Tom Blades, Chairman of the Executive Board and Labor Director, Bilfinger SE, Germany


Prof. Dr. Christian Aders, Chairman of the Executive Board, ValueTrust Financial Advisors SE, Germany


Monday, October 26th, 2020

Tuesday, October 27th, 2020

Times are challenging but Arab-German business relations are deeply rooted, stable and full of opportunity. While the Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting sharp fall in oil prices placed the entire Arab world under unprecedented challenges, opportunities still remain.

Much has been said about the world changing as a result of the crisis and we will also see many transformations in the business and economic structure of the entire Middle East. These adjustments will also create business opportunities for innovation across many industries and Germany has traditionally been a trusted partner of the region in this regard.
This is the time for companies to take more risks, focus on what really matters, and embrace the opportunities ahead.
This panel will shed light on the following:

How to identify new business opportunities generated by the crisis?
What are the sectors which benefit most from the crisis?
How can other sectors find opportunities for innovating, learning and growing?

Digital economies are the Middle East’s future. Few other regions have the potential to embrace digitalization as quickly and comprehensively. More and more, the Arab World is becoming a hub for artificial intelligence (AI) and advanced digital solutions. The aim is to incorporate AI into every facet of life, from the economy to the government, making business more productive and public service more efficient. However, there will be winners and losers. Disruption of industries and existing business models will become the new norm, and the pace of change will mean companies and nations to face greater challenges to stay competitive. AI will create opportunities in the form of new jobs, while also impacting existing workforce structure. To prepare for this, workers may need to change occupations, acquire new skills and learn to work alongside machines. Such substantial transformations will mean rethinking how societies, economies and governments respond and interact with each other. Each country will require a transformation roadmap designed to its specific needs.
This panel will shed light on the following:

How can governments and the private sector work together to build strong, stable, world-class digital economies?
What will a digital society look like when it is increasingly based on automation and algorithmic data processing?
Where will the investment come from?
How can we make artificial intelligence beneficial? How can it be used to complement human intelligence?
How do we make sure today’s youth are equipped with the skills they need to thrive in a digital future?

Logistics is an important pillar of the global economy touching almost all of the sectors. The Arab region’s excellent geographic location and very good accessibility by air, land, and sea have brought it to the top of the agenda for global logistics.
Several Arab countries have recently witnessed significant developments in their logistics industry and established themselves as international trading hubs. Regional governments have recognized the need for efficient logistics and transportation structures as essential for any kind of economic activity, and hence substantially invested in their establishment and modernization.

Several major ports with economic free zones and multimodal trading terminals ensure tight connections to global trade networks. This holds also true for the aviation industry, with the Europe-Asia Pacific route being the busiest between any two regions in the world. Sophisticated railway-systems strengthen the integration in the globalized world. The construction of roads, highways and bridges is also a top priority in the Arab agenda. As a global transit hub for multiple modes of transportation, the Arab region offers various business opportunities for internationally operating enterprises.
One challenge to be addressed will be combining different logistical modes and the resulting necessity to standardize transport. These encouraging developments entail numerous opportunities for German companies to engage in these large-scale projects. This panel will explore the following:

What are the different trends in the sectors of logistics, transport and mobility?
What are ideas of further cooperation?
How can cooperation in logistics enable regional welfare?
How can flexibility and functionality of transport be ensured with increasing passenger volume?

A strong infrastructure is the backbone of any sustainable national economy. The demand for modern infrastructure and housing in the Arab world is increasing due to its growing populations and diversifying economies. Ongoing mega city projects in the Arab region of several hundred billion US$ invest volume, were showing evidence of this trend before the COVID-19 crisis. While the demand is still high, public spending is down and requires rethinking. This requires thinking in smaller and more affordable pushing opportunities to offer sustainable and creative solutions. Eco-friendly architecture for example, and sustainable master planning allows for a modular roll-out, local concepts, a significant reduction of pollution, whether it be noise, gas, sewage or other. In the short term, investments in such buildings may seem more expensive, but in the long-run they pay-off when they build up local industries also serve the economic interest with lower operating costs. Therefore, building sustainable infrastructure, becomes a major pillar of all visions of the Arab governments. While there is an official preference to support regional companies, local actors will find it difficult to implement these large and complex projects alone. Consequently, chances for profitable cooperation arise for foreign companies, particularly those from the “green economy” for which Germany is known worldwide. Arab economies will benefit from the resulting transfer of eco-technological know-how. These trends and business opportunities, within the framework of upcoming construction projects in various Arab countries, will be identified in this panel. 

