London, Asharq Al-Awsat- The Arab world harbours much potential, however needs to recognize its own successes and tackle fundamental concerns, including division and education.
That is the view held by Carlos Ghosn, CEO of both Renault and Nissan, who was asked by Asharq Al Awsat to outline a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis of the Arab world.
Asharq Al Awsat met with Ghosn, an internationally-recognized business guru who is of Lebanese descent, at the London Business School (LBS) campus after he participated in a debate recorded for CNN International as part of its “Boardroom Master Class” series.
Ghosn told Asharq Al Awsat that he believes the region’s key asset is its wealth and emphasized that this wealth goes beyond oil to include “natural gas and also touristic wealth and history, which some countries have as well”, adding that “it’s a region of the world that is gifted.”
“Everyone talks about the Arab world, but the fact is you have different Arab entities,” he commented on the region’s diversity, adding that “between North Africa… the Gulf and the rest of the countries of the Middle East, you have different entities, different cultures and different ideas… Of course there are common ideas but it is still very diverse, which is a sign of wealth.”
Another point of strength, argued Ghosn, is the genuine aspiration for development in the region.
Ghosn stressed that a principal weakness in the region is “division,” as it diminishes the business potential of the region. “You start from time to time to build a market… then although everyone already agreed on the principle, when it comes to practices you start having opposition,” he explained.
Ghosn highlighted education as another primary concern. He acknowledged that while certain countries have performed better in the domain than others, the need for educational development is still prominent. “When there are people who are not educated there are a lot of opportunities they will miss,” he explained.
The Arab world also suffers from a lack of industries, Ghosn said. He underlined that while the rest of the world develops its industries, “The Arab world doesn’t have a car industry and many other industries are not present as well.”
“Industries would have existed if there were a big Arab market and if the borders were open,” he added.
Ghosn also emphasized on the lack of recognition of Arab success stories by their own nations.
“I know a lot of people from different Arab countries, who are successful in academia and business, but they are more recognized outside [their countries]. Why would they return if they feel they have no importance in their own countries?”
If more success stories were distinguished, they could be used as model examples for aspiring youth in the Arab world, Ghosn concluded.
Carlos Ghosn, one of the most internationally recognized businessmen of today, was born in 1954 in Brazil to Lebanese parents. He lived in Lebanon as an adolescent and later studied engineering in France at Ecole Polytechnique and Ecole des Mines de Paris.
Ghosn first joined the auto industry in 1978 with the tire manufacturing company, Michelin. After 18 years with Michelin, he became the company’s chief operating officer. Ghosn is best-known for his groundbreaking performance as CEO of Nissan, a position he assumed in 2001. He became a prominent personality in Japan (complete with a comic-book series about his life titled ‘The True Story of Carlos Ghosn’) and a household name around the world when he turned the company around, saving it from bankruptcy a year earlier than predicted. Ghosn also serves as President and CEO of the French auto manufacturer, Renault S.A. and on the boards of Alcoa, IBM and Sony. He is married with four children.