In this episode, we meet Fadi Ghandour, managing partner of Wamda Capital, a platform that invests, nurtures and builds entrepreneurship ecosystems across the Middle East. As venture capital funding increases into the region. We learn about a new generation of Trailblazers building its future.
In a recent episode of "ThinkPod" by the FII Institute, host and former Sky News journalist Adam Boulton met Fadi Ghandour, the founder of Aramex and Wamda, to discuss the future of entrepreneurship and technological development in the Arab world. The pair also touched on Ghandour's ventures in social entrepreneurship and sports.
Fadi Ghandour, an entrepreneur turned venture capitalist, built his logistics company Aramex from the ground up. Despite the challenges of operating in the '80s, including regulatory hurdles and a difficult political environment, he capitalized on these obstacles to build a company that eventually listed on NASDAQ and Dubai Stock Exchange.
Reflecting on the entrepreneurial landscape today, Ghandour said, "The region has normalized as a regulatory space with the rest of the global community. Foreign investment is so much easier. And the venture funds are everywhere." He recognized the internet's role in this change and highlighted how the digital age has simplified processes.
His passion for community engagement led him to launch a social impact organization called RWAD, which works with marginalized communities across Jordan, Lebanon, and Egypt. The organization offers scholarships to university-age students in return for volunteering in the community. He said, "This is a mutual benefit organization. You have knowledge, you have capabilities. I want that knowledge and capability, and I want to work with you to build character."
Speaking on how technology is revolutionizing education, Ghandour highlighted the need for the education system to catch up with the 'digital-first' generation. While the infrastructure is in place, he said, "The cost is the question. We need to think much more deeply about how to actually have universal access at reasonable costs."
The entrepreneur also touched on his love for basketball, which led him to found Riyadi, a basketball club. This venture further reflects his commitment to community engagement and character-building.
Ghandour stated that he believes solutions and investments should be homegrown. He emphasized, "Nobody knows the communities, then the people that live in that. We don't want parachuting solutions from an outside world." He called for the private sector and the community to contribute to these solutions and not leave it solely to the government.
Discussing globalization, Ghandour said he doesn't see any substantial 'de-globalization' happening despite trade tensions between countries. He argued, "Trade continues to happen. Not a single country in the world can produce everything. So we will continue to be in need of each other."
In a message to the United States and Europe, Ghandour called for a change in approach towards the Arab region, urging them to see the region as an emerging hub of young, ambitious, and educated individuals looking to build their future.