Farouk Hussain al-Zanki

Position Chief executive officer (CEO), Kuwait Petroleum Corporation (KPC)

Biography Farouk Hussain al-Zanki was named CEO of KPC for a three-year fixed term in October 2010. The appointment confirms Al-Zanki as potentially one of the most powerful executives in Kuwait, and 2011 will reveal whether he has the backing of parliament to execute a series of long-awaited projects. Al-Zanki replaced Saad al-Shuwaib, whose term was characterised by parliamentary disputes that prevented him from delivering any of the company’s strategic projects. Al-Shuwaib’s predecessor Hani Hussain resigned from his position before the end of his term. Previously, Al-Zanki was managing director for refining at KPC and chairman of Kuwait National Petroleum Company. During 2004-07, he was chairman of Kuwait Oil Company (KOC). He joined KOC as a petroleum engineer in 1980, after graduating with a master’s degree from Oklahoma University in the US.

Hosni Mubarak

Position President, Egypt

Biography Egypt’s next presidential election is planned for September 2011.The ruling National Democratic Party is due to meet in July to choose its candidate. Speculation has been rife in the past couple of years over whether the incumbent 82-year-old Mubarak will stand for re-election. Mubarak has ruled the Arab state since 1981 and his health has deteriorated in recent years. His son Gamal Mubarak has been widely tipped to succeed him and he has assumed a much higher political role of late. But as cables published by whistleblowing website Wikileaks in December revealed, the US diplomatic community expects Mubarak to win a sixth term and to stay in power for the remainder of his life. Although the country has kept a multi-party system under Mubarak’s rule, curbs on the opposition have prevented democracy from flourishing. There were widespread complaints of electoral fraud in November’s parliamentary elections.

Ahmed Mubarak al-Mazrouei

Position Chairman, Abu Dhabi Water & Electricity Authority (Adwea)

Biography Ahmed Mubarak al-Mazrouei became chairman of state utility Adwea in December 2010. He was previously chairman and CEO of Health Authority Abu Dhabi, the body responsible for regulating the emirate’s healthcare sector. Al-Mazrouei took over from Sheikh Diab bin Zayed al-Nahyan as head of Adwea. Sheikh Diab played a central role in the development of private power and water projects in Abu Dhabi. The most recent is the Shuweihat 3 project, which is expected in reach financial close in 2011. It remains to be seen if Al-Mazrouei, a trained physician, will continue the same privatisation strategies as Sheikh Diab. Al-Mazrouei is also deputy secretary-general of Abu Dhabi’s Executive Council, the emirate’s main decision-making body. In October 2009, he was appointed as chairman of the board of the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation, the body regulating the UAE’s nuclear power programme.

King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz

Position King of Saudi Arabia

Biography King Abdullah spent the last few weeks of 2010 in the US under going back surgery for a herniated disc and Saudi watchers will be following his progress closely in the months ahead. His half-brother, Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz assumed charge in his absence. Since both men are in their mid-80s and Prince Sultan has himself suffered serious health problems in recent years, the incident has thrown the question of succession to the fore once more. The third in line, Interior Minister Prince Nayef bin Abdulaziz is in his mid-70s. King Abdullah is one of more than 35 sons of Ibn Saud, the founder of modern Saudi Arabia. King Abdullah ascended to the thrown in 2005, but was de facto ruler for 10 years before this, after his half-brother King Fahd suffered a debilitating stroke. In 2006, King Abdullah set up the Allegiance Council to determine the eligibility of future generations of kings and heirs to ascend to the throne.

Hassan al-Thawadi

Position CEO, Qatar 2022 Bid Committee 

Biography As head of the Qatar 2022 Bid Committee, Hassan al-Thawadi played a key role in helping Qatar win the right to host the Fifa World Cup. Despite concerns over the climate, Al-Thawadi steered his team to victory, seeing off rival entries from Japan, the US, South Korea and Australia. Winning the bid is a major coup not just for Qatar, but for the wider Middle East; it is the first time the football tournament will be staged in the region. Al-Thawadi’s next task will be to ensure the infrastructure committed to in the bid documents gets built. Over the next decade, 12 new stadiums, 70,000 new hotel rooms and more than $40bn-worth of transport infrastructure needs to be constructed. This will place Qatar at the forefront of a new regional building boom. Al-Thawadi is also director of the legal department at the Qatar Investment Authority, the country’s sovereign wealth fund. Al-Thawadi graduated with a law degree from the UK’s University of Sheffield.

Nouri al-Maliki

Position Prime minister, Iraq

Biography After 249 days of political stalemate following the March 2010 elections, Nouri al-Maliki was invited by Iraq’s president Jalal Talabani to form a coalition government at the end of November, despite his party narrowly losing out to nationalist Iraqiya party in the polls. The resolution of the political impasse opens the way for the reconstruction of Iraq to begin. The country’s National Development Plan 2010-14 sets out a $186bn investment programme, which requires a stable government for it to be implemented successfully. The power vacuum prevented any significant progress being made during 2010, and Al-Maliki will need to work hard to maintain the coalition in 2011 to prevent another year being wasted. In 2006, Al-Maliki became the first democratically elected prime minister of Iraq, following the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. Al-Maliki has a master’s degree in Arabic literature from Salah Al-Din University in Suleimaniyah.