What are the trends and business opportunities within the framework of upcoming construction projects in various Arab countries?
How to foster smart cities and sustainable buildings in the Arab world? How to integrate the environment? What are the best solutions?
How will GCC’s smart cities deliver the solutions for urbanization challenges that we keep waiting for?

Enhancing public and private investment, and also ensuring that this effectively translates into higher growth and employment, have long been significant policy challenges in the Arab world. This is indeed key to promote higher standards of living and provide jobs to young and rapidly growing populations.

Arab countries have put much emphasis on acce¬lerating industrialization and the transfer of know-how through intensified investment activities. Especially in the GCC countries, industrialization is actively promoted in order to gain further know-how, import new technologies, and diversify the national economies.

But investment needs a strategy, and a strategy that go beyond the core competence of hydrocarbons is often not easy to define. While there is a general consensus for the need of further industrialization in the Arab World the drive for diversification coincides with the Fourth Industrial Revolution and challenges are considerable, including that classic industrialization may actually be partially outdated.

Addressing the investment challenge is even more urgent and difficult now that Arab countries face meanwhile a less supportive external environment, especially lower oil prices and less money available for investment outside the main blocks for investment.

The success of each country’s strategy will depend on several factors, such as human resources, regional integration, a true opening of markets, and a reliable framework for foreign investors.
To identify the main obstacles in this development, this panel aims to discuss possible strategies for implementation and explain success stories in various Arab countries.

The panel will also look into possible know-how transfer from selected German industries to the Arab World, especially with direct investments in mid-market companies.

  • FDI in both ways: What is the strategy? What should be the focus? What are the challenges?
  • How to put in place adequate laws, policies and regulations to stimulate investments in the right direction?
  • How to mobilize and redirect existing local financial outlays, both public and private, towards supporting sustainable development programs, plans, and activities?
  • How will the transition currently underway in the global economy affect investment policies in Arab countries?

Wednesday, October 28th, 2020

Arab-German cooperation in the energy sector has enormous potential for further development and growth.
Even though Arab countries still benefit from their affluence in conventional resources like oil and gas, they have ambitious plans to diversify energy resources and to increase energy efficiency. This is the key to meet the rapidly growing demand for energy in the region. Therefore, technical advancements, new business models, and the right regulatory environment are in more demand than ever. By digitising the energy transition with smart meters, the generation and the consumption of energy can be brought more in line with each other, thus increasing the potential for energy conservation. With their know-how and high-quality products, German enterprises are appreciated partners for numerous mega projects in the region.
Energy-intensive industries such as petrochemicals are also very important and successful in the Arab world and thus offer various possibilities for foreign investors. The petrochemical industry is a sector which has enjoyed large growth rates, especially in the GCC. In the long run, with oil and gas being finite resources, the energy supply for those industries will have to be diversified as well.
Furthermore, there is an outstanding potential of mining and minerals in the Arab World that will be showcased by focusing on technology transfer and investment promotion in this field.

This panel will evaluate the following questions:

How to deliver access to safe, secure and reliable energy in an affordable and sustainable manner?
What will the social impact of future changes be in the energy sector?
How will the regional energy markets migrate swiftly from where they stand today toward a low cost, emission free energy supply, leading to local job creation, prosperity and political stability?
How can high efficiency gas power plants serve as bridging technology in the transition toward ever cheaper renewable energy supply in the Arab countries?
What changes are taking place in the chemical industry?
How and where do chemical companies start implementing digitisation strategies?
What is the future of the mineral industry market?
What are sources and structures of finance for large-scale mineral projects?

Arab-German business relations are historically grown, strong and continue to the promising. German companies, services and products enjoy an excellent reputation in the Arab world and play a valuable role in developing sustainable economies in the region.

Both the Arab world and Germany are facing unprecedented challenges in light of the Covid-19 pandemic but also confronted with other geopolitical and economic changes that require courageous reform or action.

The prominent panelists will discuss, how economic cooperation can help to meet such challenges, and will focus on the following questions:

  • What is the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on our economies and our societies?
  • Where are the opportunities that were created by the crisis and why does a shift in global energy focus present an opportunity for German Arab relations?
  • What are some of the solutions we can find to boost our healthcare systems, support our businesses, maintain jobs, improve education, and stabilize financial markets and economies?
  • The crisis has changed our concepts of travel, working, meeting, learning and buying that does this mean for German Arab business relations and where are the opportunities?
  • Germany has received some praise for its handling of the crisis but also a number of Arab countries have taken fast, decisive and impressively comprehensive action – what can we lear from each other and where should be cooperate more?
  • What should be the focus of German Arab business relations in the new normal, what should be changed?

The program may be subject to change.