Bahrain Notes

BahreynOn the 19th of January I was in Manama, the capital of Bahrain, to give a speech on entrepreneurship development at the first International Entrepreneurs Investment Forum, organised by The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) under the Patronage of HRH Prince Khalifa Bin Salman Al Khalifa, the Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Bahrain.

Over 600 entrepreneurs from 70 countries packed into the Ritz Carlton Hotel for the summit. The participation of Mr LI Yong, the Director General of UNIDO brought extra energy to the event.

During this 2-day forum, I was able to discuss how angel investors could support the entrepreneurship and investment ecosystem for inclusive and sustainable industrial development.


In Arabic, Bahrayn is the dual form of bahr (“sea”), so al-Bahrayn means “the Two Seas”, although which two seas were originally referred to remains a matter of dispute. The term appears five times in the Qur’an, but does not refer to the modern island—originally known to the Arabs as Awal—but rather to the oases of al-Katif and Hadjar (modern al-Hasa). It is unclear when the term began to refer exclusively to the Awal islands, but it was probably after the 15th century.

Today, al-Hasa and Qatif belong to Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain’s “two seas” are instead generally taken to be the bays east and west of the island, the seas north and south of the island, or the salt and fresh water above and below the ground. In addition to wells, there are areas of the sea north of Bahrain where fresh water bubbles up in the middle of the salt water, as noted by visitors since antiquity.

On 15 August 1971, Bahrain declared independence and signed a new treaty of friendship with the United Kingdom. Bahrain joined the United Nations and the League of Nations later in the year. The oil boom of the 1970s benefited Bahrain greatly, although the subsequent downturn hurt the economy. The country had already begun diversification of its economy and benefited further from the Lebanese Civil War in the 1970s and 1980s, when Bahrain replaced Beirut as the Middle East’s financial hub after Lebanon’s large banking sector was driven out of the country by the war.

Dr Hashim & UNIDO CEO


The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) — the French/Spanish/Portuguese acronym is ONUDI —is a specialized agency in the United Nations system, headquartered in Vienna, Austria. The Organization’s primary objective is the promotion and acceleration of industrial development in developing countries and countries with economies in transition and the promotion of international industrial cooperation. It is also a member of the United Nations Development Group.

As of 1 January 2014, 171 states were members of UNIDO. The organization employs some 670 staff at its headquarters and in field representations in about 80 countries, and draws on the services of some 2,800 international and national experts (approximately 50% from developing countries) annually, who work in project assignments throughout the world.

The estimated total volume of UNIDO operations for the biennium 2012–2013 was €460 million, and the value of technical cooperation delivery in 2012 amounted to $189.2 million.

UNIDO’s headquarters are located at the Vienna International Centre, the UN campus that also hosts the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization.

10940630_847527148619777_1806604984474956132_nAbout the International Entrepreneurs Investment Forum

Due to changing economic realities, it is not possible for the government to absorb all the unemployed youth in the public sector. It has been recognized that the answer to employment generation lies in the promotion of the private sector – notably the entrepreneur – through the promotion of investments, both foreign and domestic. Many governments deem the creation of long-term, decent and productive work a priority. The private sector is a primary driver of economic growth, creating 9 out of 10 jobs globally. However, in many countries women and men face obstacles in engaging in productive activities: the educational and training system does not provide them with the skills required to land a job in the private sector; they are perceived as high-risk due to their age and limited entrepreneurial experience, consequently finding it difficult to access capital to start-up or grow their business; business development services are often lacking, hard to access, and not geared towards the particular needs of young entrepreneurs; and they are often less knowledgeable about networks, markets and investment opportunities and sources of information than older players.

Here you can find the Special Message of the Secretary General of the United Nations

SG – MESSAGE IEIF 19 JAN 2015 (2)

To tackle these issues and boost employment, entrepreneurship and inclusive and sustainable industrial development, UNIDO provides services that assist governments and support structures to serve young women and men. Services are geared to increase young people’s employability and provide them with the necessary tools to create and develop sustainable enterprises, and ultimately improve their livelihoods.

MSMEs contribute to poverty reduction, as they are the main source for economic activity that supports bottom-up economic growth, structural change and innovation. They create employment and generate income for the entrepreneur, the employees and often suppliers, and hence reduce economic and social disparities.

10923516_847522288620263_5465618425047742402_nMoreover, it is becoming increasingly clear that women are, and will continue to be, powerful drivers of development. When men and women become more equal, economies grow faster, fewer people remain in poverty, and overall well-being increases. Studies have reported that raising female employment to male levels can have a direct impact on GDP growth rates, increasing it by as much as 34% in some countries, and that productivity can increase by as much as 25 % if discriminatory barriers against women are removed. Therefore, the Forum also elaborated on the role of women in entrepreneurship and investment, i.e. how women are becoming engaged in upgrading existing enterprises and/or in new enterprises.

