x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

One man's ideas may lead a kingdom's rebirth

Maher Kaddoura's new project aims to make Jordan the most entrepreneurial and innovative emerging economy in the world.

When Maher Kaddoura lost his teenage son in a traffic accident, his grief evolved into a determination to make Jordan's roads safer. Within the past two years, the road safety initiative Mr Kaddoura pioneered has led to a 32 per cent drop in road deaths in the kingdom, and a 46 per cent fall in serious injuries. Now the former managing partner of the consultancy Accenture is setting his targets even higher. His new project aims to make Jordan the most entrepreneurial and innovative emerging economy in the world.

"The things that I learned and applied in Accenture in transforming organisations, these things apply to nations as well," Mr Kaddoura said. "I don't want my country to live from aid proposal to aid proposal. "We can be a creative economy. We can be the Third World's most creative nation. We can't be industrial, we can't be India, but we can be the most creative country in the developing world." Mr Kaddoura's career in management consulting has taught him how to create new capabilities and skills in companies, and he sees no reason why a similar approach cannot be taken in building on Jordan's already impressive record for creating the region's most successful entrepreneurs.

"I love Denmark. They used to be Vikings but now they are small," he said. "Small, but US$340 billion (Dh1.24 trillion) in GDP, number one in happiness, number four in innovation. "They invented Lego, designed the Sydney Opera House, they make the best wind turbines - but they are this tiny little country. They have embraced being small. "So we need to embrace being small. We need to become the more-with-less nation."

One element of Mr Kaddoura's new push is the NewThink Theatre, a regular event in Amman modelled on the famous TED ideas conference in California. With the purpose of "spreading a virus of positive action", it features talks from local entrepreneurs, artists and thinkers. Its aim is to "inform, inspire, entertain, network". Starting in May, Mr Kaddoura will host a 10-week boot camp for young entrepreneurs, guiding their new businesses from ideas to investment-ready companies.

He is building a network of 100 successful businessmen who will each commit to backing one new small company each year. "We don't have oil and we don't have a great location, but we have people who are educated - that is our resource," Mr Kaddoura said. "We need to do more with these guys, get them more productive, more innovative, happier and more empowered. Our only asset is being highly productive; it's as simple as that. We don't have a choice."

@Email:tgara@thenational.ae