American University of Beirut

President's Speech - Nasser Al-Kharafi

Dr John Waterbury's speech
introducing Nasser Al-Kharafi
June 24, 2006

Nasser al-Kharafi is one of the true giants of business and of the private sector in the Arab world. His instincts and ethics are probably congenital, as his father, Mohamed Abdelmohsin al Kharafi, had already established the family's reputation. He, Abdelmohsin, founded the M.A. Kharafi Group and in 1952 was one of the founders of the National bank of Kuwait. In 1967 he became a member of the Kuwait national Assembly.

Nasser al Kharafi is the younger brother of Jassam Mohammad al-Kharafi, also a member of the National Assembly and former Finance Minister of Kuwait. He is the brother of Faiza Al Kharafi, professor of chemistry who became the first woman president of Kuwait University during the years 1993-2002.

Nasser al-Kharafi's multi-billion dollar Kuwaiti conglomerate was first launched in 1976 as the National Company for Mechanical and Electrical Works. It has since become the al Kharafi Goup and has diversified from local contracting to become a world class player in engineering, construction and maintenance, focusing on petroleum, water, chemicals and power. Through its wide network of enterprises, the group employs over 70,000 Arab nationals and provides thousands of new jobs every year.

Nasser al Kharafi is not only head of Al Kharafi Group, but he has also served as chairman of the Egypt Kuwait Holding Company, member of the board of directors of the National Bank of Kuwait, and chairman of the Kuwait Food Company, Americana now directed by his son, Marzouk. He has also been managing director of the Aluminium Industries Company.

In Kuwait in 2001 the company won a BOT (build, operate, transfer) contract for the largest waste water treatment plant in the world, the Sulaibiya Wastewater Treatment and Reclamation Plant, officially inaugurated in 2005. The plant treats 60% of Kuwait's sewage and produces potable water of a standard far in excess of World Health Organization specifications, although the water is currently used for agriculture and industry only. It is the largest plant of its kind in the world using reverse osmosis. This project not only introduced new technologies, it also featured financing by local banks in local currency and was the first such large infrastructure project to be undertaken by the private sector.

In 2003 he was named the Middle East Economic Digest's Businessman of the Year for his personal achievement as director of numerous leading organizations in Kuwait and for his outstanding management of the Al Kharafi Group. At the Second Jordan Economic Forum in 2005, HM King Abdallah II presented him with the Life Time Achievement Prize. Nasser Al Kharafi is a frequent contributor to charitable organizations such as the Royal Marsden Cancer Campaign. Kuwait is rightly proud of this son and family who have done so much for the country and for the region. AUB is likewise proud to confer upon him a doctorate in humane letters.

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