2018 Wharton MENA Conference in partnership with ABANA

Inflection Point: Finance and Technology in a Re-Emerging MENA

Friday, March 23, 2018 - White & Case Offices, Manhattan, NY

Keynotes & Panels

Opening Session

9:00 AM–9:15 AM

VC Keynote

9:15 AM–10:00 AM

VC and Innovation Panel
The Emergence of VC as a Tool for Innovation and Sustainable Growth

10:00 AM–11:00 AM

As governments in the GCC and the wider Middle East look for avenues to develop and grow sustainably, a new vision has taken course to achieve this objective. From Saudi Arabia to Lebanon, countries are increasingly turning to innovation – that of its startups, youth and beyond – taking place right at home to unlock this growth. Investors who used to look outwards towards developed markets to unlock growth, are now finding opportunities to deploy capital right at home. This, in turn, is unlocking new and creative models that are unique to region – from shariah to impact investing structures – indeed, innovation is taking place all around. But will these investments pay off? Moreover, as partnerships such as the one between Saudi Arabia and SoftBank look to transform the world’s VC landscape, the region’s influence dictating the course of the global VC industry cannot be disputed. Is MENA poised to benefit from this newly garnered influence?


Tech Entrepreneurship Panel
Chasing an Arabian Unicorn: Is the MENA Region the Next Place to Look for $1B Companies?

11:20 AM–12:20 PM

As the MENA region continues to witness venture fever, the panelists will discuss their views on venture investing in the region and its future as a potential technology hub. Was the sale of Souq.com to Amazon and Careem’s rise as a formidable contender to Uber a turning point for the region? Can the region produce more unicorns? Can it produce technology which has global potential or is it only producing replica technology tried and tested in the West? What can the MENA ecosystem learn from other ecosystems such as the US and China?


12:20 PM–1:05 PM

Government Keynote

1:30 PM–2:15 PM

Public Policy and Business Panel
Setting the Stage for a New Way to Do Business? A Discussion on the Economic & Legal Reforms Needed to Drive the Future of Entrepreneurship, Tech, and Finance in the Region

2:15 PM–3:15 PM

From Saudi Arabia and the UAE to Egypt and Lebanon, the past twelve months have seen a series of government-led economic and legal reforms intended to liberalize economies, encourage investment and innovation, and spur job creation. Our panel of experts will discuss the most salient reforms and their economic impact and the future political developments they foresee in the region in the next twelve months.


White & Case Keynote

3:30 PM–4:15 PM

FinTech Panel
The Promise of FinTech and Blockchain: Will MENA Succeed in Its Ambition to Become a Global Hub?

4:15 PM–5:15 PM

From the UAE to Bahrain, countries in the MENA region are bracing to become the next frontier of growth for fintech and blockchain. Fintech startups in the region have raised over $100 million in the last decade, with the amount expected to double by 2020. How are the public and private sectors spurring home-grown innovation and promoting this ecosystem to become hubs? What are the fintech and blockchain use cases that will promote more inclusive adoption across MENA? Will early adoption of the blockchain help the region leap ahead to become a global hub?


Closing Session

5:15 PM–5:45 PM