I sat paging through Arabian Business’s list of the 500 most influential Arabs. #2 Wael Ghonim – Google exec made famous by his role in the Egyptian protests. #21 Amr Diab – played his pop music on repeat while in Egypt. #22 Amin Maalouf – one of my favorite authors. Click. Scroll. But the most powerful Arab names in business, science, media, sports, and culture soon became less and less recognizable. I began to become discouraged: Do I really have such a narrow understanding of this region after years of study, learning Arabic, and living abroad?
Then I got to #128 Elia Nuqul. Here was a prominent, though likely lesser known, businessman of whom I knew a disproportionate amount. Elia Nuqul is the founder and current chairman of Nuqul Group, a Jordanian firm established in 1952 that has grown to encompass more than 30 companies. No, I don’t follow the region’s corporate developments with microscopic attention, though I wish I could. But Nuqul Group made a powerful impression on me after I read about the group in CIPE’s case study guide Advancing Corporate Governance in the Middle East and North Africa: Stories and Solutions, and listened to Vice Chairman Ghassan Nuqul explain the group’s self-discovery of corporate governance.
In fact, on June 12, CIPE Program Officer Danya Greenfield presented alongside Ghassan Nuqul at the Third Strategic Corporate Governance & Responsibility Forum, which took place in Amman, Jordan. Danya launched the case studies guide and accompanying DVD on a panel that included Philip Armstrong, Head of the Global Corporate Governance Forum (CIPE’s partner in producing the case studies), and Slim Othmani, chairman of NCA-Rouiba (an Algerian company also profiled in the case studies and DVD).
I was not surprised to find Elia Nuqul listed as one of the most powerful individuals from the Arab world. I remembered from the case studies that Nuqul Group had undergone a rapid expansion since its establishment, but found that implementing corporate governance practices allowed for the decentralization of decision-making and formalization of roles and procedures to allow the group to sustain its growth. As Vice Chairman Ghassan Nuqul explained, “I can tell you in my case what developed and what evolved in Nuqul Group was done in response to challenges and actual needs on the ground — and it turned out to be what you call corporate governance.”
I wouldn’t be astonished to find that many more of the 500 most influential Arabs were implementers of corporate governance in their corporations.