Thus, entrepreneurship development contributes to economic empowerment through job creation in two ways: (i) through expanding existing MSMEs and (ii) by forming new enterprises leading to job creation for the entrepreneurs themselves and, in due course, with the right growth support structures and services, they will in turn recruit others.

The Forum acted as a platform for stakeholders (governments, private sector, academia, financial institutions, civil society and entrepreneurs from around the globe) to explore possibilities of cooperation, joint investments and business partnerships with potential counterparts.

Here you can find the full report about the Forum:

IEIF Report

Here you can find Forum Album:

They focused on: (1) strengthening existing entrepreneurs so that they can become active actors in the economic development of their countries and (2) developing an enabling eco-system for the creation of new enterprises.

10945020_847522555286903_3678869845300042695_nForum Objectives:

  • Raising the interest of young graduates and institutional stakeholders in entrepreneurship
  • Presenting methodologies (UNIDO and partners)
  • Introducing international good practices, experience and successes
  • Facilitating business partnerships and investments for domestic enterprise creation and expansion in employment intensive sectors
  • Providing recommendations for the governments from Africa and the Eurasian region on productive and sustainable job creation
  • Developing new projects in the area of entrepreneurship.

Featured Topics:

  • Innovative SMEs and entrepreneurship
  • Fostering entrepreneurship development
  • EDIP
  • Intel programme for entrepreneurship and innovation
  • Infrastructure facilities Agro growth poles (e.g. the Islamic Development Bank, World Free Zone Association).
  • Role of chambers of commerce in supporting entrepreneurs
  • Gender dimensions of entrepreneurship
  • Parallel panels on entrepreneurship development covering different regions

IMG_5607Participants included:

  • Entrepreneurs from across the world
  • Major developmental organizations and funds
  • Chambers of commerce, industry and agriculture, and economic associations and entrepreneur networks
  • Specialized entrepreneurship and MSME agencies
  • Universities and academicians
  • Major financial institutions
  • Technology providers and investors
  • Corporate leaders in all sectors

Partners & Sponsors:

  • General Union of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, and Agriculture for Arab Countries (GUCCIAAC)
  • Arab International Center for Entrepreneurship & Investment – Bahrain
  • Islamic Development Bank
  • Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa
  • European Investment Bank
  • Global Entrepreneurship Network
  • International SME Network (INSME)
  • MENA OECD Investment Center
  • Federation of GCC Chambers of Commerce, Industry & Agriculture
  • Al Baraka Bank
  • EU-Africa Chamber of Commerce

10410348_847546011951224_7602631431166549026_nMANAMA DECLARATION

The Manama Declaration 2015 on “Entrepreneurship & Development” is a set of recommendations derived from the two day deliberations and discussions held among the 85 experts and 650 entrepreneurs from 80 countries participating in the First International Entrepreneurs Investment Forum on “Entrepreneurship & Investment for Inclusive and Sustainable Industrial Development” held under the patronage of HRH Prince Khalifa Bin Salman Al Khalifa, the Prime Minister of Bahrain on January 19 to 21, 2015 and attended by the Director General of UNIDO HE Mr. Li Yong.

The participants in the First International Entrepreneurs Investment Forum on Entrepreneurship and Investment for Inclusive and Sustainable Industrial Development, state:

  • Having debated all aspects of entrepreneurship and investment, and recalling United Nations General Assembly resolutions 67/202 of 21 December and 69/210 of 19 December, 2014, entitled “Entrepreneurship for Development”;
  • Recognising that industrialization, if conducted in an inclusive and sustainable manner, can create jobs, generate income, increase productivity, transform economies and be a major driver of development;
  • Noting that realising these and other benefits depends, first and foremost, on fostering a dynamic private sector, and recognising in particular the need to promote competitive small and medium-sized enterprises, which are the main source of economic activities and the largest employer in many developing countries – and the main engines of empowerment for women and young people;
  • Desirous of further promoting entrepreneurship and expanding access to financial and support services, which are the among the central challenges developing countries face in growing a vibrant sector;

Here you can find the full declaration

Manama Decleration Final 2015

IMG_5592Turkish Delegation to the Forum

The Forum hosted a sizeable Turkish delegation, all of whom I met with during the event:

