This year’s high-achieving cohort covers six categories: sport, e-commerce, technology, finance, creative, and impact.
orbes Middle East has released its latest list of MENA’s most promising young talent and brightest minds under the age of 30 as of December 31, 2020.
This year’s high-achieving cohort covers six categories: sport, e-commerce, technology, finance, creative, and impact. The impact category had the highest number of entries, recognizing seven individuals in policy, education, healthcare, and social entrepreneurship. Sport came second with six entries, followed by creative with five.
The Class of 2021 is a diverse bunch. Some of them, like Youssef Salem, CFO of SWVL, are at the forefront of regional firsts. SWVL announced a $1.5 billion merger with Queen’s Gambit in July 2021, making it the first unicorn from the Middle East to list on Nasdaq. Others, like Tunisian swimmer Ahmed Hafnaoui, are bringing global fame to their home turf. The 19-year-old recently won the gold medal for the 400m men’s freestyle competition at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Still, the youngest person on the list is 18-year-old Issam Alnajjar. The Jordanian singer-songwriter’s hit song “Hadal Ahbek” has been watched more than 87 million times on YouTube, and his TikTok hashtag #hadal_ahbek has reached over 500 million views.
To create this list, the Forbes Middle East team first evaluated over 300 applications over two rounds of assessments. A shortlist of 60 candidates were then considered by external independent judges, all experts in their respective fields: Caspar Herzberg, President for the Middle East and Africa at Schneider Electric; Elie Habib, Co-founder and CTO at Anghami; Farah Foustouk, CEO for the Middle East at Lazard Gulf Ltd; Luma Fawaz, CEO of Oasis 500; Ronaldo Mouchawar, Vice President for Amazon in MENA; Sherif Bishara, Group CEO of the Mohamed & Obaid Almulla Group; and Yuri Misnik, Group CTO at the First Abu Dhabi Bank. With the judges’ feedback, Forbes Middle East confirmed its final 30.
Factors like candidates’ impact on their industry, society, and future potential were considered, as well as quantifiable data such as funds raised, awards won, revenues, the value of deals, number of people impacted, number of customers, and number of social media followers.
To be eligible for the 30 Under 30 list, applicants had to have been under 30 years old on December 31, 2020, meaning that anybody born in 1991 or later was eligible to be on the list. Candidates could have any nationality but had to be residing in the Middle East. If one business had two or more under 30 co-founders, they were counted as one entry.
The final list comprises 38 individuals representing 20 nationalities. They are based across 11 countries in the Middle East. Egypt has the highest representation on the list with eight individuals, followed by Lebanon and Jordan with four each. Of the 30 entries, 12 are based in the U.A.E., and four are in Egypt.