Young Entrepreneurs and Digital Transformation in MENA


Location: HQ1 Atrium, HQ1-1-700



The Middle East and North Africa, one of the most youthful regions in the world, has an opportunity to embrace the digitalization drive to address its long-term economic challenges of stubbornly high unemployment, low productivity, inequality, and a wide gender gap. In this seminar, panelists will be young entrepreneurs from MENA. They will describe their journey from a simple idea to a successful business by leveraging digitalization, the difficulties faced by young entrepreneurs in the region, the needed ecosystem to support innovation, and the opportunities for structural reform that will maximize the benefits of digitalization.




Bo Li
Deputy Managing Director, IMF

Bo Li assumed the role of Deputy Managing Director at the IMF on August 23, 2021. He is responsible for the IMF’s work on about 90 countries as well as on a wide range of policy issues. Before joining the IMF, Mr. Li worked for many years at the People’s Bank of China, most recently as Deputy Governor. He earlier headed the Monetary Policy, Monetary Policy II, and Legal and Regulation Departments, where he played an important role in the reform of state-owned banks, the drafting of China’s anti-money-laundering law, the internationalization of the renminbi, and the establishment of China’s macroprudential policy framework.



Jihad Azour
Director, Middle East and Central Asia Department, IMF

Jihad Azour is the Director of the Middle East and Central Asia Department at the International Monetary Fund where he oversees the Fund’s work in the Middle East, North Africa, Central Asia and Caucasus. Mr. Azour served as Lebanon’s Finance Minister in 2005-08, during which time he coordinated the implementation of important reforms, including modernizing the country’s tax and customs systems. Before and since his time as finance minister, he held a wide range of positions in the private sector, including McKinsey and Booz and Co. where he was a Vice-President and Senior Executive Advisor. Prior to joining the IMF in March 2017, he was a Managing Partner at investment firm Inventis Partners.



Hamza Rkha Chaham
CEO, SOWIT Ag Intelligence

Hamza Rkha Chaham, helped launch Sowit, a start-up based in Casablanca, Dakar, and Paris which provides “data-based decision tools to African farmers”. The app utilizes processed satellite images which help farmers optimize decisions such as irrigation and fertilization. The app utilizes a hectare-based subscription model and usage has continued to grow throughout the pandemic. By 2021, the app was providing coverage for over 45,000 hectares throughout Morocco, Tunisia, Ethiopia, and Senegal with aims to expand to other countries.


Belal El-Megharbel
Co-founder & CEO, MaxAB

Belal El-Megharbel, helped launch MaxAB, a pioneering digital platform that manages grocery procurement and access to financial services for local grocery stores throughout Egypt and Morocco. His platform now features 80,000 retailers with the aim of connecting the micro-retailers of the MENA region who make up 90% of the grocery market. MaxAB utilizes a variety of technology including predictive data which allows MaxAB to run an efficient supply chain and provide reliable services to the shops. Belal was previously a manager at Careem and attended Virginia Tech.


Fatma El Shenanwy
Co-founder & Chief Strategy Officer, Khazna Tech

Fatma El Shenanwy,  helped launch Fintech startup, Khazna, in 2020 to improve the financial well-being of Egyptians, particularly those who are underserved by traditional financial services. Khazna utilizes “convenient, effective and secure smartphone-based financial services” to reach the more than 20 million Egyptians who lack access to formal services. In March 2022, Khazna raised $38 million in equity and debt, taking its total funding to $47 million. Fatma was previously a senior associate in investment banking and holds a degree from the American University in Cairo.