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Crescent Entreprises CEO Badr Jafar On Helping Sharjah's Future Entrepreneurs Crescent Enterprises has signed a partnership agreement with Sharjah Tatweer Forum to support the launch of the Sharjah Leadership Program, in hopes of furthering the Emirate's business community's aspirations.

By Badr Jafar

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Some of the nation's most active entrepreneurs are Sharjah-based, now they're teaming up with the Sharjah Tatweer Forum to bring their experience to the table for the good of future 'treps. The Sharjah Tatweer Forum, a non-profit independent entity founded by H.H. Sheikh Dr. Sultan Bin Mohammed Al-Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council, Ruler of Sharjah, is collaborating with the American University of Sharjah (AUS) to launch the Sharjah Leadership Program (SLP), focused on entrepreneurial education. Crescent Enterprises, led by CEO Badr Jafar, recently signed a partnership agreement with Sharjah Tatweer Forum to support the launch of the SLP, in hopes of furthering the Emirate's business community's aspirations. SLP candidates will receive lecture-style tutelage at AUS, participate in hands-on workshops and projects, as well field training-including visits to various Crescent Enterprises sites. The SLP begins in September 2014 and will run for a period of six months encompass- ing 19 sessions, with a student capacity of 20 Emirati candidates and four expatriate candidates.

'Trep Talk Q+A: Badr Jafar discusses the Sharjah leadership program

As an entrepreneur, how important do you feel that mentorship and guidance is for startups in the region?

Programs such as this are fundamental in contributing to the development of Sharjah and indeed the whole UAE through its future business leaders, and something we are very proud to be a part of. I believe the most important part of the program is the intense mentoring that the participants receive, which is crucial in developing entrepreneurial ideas into revenue- generating and sustainable businesses. Although many aspiring entrepreneurs may be highly educated or even experienced in a certain area, they may not possess all the skills and knowledge necessary to establish and grow a business, and this is where mentoring and guidance is so important. Of course, there are other challenges which face entrepreneurs, such as access to capital, but without the right knowledge and support from businessmen and women who have successfully worked in the region tackling these challenges, it would be a lot harder to transform great ideas into meaningful businesses.

Atrium of the library at the American University of Sharjah

Atrium of the library at the American University of Sharjah
Image credit: wikipedia.org

How will the Sharjah Leadership Program choose potential candidates for the entrepreneurial program?

This program, developed by Sharjah Tatweer Forum, looks to cultivate leaders who are well-informed and focused on the development of the Emirate of Sharjah, with an insight into domestic, regional and global trends in innovation and sustainability, so there are a number of attributes taken into consideration when looking for potential candidates. The program is opento bachelor degree holders aged between 25 and 35 with a minimum of three years of experience working in public or private sectors. In addition to reviewing their educational achievements, potential candidates are subjected to rigorous testing, including psychometric tests based on aptitude and personality. Once they have assessed the scores of all candidates, pro- gram leaders will then meet with each one–on-one for a more personal understanding. Each individual is obviously different, so is each opportunity, so you can't employa one-size-fits-all approach; the program will be assessing each entrepreneur on a case by case basis.

How do you see Sharjah 's representation in the entrepreneurial youth sphere compared to other emirates?

Sharjah has some great organizations and support groups in place to develop entrepreneurial talent across the Emirate. As well as the Sharjah Leadership Program, the Sharjah Tatweer Forum manages several initiatives to support Sharjah's youth in turning their business ideas and passions into reality. The Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and the Sharjah Business Women's Council also work hard to provide the same type of support toaspiring entrepreneurs, and Ruwad, part of Sharjah's Department of Economic Development, provides mentoring as well as funding. On a wider scale there are many organizations doing the same essential work across the rest of the Emirates, and we are all very fortunate to be working together for the development of a stronger and even more successful UAE. As a private sector firm, Crescent Enterprises will strive to play a significant role in developing and supporting entrepreneurship in the country by nurturing young talent and entrepreneurs, providing them witha platform and the required resources to establish and scale up their businesses.

To this end, we also recently launched 'CE Ventures' as our own incubator to launch new ideas developed from within the UAE; we are already work- ing on nurturing six new ideas in various sectors.

Who developed the Sharjah Leadership Program? How will the public and private sector work together to foster entrepreneurial success?

The program is the brainchild of the Sharjah Tatweer Forum. What is significant about the participation of companies like Bee'ah, Gulftainer and Crescent Enterprises in the Sharjah Leadership Program is the partnership between the public and private sector in supporting the identification of and development of entrepreneurs. The government has a wealth of resources to facilitate this development, while the private sector brings the expertise of those who have first-hand experience in starting new business, therefore a collaboration between the two is vital. There is often overdependence in our region on the public sector to solve our socio- economic challenges, and I personally believe there needs to be a better balance between public and private support and engagement, which iswhy we are so delighted to be working with Sharjah Tatweer Forum on this initiative.