Richard Bowker

Position CEO, Union Railway

Biography Richard Bowker is CEO of Union Railway, the federal body responsible for developing the UAE’s national railway. The next 12 months are set to see a series of major contract awards on the scheme. More than 20 groups submitted prequalification documents for construction packages on the $11bn scheme. Bowker joined Union Railway in September 2009, after a long career in the UK transport sector. During 2008-09, he was vice-chairman of British Waterways, the firm responsible for maintaining inland waterways in the UK. Prior to this, he was group chief executive of National Express Group, a British transport group with headquarters in Birmingham that operates bus, coach, rail and tram services. Other positions held by Bowker include chief executive of the government’s Partnerships for Schools initiative and chief executive of UK regulatory body, the Strategic Rail Authority, which was wound up in 2006.

Saad Hariri

Position Prime minister, Lebanon

Biography With the UN court investigating the assassination of former prime minister Rafiq Hariri expected to make indictments in early January, tension is mounting in Lebanon. The current prime minister Saad Hariri will need to work closely with President Michel Suleiman to ensure the country’s hard won peace is not lost when the initial findings of the investigation into his father’s death are made public. It is expected that several members of the Shia paramilitary group Hezbollah will be indicted. Many fear a violent response by Hezbollah and a return to the sectarian violence that blighted the country for much of its recent history. Saad Hariri is leader of the Future Movement – the largest member of the March 14 Alliance that won the majority of seats in the 2009 parliamentary elections. He has a degree in international business from the US’ Georgetown University. During 1988 and 2005, Hariri was the general manager of contractor Saudi Oger.

Akbar al-Baker

Position CEO, Qatar Airways

Biography As CEO of Qatar Airways, Akbar al-Baker will be responsible for preparing the airline in the coming months for its planned stock market flotation in 2012. An initial public offering of the national carrier has been on the cards since it was set up in 1993. But it is only now the company is expected to achieve three consecutive years of profitability that the flotation looks set to go ahead. Al-Baker became CEO in 1997 and has led the rapid growth of the airline, which operated just four aircraft in a regional capacity before his appointment. Al-Baker holds a private pilot’s licence and is also CEO of several divisions of Qatar Airways, including Qatar Airways Holidays, Qatar Aviation Services, Qatar Duty Free Company, Doha International airport, Qatar Distribution Company, and Qatar Aircraft Catering Company. Al-Baker worked at various levels in Qatar’s Civil Aviation Directorate before joining Qatar Airways. He has a degree in economics and commerce.

Nasser Ahmad Khalifa al-Suwaidi

Position Chairman, Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange (ADX)

Biography Nasser Ahmad Khalifa al-Suwaidi was appointed chairman of ADX in May 2010. The coming year will be an important one for the exchange as it is likely to see a decision taken over the potential merger with the Dubai Financial Market (DFM). The US’ Goldman Sachs undertook a feasibility study for the link-up in 2010, and the interest follows the successful takeover of Nasdaq Dubai by the DFM. Al-Suwaidi is also chairman of Union Railway and National Bank of Abu Dhabi, and sits on the board of state-owned firms Mubadala Development Company and International Petroleum Investment Company. Previously, Al-Suwaidi worked for Abu Dhabi Investment Authority and Abu Dhabi National Oil Company. He graduated from California State Polytechnic University in the US with a degree in economics.

Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed al-Maktoum

Position Chairman, Dubai World

Biography Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed al-Maktoum was appointed chairman of troubled state holding company Dubai World in December 2010. Sheikh Ahmed is the chairman of Emirates Group, the parent company of the hugely successful Emirates airline, and also chairman of the Dubai Supreme Fiscal Committee. Dubai World sent shockwaves through global markets in November 2009, when it announced it would request a six-month standstill on some $25bn of debt. In October 2010, Dubai World secured full approval for its debt restructuring and 2011 will be a crucial year for the company as it seeks to move forward and reassess its many investments, spanning commercial, industrial, agricultural, real estate and the financial and service sectors. Sheikh Ahmed is also president of the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority, chairman of Dubai Airports and second vice-chairman of the Dubai Executive Council.

Omar al-Bashir

Position President, Sudan

Biography Omar al-Bashir has been president of Sudan since 1993. He first came to power as prime minister following in a coup in 1989, in the middle of a civil war between the north and south that dated back to 1955. Although Al-Bashir helped negotiate the end of the civil war in 2005, his time in power has been marred by bloodshed, in particular the ongoing conflict in Darfur, for which the International Criminal Court at the Hague indicted him of war crimes and crimes against humanity in March 2009. On 9 January 2011, southern Sudan will vote on whether to secede from the north – the right to stage a referendum was part of the 2005 peace deal. Al-Bashir has long fought to keep a unified Sudan and with the poll expected to result in overwhelming support for separation, how the president responds will be determine whether Sudan is plunged back into civil war.