In 2019, Adel Afiouni – the Lebanese Minster of State for Investments and Technology (2019-2020) – launched an ambitious national digital transformation plan to transform Lebanon into a regional hub for innovation and the Knowledge Economy. This plan was published in early 2020.
In his introduction to the plan, Minister Afiouni acknowledged that after spending 31 years working abroad, coming back to Lebanon and diving straight into the waters of the public sector was challenging, conceding that it was difficult at times to weather the storm against the backdrop of a severe economic crisis. Nevertheless, he explained that when he was appointed as the first ever Minister of State for Investments and Technology in January 2019, he was thrilled at the prospect of championing the most vibrant sector of the Lebanese economy.
In this role, Adel Afiouni led a start-up ministry which lacked the benefit of allocated resources and funding. Afiouni explained that although it was a somewhat challenging eight-month journey fraught with difficult circumstances, he found it both enlightening and exciting in many ways, pointing out that it was a unique honour to serve Lebanon even in such challenging times, and pledging his gratitude to those who proposed and supported him throughout his tenure.
Minister Afiouni was tasked with championing the Lebanese tech sector, a duty he described as a huge responsibility and privilege. In a message published by the Minister in 2020, he expressed his gratitude to the spirited youth, successful entrepreneurs, hardworking men and women and bright Lebanese minds he encountered on his journey, describing them as “a true inspiration” and great contributors and partners to the ministry’s efforts.
The Ministry of State for Investments and Technology’s founding vision as defined by Minister Afiouni was to drive digital transformation of the Lebanese economy, turning the country into a regional tech and innovation hub, boosting its impact on the Knowledge Economy and ultimately Lebanon’s GDP and jobs creation.
For those unfamiliar with the concept of the Knowledge Economy, it centres around intellectual capital, creating a system that capitalises on research and scientific discoveries. Today, the Knowledge Economy has come to represent a significant proportion of economic activity in most developed countries, with a significant component of value consisting of intangible assets, such as intellectual property and the expert knowledge of employees.
Minister Afiouni pointed out that as we witness the collapse of the old Lebanese economic model, Lebanon faces an urgent need for a new economy built on solid foundations and relying on productive sectors. With this in mind, the Ministry of Investments and Technology embarked on an ambitious project, putting in place a detailed action plan; essentially a high-impact, actionable roadmap that combines short-term impact initiatives with long-term strategic projects.
The Ministry of State for Investments and Technology was Lebanon’s first ever ministry dedicated to the Knowledge Economy sector. The Ministry set strident goals to transform the country into a Digital Nation, doubling the Knowledge Economy’s contribution to GDP, as well as doubling employment within the sector by 2025.
One of the Ministry of Investments and Technology’s primary responsibilities was to address critical constraints that hindered the investment and expansion of the Knowledge Economy sector, stimulating economic growth and encouraging an outward-looking ethos throughout the sector focussed on attracting foreign investment and supporting exports.
About Adel Afiouni
With 27 years of professional experience as an investment banker in London prior to being appointed Minister for Investments and Technology, Adel Afiouni brought his specialist expertise in emerging markets and global markets to the role and to the cabinet.
Since his appointment as Minister in 2019, Afiouni has lobbied hard for economic and banking reforms in the country to salvage an already desperate situation, authoring numerous articles and speeches on the subject as well as playing an active and vocal role via regional, Arabic and international media, appearing on several TV talk shows to promote his reformist economic and financial views to tackle the severe economic crisis.