Hello, we are at the London Stock Exchange studios for another broadcast interview with Business Worldwide Magazine.
Now, the problem of how to resolve global conflict is never far from the news.
It’s an issue that affects the economy, society and culture across the globe.
But can business people who rely on open markets and tolerance play a more proactive role in ending disputes?
Well, Mohammad Al-Duaij, CEO of Alea Global Group and winner of Business Worldwide Magazine’s Man of the Year 2017 thinks that they can.
I’m delighted to be joined by Mohammad and he’s acted as a mediator in several regional conflicts.
We’ll be talking about why doing business is essential to the economy of peace, and that’s a big subject, it’s going to be fascinating to talk to you.
I’m going to dive right in with my first question if I may.
Business Worldwide: Your company, Alea Global Group, you have acted as a mediator in conflicts in West Asia.
In the west, we call that the Middle East.
How did you have the idea to do that?
Mohammad Al-Duaij: Actually, it’s come by accident.
We have a large network globally and we’ve got some enquiries from some of the government and the private sector parties to buy services or products from other regions that they are banned to speak to for political reasons.
So they hire us, or they ask us to open a dialogue with the other party just to start doing business, to fulfil their enquiry and that’s the way it started.
It’s become by accident, as I mentioned to you, but then it’s become a part of our business.
Business Worldwide: So it’s all about communication in terms of mediation. Is there one factor, do you think, that has led to your success in this role?
Mohammad Al-Duaij: Definitely, I think my personal capability to make the other party feel comfortable and relaxed, and confidentiality is a very important part of our business to act as a mediator.
So, these three elements really help me to succeed in our job as mediator.
Business Worldwide: Because we were speaking about this, communication is so key.
Mohammad Al-Duaij: Yes.
Business Worldwide: Being social, do you think that’s how it’s worked?
Mohammad Al-Duaij: Definitely, for us we really follow all the business styles.
For me, I believe in face to face meeting more than communicating by email or phone calls or Skype.
When you shake hands, when you see the person, you see his personal interaction with you in real life and not through a video call, that will give you a level of comfort, and a level of comfort is the start of doing any business.
Business Worldwide: Do you think that that communication came from your background?
Your company is a family background in origin, do you think that has helped you in terms of communication?
Mohammad Al-Duaij: Definitely, my family moved from Saudi Arabia to Kuwait in the 17th century, before the reformation of the city of Kuwait.
Up to now, if you go to the old bazaar it is all still under my family name.
We are very active in the trading and the real estate business and that’s the source of our wealth.
For me, most of my family members are in the diplomatic sector and that gives us, it’s in our genes that we can communicate and negotiate.
So that’s really helped me to be a mediator.
Business Worldwide: And that reputation do you think helped?
Do you think reputation is incredibly important?
Mohammad Al-Duaij: Definitely, and they got that for granted, it’s a privilege to have this family name.
That’s helped me a lot in doing business and getting the trust of the other party.
Business Worldwide: Why do you think there is so much conflict?
If we’re talking about communication it seems as though it’s easy enough, you get somebody like yourself, a businessman, to talk and be a mediator between two parties.
Why then do you think there is so much conflict?
It’s a big question but why do you think there’s so much conflict in the Middle East?
Mohammad Al-Duaij: Because people who are in power, they have their own hidden agenda, and if you are having an agenda not thinking about your society, your nation, you will always have a conflict.
You will always have a political tension.
If you put your nation, your society, first, this will never happen.
Business Worldwide: Do you really think that business can help in these kinds of situations where governments are having trouble sorting them out?
Mohammad Al-Duaij: For sure, because money at the end of the day, making money, it’s like the desire of everyone and for the other party fulfilling their demand for products and services which will give them a better life, it’s also on their agenda.
So it would be a balance, so for sure, doing business, for sure it will ease the relationship between the two conflicted parties and make them both happy.
Business Worldwide: So in a way, business can lead to peace, do you think?
Mohammad Al-Duaij: Definitely, if we are having a clear agenda and we have the objective to make only business without personal intention, that for sure will create peace.
I can give you an example, the nuclear agreement between Iran and the six countries, why it’s happened is because at the end of the day they want to do business.
The Iranians want to do business with the outside world and the six countries, six major countries, they want to have peace in the region.
Business Worldwide: You used an example there, is there any example where you’ve used your mediation skills that you could talk about, naming no names of course.
Mohammad Al-Duaij: For sure, for me last year I did a very big project which I am very proud of.
I have established a financial structure between two conflicted parties that they have, one of the parties have debt towards the other party.
When I say parties, I mean a government of a country.
So I have established a platform that the country who has the debt to reinvest their income into an investment that the return of the investment will pay their debt and at the same time it will pay the government’s salary which was always delayed because of lack of liquidity.
Business Worldwide: Now, we were discussing the fact that we can’t talk about specific examples, and that just highlights how you’ve been working in the areas of the world where they’re the most tense business deals that you could possibly imagine.
So you have experienced there, you’ve learned lessons I suppose that people around the world could learn from.
What lessons do you think that you could perhaps give people to learn from?
Mohammad Al-Duaij: For me, I have two lessons.
The first lesson is always to look from the horizon, from the top, to any situation and try to simplify it into factors.
When you simplify things into factors and then solve each one separately you will succeed, but if you look at it from inside the box it will be a big mess and you will not reach anything.
That’s the first lesson.
The second lesson that I learned from working as a mediator, that we are all human and we are all equals and we have to live with no boundaries in this world.
Business Worldwide: I think people could put those lessons into ordinary life, I know that I could.
Just before we let you go, in terms of West Asia, the Middle East, is mediation, do you think, in terms of business, is that going to help the way that we look at conflict in that region, do you think?
Mohammad Al-Duaij: For sure, if you bring two conflicted parties to one table to meet and to greet and to shake hands and try to talk about the different things, then this relationship will be converted from a business relationship to a personal relationship and that will make things easier and more relaxed and then people will just have to give them a heads up that we can live in peace if we just solve our small issues.
Business Worldwide: What about the future, a big question, but what do you have coming up?
Mohammad Al-Duaij: For the future for us, we really as a company want to dedicate more time to work in mediation because I think that’s our social responsibility.
We have the chance to do so, we have the network, we have all the capability to do it so we really want to invest more time in that.
It’s not about money as a mission it’s more about social responsibility, to see people live in peace and have comfortable lives.
Business Worldwide: And is there anything that you can tell us, as we say it’s very sensitive in terms of actual examples, but is there anything anywhere in the future that you’re going or anything that you can tell us?
Mohammad Al-Duaij: I think, yes, for me I can mention just one thing, I will be really busy in the Middle East which is where all the tension nowadays is, because there are a lot of assignments there.
I’ve got a lot of projects, I need to fulfil them, so yes, we need to invest a lot of time there.
Business Worldwide: Thank you so much, Mohammad, for being here today, it has been fascinating to talk to you, and congratulations, you are Business Worldwide Magazine’s Man of the Year 2017, congratulations.
Mohammad Al-Duaij: Thank you, Louise, it’s a pleasure to be here with you.
Business Worldwide: Thank you.
Business Worldwide: Mohammad Al-Duaij, this is the moment that you have been waiting for because you actually get to receive your award.
You get your hands on this, you are Business Worldwide Magazine’s Man of the Year 2017.
Wholly deserved, congratulations to you, here you are.
Mohammad Al-Duaij: Thank you and I hope that motivates others to work in our field to just bring peace all over the world.
Business Worldwide: I’m sure that it will, thank you very much for being here.
Mohammad Al-Duaij: Thank you.