own communities, Kamel Al Asmar created the Nakhweh network in 2009 to give people access to a directory for social work in the Arab world.

Born in Kuwait and raised in Jordan, Al Asmar believed that education extends beyond the classroom. His initiative has allowed youth to become more involved in their communities by finding out about different social initiatives and helped strengthen the culture of volunteerism and social work in the region.

“We want to spread what we call positive jealousy between youth in the Arab World,” Al Asmar said, “so that they can get inspired from other stories so that they see their fellow citizens doing some work and so they get jealous and start doing something as good or matter better.

 Wafa al-Zerrouki


With the aim to transform the lives of low-income rural women in Morocco, Wafa al-Zerrouki established the Wafa Association of Artisan Women in 2003 to provide income-generating activities for women.

By encouraging artisan women to form cooperatives based on their expertise in traditional high-quality handicrafts such as carper-weaving, the Wafa Association has helped women improve their livelihoods and economic status.

“For a woman in Morocco there are always obstacles,” Al-Zerrouki said. “Whether you are married or single, rich or poor, you always have to prove that you are worth something.”

Badr Jafar


Born and raised in the United Arab Emirates, 33-year-old Badr Jafar is atop a family business that ranges from oil and gas to shipping and health care. As the Managing Director of the Crescent Group and CEO of Crescent Enterprises, this high-impact entrepreneur has made waves spearheading multiple social enterprises in the Middle East and North Africa. Jafar founded the Pearl Initiative in cooperation with the United Nations Office for Partnerships to promote and encourage a corporate culture of transparency in the region.

“In essence, it is about organizing our marketplace of ideas and expertise to find practical ways of reconciling economic interests with social responsibilities,” said Jafar.

Amani El Tunsi


Women in Egypt face struggles related to marriage, divorce, spinsterhood, sexual harassment, drug addiction, and more that are all seen as taboo issues that should not be discussed openly or within one’s own family. Amani El Tunsi sought to create a safe space for women to discuss these sensitive challenges to deal with and navigate these challenges, receive feedback and positive reinforcement. In 2008, El Tunsi launched the platform Banat wa Bas that includes a website, radio station, a rehabilitation center, a publishing house and a program to prepare women to enter the workforce in media and communications.

Through her program, she has been able to create a powerful network of women by providing them with the resources, opportunities and confidence to make life-changing decisions. Her work has already spread beyond Egypt throughout the MENA region.

Amine Chouaieb


As a young Tunisian entrepreneur, Amine Chouaieb aims to create change in the ecosystem in the Middle East and North African region through Chifco, a start-up focusing on innovative energy solutions and technology. The company’s main product, the InnerJ Box is described as a “customer engagement platform” that helps reduce energy costs by allowing the energy sector to facilitate efficient and responsible energy use by its customers.

“If we Tunisians don’t invest in our country, then who will?” said Chouaieb. “By investing, we will be sending a strong message to foreign investors reassuring them and regaining their confidence in our economy.”

Maysoun Odeh Gangat


Arab women are usually portrayed negatively in the media as victims of oppression, violence and abuse that undermines their contributions and accomplishments. Maysoun Odeh Gangat established the first commercial Arabic-language women’s radio station, 96 NISAA FM in Ramallah, Palestine to transform how women view themselves and how they are presented in regional and global media. This station, the only one run by and for women, actively engages both men and women in solution-oriented discussions about issues related to women.

Through this platform, she is also creating role models by training female media students and professionals in a male-dominated industry, encouraging them to become media producers and slowly changing the perception of Arab women regionally and globally.

 Ahmed Zahran


As one of the leading solar energy experts in Egypt, Ahmed Zahran aimed to make clean, renewable energy accessible in the country. He realized that Egypt is considered a “sun-belt” country that gets 2,900-3,200 hours of sunshine annually making it a cache of solar energy.

Today, he is the CEO and co-founder of KarmSolar, a company that develops “innovative solar energy solutions…and deliver turnkey standalone solar energy applications that are cost-competitive with fossil-fuels.”

One of the company’s biggest accomplishments is the creation of high capacity off-grid solar water pumps that recover water from deep wells for agricultural purposes – a practical and environmentally friendly solution to the country’s energy shortages. The company is also developing a solar water desalination system to convert seawater into drinking water.

Rukhsana Kausar

21-10-12 Rukhsana Kausar-Founding Partner Liquid of Life-FM

In the UAE, an estimated 500 million plastic water bottles are consumed annually. Dubai-based company Liquid of Life sought to combat this issue by designing a revolutionary air-to-water system that generates fresh drinking water, literally, out of thin air. By capturing and converting atmospheric humidity into drinking water, Liquid of Life has eliminated the need for plastic bottles and instead offers a sustainable solution to the global scarcity of fresh drinking water.

Founding partner of the company, Rukhsana Kausar, has spearheaded growth of this innovative company to become one of the UAE’s most reputable companies in providing sustainable solutions to plastic bottled drinking water in the region.

Kamal Mouzawak


In a country divided along ethnic and religious lines, “culinary activist” Kamal Mouzawak created the first farmers’ market in Beirut, Lebanon called Souk El Tayeb to support small farmers, preserve food traditions and essentially bring people together through food.

Growing up in a family of farmers, Mouzawak aims to promote Lebanon’s rich culinary tradition through the market that has now evolved into social enterprise “that coordinates a farmers’ market, a restaurant with farmer chefs, a private label food product, regional food festivals and educational activities.”

“In a country as divided as Lebanon, nothing can bring people together as much as the land and food,” said Mouzawak.




  1. Yes indeed, there are entrepreneurs like P Mohamed Ali who have worked hard and also contributed a lot in the countries like Oman to not only provide financial aid but also employment opportunities as well. Read about his works, awards, achievements at http://www.slideshare.net/pmohamedali

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