  • E. Hatun Demirer, Ambassador of Turkey to Bahrain
  • Turgay Demir, Commercial Counsellor
  • The Representative of Northern Cyprus Republic to Bahrain
  • Serhat Kısakurek, International Platform for Young Entrepreneurs
  • Emre Tulun, International Platform for Young Entrepreneurs
  • Sefa Kurt, International Platform for Young Entrepreneurs
  • Furkan Kavurmacı, International Platform for Young Entrepreneurs
  • Zaur Qardaşov, Head of Investment Promotion Department of Azerbaijan
  • Nuri Salihi, Director of Asia International, Kerkuk, Iraq
  • Ferruh Gurtas, Middle East Regional Director of Intel
  • Levent Cakir, Istanbul Chamber of Commerce, Innovation & Entrepreneurship Department
  • Emre Koseoglu, Istanbul Chamber of Commerce, Innovation & Entrepreneurship Department
  • Sebahat Koksal Isik, Managing Director of YSM Consultancy in Bahrain


1st Day: 19th of January, Sunday

I arrived at the Bahrain airport at 11:40pm after a 3.5-hour Turkish Airlines flight from Istanbul. There was no strict visa application between Turkey and Bahrain, so I just filled in a paper at the airport. There were about 20 participants from many countries on the same flight who were collected by the transfer guide at the airport. We were taken from the airport directly to our hotel.

By the time we arrived at the hotel, I had already met most of the Turkish participants from Bilgi University, the Istanbul Chamber of Commerce and Azerbaijan.

It was around 2am before I got to bed.

IMG_54882nd Day: 20th of January, Monday

We all gathered in the lobby of the hotel at 8am to go to the Ritz Carlton Hotel, the venue for the Forum. We arrived by 8.30 and so had plenty of time for networking, as the Forum wasn’t going to start until 10am.

Because I had stayed at the Ritz Carlton Hotel on my previous visit to Bahrain, I wanted to show our Turkish delegation around. They enjoyed the seaside so much that we spent half an hour just to enjoy the shining sun and the beach. The beach of this hotel is really nice and deserves five stars.

Interestingly, the programme started right on time. I say ‘interestingly’ because generally events held in the Middle East region start a little bit later than announced. But this time it was not the case.

Here you can find the draft of the programme (last minute programme changes are not shown)

Bahrain Tentative agenda Final

Unfortunately, what we received as the programme before coming to Bahrain and the programme we received at the welcome desk were not same. The programme we received at the desk had been updated to include last-minutes changes.

I enjoyed the flow of the programme because there were frequent coffee-breaks, which gave participants a chance to network.

I met with my many friends from Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Qatar in this forum. I even met with an entrepreneur who had made a pitch a few months ago in France, where I was a jury member.

At lunchtime, Ferruh Gurtas from the Turkish delegation wanted to have lunch with the panel participants of the next day’s afternoon session because he was to be the moderator. The panel had 10 speakers, so he was a little stressed about the flow of the panel.

IMG_5587We also had an opportunity to discuss with entrepreneurs from Cyprus, namely Yioulo Papakyriacou and Panayiotis Papadopoulos. Yioula presented a very nice lavante smelling soup which she produced as an entrepreneur on the island. I was very interested in the delegates from Cyprus because I have such nice memories of my time on the island. Anyone who wonders about my memories of Cyprus are welcome to download my book Off the Bus, Into a Supercar from J

After lunch was the women’s entrepreneurship forum. All global NGO presidents of women’s entrepreneurship federations and associations were present. I think this was one of the most powerful forums of the event because it is not easy to bring all these influential people together in one event.

Ms Afnan Al Zayani, Board Member and Head of the Businesswomen’s Committee at the Bahrain Chamber of Commerce & Industry, chaired the panel with the participation of the following speakers:

  • Ms Shaikha Hessa Saad Abdulla Al Sabah, President of the Arab Businesswomen’s Council based in Kuwait, and President of Arab-African Businesswomen Union
  • Ms Leila Khayat, Honorary President, World Association of Women Entrepreneurs
  • Ms Yasmin Darwich, President, International Federation of Business and Professional Women
  • Ms Lilit Asartyan, Head of the Young Women’s Association of Armenia
  • Dr Rajni Aggarwal, Federation of Indian Women Entrepreneurs

To have an idea about global women’s entrepreneurship, please  visit the following website:

In the afternoon session I enjoyed the 4.30 to 6pm session, where Emre Koseoglu of the Istanbul Chamber of Commerce was one of the panel speakers. The topic was ‘Support Institutions for Entrepreneurs & the Role of Chambers of Commerce’. The panel was moderated by Dr Imad Shehab, Secretary General of the General Union of Chamber of Commerce of Arab Countries. Panelists were from Pakistan, Bahrain, Tajikistan, Belgium and Turkey.

After the sessions of the first day, we went to a very nice authentic covered bazaar where we had a Arabic night with music and dining. The time passed so fast. We returned to the hotel at 11.30pm.

After a brief chat with Zaur from Azerbaijan about how we could set up a Business Angels Association in Azerbaijan, it was time to sleep.

