Cairo factory 1940

All in the Family

Groundbreaking research initiative is the first to track regional family business histories

It’s estimated that around 80 percent of businesses in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region are family-owned and run. NYU Abu Dhabi and Dubai-based Tharawat Family Business Forum have embarked on a historic project to assess how family businesses have impacted economic growth and social change over the years, a first-of-its-kind, interdisciplinary research initiative.

Scholars from the arts and humanities and social sciences are teaming up to compile, document, and analyze the histories of selected regional family businesses to better understand past challenges and decisionmaking processes, as well as commercial legacies.

Oral interviews with several family business owners will offer significant insights into how business cultures and socio-economic environments in the MENA region have been transformed historically, and also help current family-run companies address modern day challenges.

A delivery driver in Libya in 1960.
A delivery driver in Libya in 1960.

“In the Middle East and North Africa, we estimate that over 80 percent of businesses are family-owned and run,” said Essa Al Ghurair from the Tharawat Family Business Forum, an association founded by 15 leading family-owned companies from all over the Middle East. “The economic impact of such companies is essential to the growth and prosperity of our region.”

NYUAD Dean of Arts and Humanities Robert Young said the Family Business Histories project highlights the historical significance of the region as a cultural, political, and economic crossroads and seeks to capture the rich stories of the development of family businesses.

 

Our cooperation with Tharawat offers a prism through which we can rediscover the challenges and tremendous developments of the past, both in the UAE and beyond.

Dean of Arts and Humanities Robert Young

“Our cooperation with Tharawat offers a prism through which we can rediscover the challenges and tremendous developments of the past, both in the UAE and beyond,” Young said.

The researchers plan to build an archive that will preserve the important histories of family-owned companies involved in the project.

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