Do you feel that the SLP plays a role in emiratization? Can you discuss the decision to include expats in the program?

Emiratization is about nurturing our local talent to become the business leaders of tomorrow behind the development and growth of the Emirates. Programs such as this makea huge contribution to the overall goal of Emiratization, equipping candidates with the necessary support and guidance. At the same time, alsoit is also very important to recognize the immense value and expertise that expats bring to the Emirates, and it is imperative that nationals and expats continue towork together in achieving our common goals. With this in mind, it has already been decided to include a number of expats in the program who will be working alongside our Emirati youth and also benefit from this training.

As an entrepreneur, how important do you feel that mentorship and guidance is for startups in the region?

It is increasingly recognized that mentorship and guidance are crucial in helping develop entrepreneurial ideas into fully functioning SMEs, providing entrepreneurs with access to a close support net- work to guide them through the process of achieving business success. Research conducted by Ernst & Young suggests that 88% of entrepreneurs who have mentors and the right support systems have been successful in establishing their businesses, while 50% of those without the necessary support have failed; therefore it is imperative that entrepreneurs make use of all support networks available to them. In my opinion, we are especially lucky in the UAEto have initiatives such as the Sharjah Leadership Program to provide such support, as well as several highly effective local networks across the UAE specifically designed to help entrepreneurs and small business owners.

Does Crescent Enterprises seek to support social entrepreneurs and businesses?

We are in a world now where businesses can do good, while doing well. There is no doubt in my mind that through purpose-driven business practices and investments, we can better tackle our region's socio-economic challenges head on, and this is what drove me towards advocating and supporting social entrepreneurship in the first place.

Through my involvement with entities like Ashoka, Endeavor, Synergos Institute, and the Schwab Foundation for Social Enterprise, I am fortunate enough to regularly be exposed to highly inspiring young social innovators within the UAE and the rest of theArab world. It is encouraging to see an increasing trend of business leaders starting to think about their triple bot- tom lines in business, that is people, planet and profit, and this is an ethos which is at the core of CE Ventures incubator which we recently setup.

Badr Jafar

CEO, Crescent Enterprises

Badr Jafar is the CEO of Crescent Enterprises, a diversified business operating across six industry sectors in 18 countries, and President of Crescent Petroleum, the first independent and privately-owned petroleum company in the Middle East. He also serves as Chairman of Gulftainer, the largest privately-owned container port operator in the world, and as Chairman of Pearl Petroleum, the largest natural gas producer in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.

In 2010, Badr founded the Pearl Initiative, a non-profit venture in cooperation with the United Nations Office for Partnerships to promote a corporate culture of transparency and accountability across the Gulf Region of the Middle East.

He serves in a number of advisory positions in the humanitarian and development sectors, as a member of the United Nations Secretary General’s High-Level Panel on Humanitarian Financing, a member of the UNESCO International Commission on the Futures of Education, and a member of the Board of Overseers of the International Rescue Committee (IRC).

Through his advocacy for social entrepreneurship in the MENA Region, he is Chairman of Endeavor UAE; an initiative encouraging high-impact entrepreneurship, is a member of the Synergos Arab World Social Innovators (AWSI) Program Board of Governors and serves on the Board of Advisors for both the Sharjah Entrepreneurship Centre (Sheraa) and Gaza Sky Geeks.

Badr is active with higher education institutions, serving as member of the Advisory Boards of Cambridge University Judge Business School, MIT Legatum Centre for Development and Entrepreneurship, American University of Beirut and American University of Sharjah.

As an ardent believer in the essential role of the arts in innovation economies, Badr founded the non-profit Middle East Theatre Academy in 2011 to encourage young people in the Region to express their talents through writing, directing, producing and acting. In the same year, he co-founded the Global Gumbo Group with esteemed music producer Quincy Jones to bridge cross-cultural divides through entertainment. He is a member of the Guggenheim Middle Eastern Circle, the Artistic Director’s Circle of The Old Vic Theatre Trust, Kennedy Centre’s Centennial Circle and founder of the Middle East Theatre Academy. In 2014, Badr was awarded the Gold Medal in the Arts by the Kennedy Centre International Committee on the Arts for his work to bridge cultures through music and theatre.

Badr has been a member of the Young Presidents’ Organisation since 2005, and served as Chair of the YPO Emirates Chapter. Badr was recognised as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum in 2011 and is Co-chair of their Family Business Community and is a member of the Stewardship Board on New Economy and Society and Stewardship Board on Digital Economy and New Value Creation.

Badr's personal blog can be found on badrjafar.com and Twitter feed @BadrJafar.

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