Princess of Jordan was among the special guests

3rd Day: 21st of January, Tuesday

The official opening ceremony was at 10am. Speakers were the following:

  • HRH Princess Rhama of Jordan, President of the Arab Thought Forum
  • Mr Zayani, Minister of Industry & Commerce of Bahrain
  • Mr Yong, General Director of UNIDO
  • Mr Ali, President of the Islamic Development Bank Group
  • Mr Bassam, President of the Arab Bank for Economic Development
  • Mr Mahmoud, President of the General Union of Chambers of Commerce of Arab Countries

After the opening speeches, I wanted to visit the website of the Arab Thought Forum, which was led by Princess Rhama of Jordan. I enjoyed learning about the objectives of the Forum and in case you are interested, here is the website of the Arab Thought Forum (ATF).

Deputy Prime Minister listening to our session very carefully:)

In the afternoon, I was a panel speaker in a session where each of us presented recommendations for entrepreneurship development. My recommendation was to bring the entrepreneurs and angel investors together more frequently to ease access to finance for start-ups.

Moderator: Mr Ferruh Gurtas, Regional Director of Corporate Affairs for the Middle East & Africa

  • Ms Amany Asfour, African Alliance for Women’s Empowerment
  • Ms Joanne Mwangi, Arab African Businesswomen’s Union
  • Ms Yiouls Papakyriacu, Director of Troodoso Network of Thematic Centers, Cyprus
  • Mr Baybars Altuntas, EBAN Vice President & President of TBAA – Business Angels Association of Turkey
  • Ms Freddy Nurski, Global Entrepreneurship Network, Belgium
  • Mr Stefano Giovannelli, Director of the Toscana Investment Promotion Agency, Italy
  • Mr Tawanda Muzamwese, Green Industry Initiati10246557_847528575286301_7507344462469656321_nve, Zimbabwe
  • Mr Patrick Kimathi, Citizen of Kenya
  • Mr Hyo-soon Song, CEO of Eco Energy Holdings
  • Mr Gagik Makaryan, Chairman of the Republican Union of Employers, Armenia

After the session ended, one-to-one business meetings started in another hall. There were different tables, each of which had a specific topic such as Clean Energy, Agriculture, IT and so on. If you were intending to do international business in these fields, you could join the relevant tables and listen to the entrepreneurs who were providing business opportunities.

I listened to the pitches of 5 entrepreneurs from Lebanon (an incubation center project), Oman (a career development for children project), Mozambique (an import and export products project), Bahrain (a fashion project), and Senegal (seven projects in general trade).

Around 8pm, Ms Sebahat Isik collected me and other friends from the Ritz Carlton to take us back to the hotel where we were staying. Ms Isik is a former banker who has lived and worked in Bahrain for more than 25 years. She was the President of the Rotary Club in Bahrain and has a great network on the island. Now she is running a consultancy company and I highly recommend her as a business partner if you have a project in Bahrain. You can reach out to her on LinkedIn and Facebook — she is also good at social media.

After my meeting with Ms Isik and other friends at the lobby of the hotel, I went to my room to sleep because I had to be ready at the lobby for the transfer to the hotel by 3am. My flight to Istanbul was at 5.15am and I would fly on to Macedonia after arriving at the Istanbul Ataturk Airport. So I had only 4 hours to sleep.

IMG_55744th Day: 22nd of January, Wednesday

I was transferred by car to the airport with another businessman who was living in South Africa. I had a nice chat with him about Bahrain because he had lived there a long time but then left for a new life in South Africa. He is still doing business in Bahrain, and his company’s headquarters is based in Bahrain due to the high tax advantages of the country.

After arriving at the airport in Manama, I headed to the Joint CIP Lounge used by Turkish Airlines. As I mentioned in my previous Bahrain notes, it is an excellent lounge. I can truly say that it is better than many CIP lounges in Europe (Istanbul, London Heathrow and Helsinki are my favourites in Europe).

After a comfortable 4-hour flight to Istanbul chatting with Ferruh Goktas of Intel, who is now on the Advisory Board of the Business Angels Association of Turkey (TBAA), a sunny day was waiting for me in Istanbul.

Thanks go to Dr Hashim Hussein, Head of UNIDO in Bahrain and Afif Borhoumi, the Programme Coordinator of ARCEIT and his team. The first Entrepreneurs Investment Forum was a huge success because of their efforts. Thank you, Dr Hashim and Afif for your great contributions to the development of the entrepreneurship in Bahrain, the Middle East, MENA and Africa. I also thank you very much for your great hospitality in Manama.

IMG_5515 IMG_5590 IMG_5562 IMG_5530 IMG_5502 IMG_5478IMG_553310606389_847535771952248_1634024640831471460_n


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