A relatively new member of Cairo’s business elite, Ahmed Abou Hashima is fast becoming the new face of Egypt’s steel sector. His source of wealth and early ventures helped carve out a reputation for himself, which ultimately attracted the attention of billionaire investors from the Gulf and unprecedented wealth.
The titans of Arab oil and gas usually belong to the ruling political families or in parastatal government bodies. Hamid Jafar, together with his three children, hold unique sway in the UAE's energy dealings thanks to high level political contacts in the Emirate of Sharjah - making them a private energy success story.
Top of the King and Crown Prince's agenda in recent months has been to secure widespread support through the appointment of loyalists. These new power players enjoy access to the Kingdom's strategic affairs, making it critical to assess who falls into the camp of Riyadh's new elite.
As China looks West in search of economic partnerships, it finds a Kingdom uniquely positioned to assist its 'One Belt One Road' strategy. While their bilateral ties are rooted in energy dealings, Saudi's maritime capabilities may be set to catapult its fortunes in line with Beijing's grand plans.
Mohammed bin Zayed has spent years manoeuvring loyalists into the key posts around him, which will truly bear fruit once he formally inherits the throne. Commercial actors must endeavour to understand the significance of this, as the country's open-door economic policy is largely dependent upon the Crown Prince's own longevity.
The private security industry's most famous name is plying his trade for leaders in emerging and frontier markets. The influence of the former founder of infamous Blackwater Worldwide is almost certainly higher than that of any other mainstream international businessman, with evidence to suggest he maintains informal networks with the world's most controversial political elites.
Institutional manipulation is fast becoming Salman’s hallmark in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The latest restructuring of the Ministry of Interior’s senior leadership team, combined with the creation of the Presidency of State Security, shows that no stone will be left unturned in the King’s advancement of his son.
MENA’s commercial elite share one thing in common – most of them face a corporate succession dilemma within the next five to ten years. As blood kinship networks dominate businesses in the region, determining where the next generation of influence and decision-making powers lie is fast becoming the top priority for foreign investors.
Over seven years have passed since Tunisia bore witness to popular revolt, yet corruption still remains one of the country’s most polemic issues. A reconciliation bill was passed in September 2017 leading to renewed questions about the integrity and modus operandi of the ruling elite.
Power players in Saudi Arabia are tweaking their networks and staffing their ranks with loyalists. As a result, 2018 will involve elite readjustment to these new dynamics as well as a continued level of unpredictability. Shadow Governance will be closely monitoring MbS and those orbiting him.
Elite networks in Egypt are gearing up for a big year in 2018. The presidential election will capture headlines; but power plays - that reveal much about Cairo’s incumbent decision makers and their intentions if they win a second official mandate - will continue to fly under the radar.
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With several of the region’s strategic sectors gearing up to ‘welcome’ private actors into the fold, international investors are bracing for renewed levels of access to old economies. As opportunities begin to present themselves, however, a host of hidden domestic dynamics will become more important than they have ever been.