Aug 23,2013

TechWadi joined forces with Microsoft to host a distinguished trade delegation from Palestine on October 1st. Naseem Tuffaha, General Manager for  Microsoft’s Developer and Platform Group welcomed the crowd and introduced the prominent leaders that would share their experiences, perspectives and vision for Palestinian society.  As Palestine continues to strive for statehood, entrepreneurs and innovators have played a key-role in nation building by spurring economic growth in the West Bank.  A delegation of four most prominent Palestinian business and tech leaders wrapped up their Silicon Valley tour, which included trips to NPR, KQED, the Commonwealth Club, Google, and the Skoll Foundation by joining us at Microsoft for a deep dive into the role of the diaspora tech community in economic development in Palestine.

Long time TechWadi contributor Sam Jadallah,  CEO of Tyto Life, moderated a panel discussing High Impact Initiatives around entrepreneurship, education, incubation, and innovation in Palestinian civil society with Ammar Aker, the CEO of Paltel and Sabri Saidam, an advisor to the President of the Palestinian National Authority. The second panel featured Zahi Khouri, a prominent businessman in the MENA region who serves as the Chairman of Palestine Tourism & Investment Company and Nafez Husseini, Vice President of Information Systems & Technology at the Consolidated Contractors International Company. The conversation, led by Dr. Jess Ghannam, Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Global Health Sciences in the School of Medicine at UCSF, focused on current economic development initiatives and human capital projects in Palestine. The delegation has been leading efforts for economic change in Palestine under challenging circumstances and highlighted how continued and sustainable economic progress is a key component to help the region and Palestine play a role in the global economy.

1:30 – 2:00
2:00 – 2:10
Welcome and Introduction: Microsoft Support for Palestinian Entrepreneurs
Naseem Tuffaha, General Manager, Microsoft’s Developer and Platform Group
2:15 – 3:15
Entrepreneurship, Education, Incubation, and Innovation: High Impact Initiatives
Ammar Aker, CEO, Paltel
Sabri Saidam, Advisor to the Palestinian President on ITC
Moderator: Sam Jadallah, CEO, Tyto Life
3:15 – 3:30
3:30 – 4:30
Policy, Economic Development and Human Capital: Perspectives for the Future
Zahi Khouri, Chairman, Palestine National Beverage Co.
Nafez Husseini, Vice President, Consolidated Contractors Co.
Moderator: Jess Ghannam, Professor of Psychiatry, UCSF
4:30 – 5:00
Looking Ahead

Speakers Include

Ammar Aker

CEO, Paltel

Mr. Aker is the CEO of Palestine Telecom Group, and a member of its Board of Directors. Prior to his current position, he was CEO of Jawwal, Palestine Cellular Communications Co., the first private leading cellular operator in Palestine. Mr. Aker is currently the Chairman of the Board of Directors of VTEL Middle East and Africa (MEA). He is a member of the Board of the Palestine Development and Investment Company (PADICO Holding). He is also the Vice Chairman of the Board for the Jericho Gate Investment, a project of PADICO Holding. Mr. Aker has held various finance and accounting positions in the U.S., Canada, UAE and Palestine. During his tenure, four Paltel female employees were ranked among the top 50 women executives in telecom. Mr. Aker is an active Board member in a number of initiatives such as Palestine for a New Beginning (PNB); The Palestine International Award for Excellence and Creativity; and the Amideast Advisory Board in Palestine. He is also an active member of the Young Presidents’ Organization (YPO) and the Palestinian Businessmen Association (PBA). He holds a B.Sc. in Accounting from the University of Pennsylvania and a M.Sc. from Kent State University, Ohio.

Sabry Saidam

Advisor to Palestinian President on ITC

Sabri Saidam is the Advisor to the Palestinian President on Telecommunications, Information Technology and Technical Education, and former minister of Telecom & IT. He led the telecom market liberalization in Palestine in 2006, introducing the second mobile phone operator in the region. Dr. Saidam introduced several economic and educational initiatives, including the National Academic Network, e-government, the Palestine Education Initiative, and .PS and its governing body, the Palestinian National Internet Naming Authority. He founded the award winning Palestine Digital Library in 2004 and the Palestine e-Republic in 2007. Further, he co-founded the Internet Society Palestine Chapter, PC&Net4All (Internet connectivity to underserved citizens), and the Birzeit Innovation Group to promote innovation in technology. Dr. Saidam has completed numerous ICT- related studies, the last of which was on ICT in the MENA region (2011-2015). He is the Co-founder of PNB, the Palestine Institute of Public Diplomacy, and of the Palestine Education for Employment (EFE). Dr. Saidam received his Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering, Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine in the U.K. and a certification in Human Development at Oxford University.

