Economy & Business Middle East Politics & Diplomacy

Press Release

September 23, 2020

Atlantic Council launches empowerME


New effort from Rafik Hariri Center will be driving force for economic and human prosperity in the Middle East

WASHINGTON, DC– September 23, 2020 – The Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East today announced the launch of empowerME, a significant new initiative to support investment in the economic and human prosperity of the Middle East. Through an innovative approach, empowerME will synthesize the approaches of venture capital and mission-driven non-profits to tackle critical regional challenges. The initiative will shape solutions to empower entrepreneurs, women, and youth and build coalitions of public and private partnerships to drive regional integration, prosperity, and job creation.

“It is time to change the narrative about the Middle East and to focus on investing in its people,” said Frederick Kempe, Atlantic Council President and CEO. “This new initiative will bring to the forefront the issue of economic and human advancement, which is too often sidelined by the debate over regional security and energy. A renewed focus on advancing the extraordinary potential of human capital in the Middle East will lead to regional stability and global security.”

It is time to change the narrative about the Middle East and to focus on investing in its people.

Frederick Kempe, Atlantic Council President and CEO

EmpowerME will be led by Amjad Ahmad, a veteran venture investor with intimate knowledge of Middle East economies, opportunities, and challenges. Based in the United Arab Emirates for 15 years prior to moving to Washington, D.C., Amjad has collaborated with business leaders and entrepreneurs to build leading companies in the Middle East. Through his work as a venture capital and growth investor, Amjad established two investment firms in the region that provided over $1 billion in funding to over fifty companies in sectors ranging from technology and education to healthcare and finance. Over the past five years, Amjad has focused his investments on entrepreneurship, innovation, and technology. He is managing partner of venture capital firm Precinct Partners and serves on the boards of several regional companies.

Stefanie H. Ali will serve as deputy director of empowerME. She joined the Hariri Center in 2013 and was formerly a research fellow with the King Salman Center for Local Governance in Riyadh where she studied the impact of Saudi Arabia’s recent higher education initiatives.

EmpowerME builds on the work of the Atlantic Council’s Middle East Strategy Task Force, co-chaired by former US Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright and former US National Security Advisor Stephen J. Hadley in 2016.

“The Middle East has a unique opportunity given the pandemic to establish a new strategic approach to empower its people to drive future prosperity,” said Stephen Hadley, who is also an Atlantic Council Executive Vice Chair. “As noted in the Middle East Strategy Task Force report, there are a plethora of opportunities in this part of the world, not just challenges. It is still possible for the region to harness its predominately young, technologically literate population to transform and diversify its economies to improve the lives of all its people. This begins with the leaders and peoples of the region charting a positive vision for their societies with the United States and Europe supporting these long-term efforts as partners.”

EmpowerME will raise awareness about positive developments in the region and provide deeper understanding of success stories and how to replicate them. Working with US, European, and Middle East public and private sector leaders, the initiative will promote partnerships and investments to achieve tangible advancements in driving regional economic integration and diversification, building entrepreneurial economies, increasing women’s participation, and creating innovative educational systems.

EmpowerME will be housed within the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East under the leadership of Hariri Center and Middle East Initiatives Director William F. Wechsler and Deputy Director Tuqa Nusairat. Founded in 2011, the Hariri Center honors the life and legacy of its namesake by examining the barriers preventing many people in the region from reaching their fullest potential and highlighting success stories of those who overcome significant challenges in pursuit of social, economic, and political progress.

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Related Experts: Amjad Ahmad and Stefanie Hausheer Ali

Image: Palestinian entrepreneur Yasmine Abu Salim (C), who developed the "Image Reader" mobile application that reads texts and images for blind people, works at UCAS Technology Incubator office in Gaza City October 31, 2016. Picture taken October 31, 2016. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa