Tech companies are gaining traction in the Middle East as governments and companies adopt digitization strategies on a wide scale to enhance their productivity and efficiency. Tech analyst Gartner forecast that the spending in IT within the region is set to reach $168 billion by 2020, indicating that the region is ripe for deal making within the technology sector.
Tech titans such as Microsoft, Google, IBM and SAP all have key contracts with the regional governments and private sector giants as they help to digitize the Middle East. With officials now looking to expand into artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain, IT giants will continue to play a substantial role in the region’s economies.
Forbes Middle East looks at some of the top 10 executives who are leading these companies and growing them within the region. Out of these 10 executives, six are of Arab origin, mainly Egyptian, Lebanese and Saudi. About eight of them represent corporates based in the United States of America.
Questionnaires were sent to all the companies that were listed on the Forbes Global 2000 list and had significant operations in the region. Based on the answers we received, we ranked the CEOs of those companies according to the following criteria:
Global impact: The rank of the company on the Forbes Global 2000 list
Employment Impact: Number of employees that the company has in the region
Oversight of the Individual: The number of countries or regions that the executive oversees
Experience: Total experience of the executive
Top 10 Tech Executives in the Middle east
Samer Abu Ltaif: Ltaif has almost 14 years of experience at Microsoft. Former roles include Regional Director, Enterprise & Partner Group MEA and Regional Manager of Microsoft Gulf. Ltaif is currently responsible for 40 Microsoft offices across 79 countries. He has also served on the advisory board of Emirates Telecommunications Co. (du) and for Abu Dhabi University.
Takreem El-Tohamy: Since El-Tohamy took on this leadership role, he has expanded IBM’s geographical footprint by opening multiple offices in the region. It now has a presence in over 70 countries in the Middle East and Africa. Under El-Tohamy’s leadership, IBM collaborates closely with the universities in the region. In September 2016, he was appointed by the U.S. Secretary of Commerce to Barack Obama’s Advisory Council on Doing Business in Africa. He is one of 23 private sector leaders selected to advise the former U.S. President on ways to strengthen commercial engagement between the U.S. and Africa.
David Meads: The top Cisco executive enjoys playing golf and is a lifelong supporter of Queens Park Rangers Football Club. In November 2017, under his leadership, Cisco launched an Innovation & Experience Centre in Dubai, offering customers and partners a 360-degree view of emerging technologies. Meads is an alumnus of the International Institute for Management Development (IMD), a business education school located in Lausanne, Switzerland.
Abdul Rahman Al Thehaiban: Before joining Oracle in 1996 as Sales Director for Saudi Arabia, Abdul Rahman Al Thehaiban owned a software solutions consultancy specializing in application development for Unix, Informix and Oracle. Al Thehaiban has an Executive Master’s degree in International Business from the University of Edinburgh (2004)
Lino Cattaruzzi: He is Google MENA’s Managing Director since November 2016. Previously, he was Country Director for Google in Mexico and before that Argentina. Prior to joining Google, Lino held several managerial positions at AOL Latin America, including being President for Latin America and their subsidiary in Argentina. Lino is Argentinean and lives in Dubai with his wife and two children.
Rafiah Ibrahim: In 2014, Rafiah Ibrahim became the first female to head Ericsson in the Middle East. She started her career with Telekom Malaysia in 1984 as an engineer, handling operations, planning and technical design. Rafiah Ibrahim completed her Masters of Digital Communication Engineering from Imperial College of Science and Technology, University of London in 1985.
Taha Khalifa: The regional General Manager in MENA for Intel is a brown belt in Taekwondo and kickboxing and is currently training for a triathlon. Khalifa joined Intel’s US operations in 1995 and have held a variety of senior engineering, marketing, and management positions within the company. He then moved to the Middle East in 2006 and held the position of Regional Director for the Reseller Channel Organization (RCO) in the MENA region. Khalifa received his Bachelor’s degree in Computer Engineering from Alexandria University, Egypt in1991. He holds a Master’s degree in Computer Science from Dundee University, U.K., and an MBA from Arizona State University (ASU), U.S.A., 2005.
Jihad “Jay” Srage: He is the Corporate Senior Vice-President, and President of Qualcomm for Middle East, Africa & Eastern Europe. Prior to joining Qualcomm in 2008, Srage spent more than 10 years at Texas Instruments (TI), overseeing marketing operations for TI’s wireless terminals business unit. He has a master’s degree in Business Administration and a master’s degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Michigan.
Gergi Abboud: He is responsible for developing SAP's country presence and growth strategy, as well as sales, marketing and overall operations for the Middle East South Region. Abboud has more than 16 years of experience in a lot of multinational tech companies in MEA region He started his career path in Sun Microsystems as a Systems Engineer and was the Regional Sales Manager for Cisco in Qatar. Abboud got his Bachelor’s Degree in Computer and Communications Engineering from the American University of Beirut and completed Advanced Management Program at Harvard Business School.
Jonathan Labin—The first Facebook employee in the Middle East and North Africa, Labin is an investor and active advisor to a variety of startups in the Middle East, such as SnappCard, a Dubai-based loyalty app. Labin has an MBA with highest distinction from Columbia Business School in New York (2006), He has an undergraduate degree in International Business from Universidad Pontificia Commillas in Madrid and the European School of Business in Reutlingen (2001).