Zahi  Khouri

Chairman & CEO, Palestinian National Beverage Company

Mr. Khouri is the Founder, Chairman and CEO of Palestinian National Beverage Company (Coca-Cola /Cappy). He holds a number of senior Board memberships, including the Chairman of Jerusalem Development and Investment Co., the Palestine Tourism & Investment Company, Jacir Palace Intercontinental in Bethlehem, the Jerusalem Investment Tourism, and the Intram Investments Inc. in Orlando, Fl. He also serves as Board Member of Palestine Development & Investment Co (Padico), the largest Palestinian holding company. He was an Executive Board Member of the Olayan Group and CEO of the Olayan Saudi Holding Co. in Saudi Arabia and the USA for over 20 years. Mr. Khouri also holds a number of civic positions, serving as the Chairman of NGO Development Center in Jerusalem, the Palestine Business Committee for Peace and Reform in Washington, D.C., the Carter Advisory Group in Palestine and the Chairman of the local chapter of PNB. Additionally, he serves as a board member for the local International Chamber of Commerce and the NGO, Partners for Sustainable Development. He received his MBA from INSEAD in Fontainebleau, France and M. Sc.  Engineering from the Technische Hochschule in Stuttgart, Germany.

Nafez Husseini

Vice President, Consolidated Contractors Co.

Mr. Husseini is the Vice President of ICT and Digital Business of the Greece-based Consolidated Contractors Company, a multi-billion dollar engineering group and the largest construction company in the Middle East.  He has been a key founding member of the Palestine Education Initiative. Mr. Husseini believes that economic development leads to the growth of innovation and advances the resiliency and contribution of SMEs. He is a member of the Board of Directors for the Middle East Investment Initiative, the Partners for Sustainable Development, and the Bethlehem Development Foundation. He also sits on the Palestine Advisory Board for Education for Employment (EFE), and for the Arab AmeriCare Foundation. Additionally, he serves as a member on the Board of Trustees for the Palestine Economic Policy Research Institute (MAS). He holds a bachelor’s degree from the American University of Beirut and a master’s degree from California State University, Sacramento in Management & Information Technology.

Jess Ghanam

Professor of Psychiatry, UC San Francisco

Jess is a clinical professor and the Chief of Medical Psychology at the University of California, San Francisco. He also practices at the UCSF Comprehensive Cancer Center. Jess applies his knowledge not only in the scholastic arena, but in the humanitarian one as well. Since the early 1990s, he has traveled to Palestine several times a yearwith the main goal of rebuilding the health infrastructure in the West Bank and Gaza. As a board member of the Gaza Community Mental Health Program, he has established clinics in Gaza City, Jabaliyah, Khan Younis and Deir al-Balah. Jess earned his Masters and Doctorate in Psychology at UC-Berkeley in 1981 and 1984, respectively, and a Masters in Medical Sciences at UC-Berkeley in 1983.More Information:

Sam Jadallah

Founder & CEO, Tyto Life

Mr. Jadallah is an entrepreneur, Investor and Operator. He is the founder & CEO of Tyto Life LLC, inventing innovative connected home products. 

Prior to Tyto Mr. Jadallah was a Venture Capitalist and General Partner at MDV, Managing Director at Internet Capital Group and had over 12 years in various positions with Microsoft.

Mr. Jadallah is an active in Barbary Coast Chapter of YPO and a trustee of Case Western Reserve University. He is also a Founder/Chairman of Institute for Middle East Understanding.

Naseem Tuffaha

General Manager, Microsoft Corporation

As General Manager in Microsoft’s Developer and Platform Group based in Redmond WA, Naseem Tuffaha works to build a vibrant applications ecosystem through Microsoft’s global developer organization. Previously, Naseem was the COO of Microsoft’s Middle East and Africa business where he led marketing and operations. Before joining the Middle East & Africa region, he held a variety of roles in Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Group, including the Global Business Leader for the ISV business. Naseem has also served as CEO of a venture capital funded software company in the financial services arena. Naseem graduated from Harvard University with a degree in Economics.

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