|Figure of the Month: UAE Minister of Foreign Trade, Sheikha Lubna al Qasimi|
She most often wakes before the crack of dawn, busying her brain with the priorities of the day without the chatter of the mind that tends to distract most. Living in the moment, she is relaxed and extremely contemplative. She is omniscient about her surroundings. Not like other dignitaries and diplomats in her capacity who totally rely on others to feed them information, remind them of last minute details or in some cases tell them what is going on at every minute, every hour, every day, week or month in their life, Her Excellency Sheikha Lubna Bint Khalid Al Qasimi, Minister of Foreign Trade for the United Arab Emirates is on top of all of it.
Perhaps at times, she might even playfully test some of her staff to see if they are on-top-of-it-all and of course knowing she has assembled the most capable and competent team to help realize her vision in world trade and investment for the United Arab Emirates. Her most recent hire to the team is the most talented Dr. Mattar Ahmad Al Ali who will be the Director for the Department of Analysis and Trade information.
While drinking her daily dose of caffeine, she has fruit for breakfast along with a few other items. However, as one of The Wall Street Journal’s 50 International women to watch, she does not touch much on her plate. She is too occupied scouring the daily newspapers around the world on what is happening in the markets, foreign relations and of course world trade. Before her most astute and cerebral Washington, DC based Trade Director Saud Alnowais can send her a Blackberry SMS about something he has found in the newspapers, she’s already read it.
As the former Minister of Economy, Sheikha Lubna recognizes she perhaps carries the most significant and strategic Ministerial post as Trade Minister for the UAE. One of the only women in the entire Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region to hold such a position of remarkable power, the economic future in trade for the seven Emirates rests on the steady and stable shoulders of this woman.
More than a handshake or ribbon cutting ceremonies with her counter parts and heads of states in the many countries she flies too, she is a hard-hitting negotiator with her own brand of sweet smile diplomacy that should not be taken for a weakness. Her Excellency wheels and deals serious agreements to the tune of billions of U.S. dollars between countries and private companies which, despite media reports about Dubai’s economic challenges, desperately desire to partner with the UAE. In February 2009, the World Trade Organization (WTO) reported the leader in the GCC of diversifying export structure was the United Arab Emirates. According to the WTO, the UAE ranks first for non-oil contribution to the structure of total exports. The UAE is the 4th largest producer of oil after the European Union, Russia and Saudi Arabia.
Not resting on any type of laurels that the UAE continues to maintain its status as one of the most dynamic and interactive economies around the globe, Sheikha Lubna always and aggressively emphasizes the need for “serious, fast and actual movements,” to facilitate continuous economic and trade cooperation between the UAE and its trading partners.
The usual saying “behind every great man there is a woman” is in reverse for Sheikha Lubna. Behind every great woman, there are many men – yes very powerful men who supported Sheikha Lubna’s purpose and powerful ascent to leadership. Some of these men include the late President and founder of the UAE, Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan - To his people he is known as “Baba Zayed.” Along the side of His sons Sheikh Khalifa the current President, and Sheik Mohamed bin Zayed, the crown prince, saw in Lubna the special qualities of leadership they espouse for the Emirates. The forward thinking H.H. Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai and her uncle Sultan Bin Mohammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council of the UAE and Ruler of Sharjah are other men standing beside her. But the winds beneath her wings and of course most important to her - her loving father who with her mother believed and united to give their daughter Lubna the best opportunities for education along with their children. She proved herself beyond measure growing up a wiz kid who was attracted to non-traditional fields in Information Technology, Management and Finance.
Sheikha Lubna represents a post modern brand of Arab womanism that maintains and upholds Muslim traditions, but at the same time re-calibrates antiquated notions that too often dominate the public discourse about what women in the Arab and Muslim world are achieving.
Her love for Allah, family and country is her raison d’etre. More than being the historical first woman cabinet Minister in the UAE, it is her creative leadership, knowledge and power that will continue to propel her into orbit.
*Yvonne R. Davis, M.S., M.A. President & CEO, DAVIS Communications.