From Investment Banking to Social Impact – The Story of Hamza Chraibi – Founder and Managing Director of Arab Excellence


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When you think of a role model, who do you think of? For many youth in the MENA region, they struggle to picture positive role models that reflect their own backgrounds and culture—leaving some of them isolated, alienated, and vulnerable to criminal and extremist recruitment. That is one of the reasons why, in 2013 , Hamza Chraibi founded Arab Excellence. Here, Mr. Chraibi, founder and current president of Arab Excellence, describes the inspiration, development, and future trajectory of the organization’s skills-based empowerment programming for youth in the Arab world and beyond.


I grew up in Morocco, and have been proud of my country, my culture, and the Arab culture in general. When I went to Europe to complete my studies though, I realized that many people in other countries had misconceptions about the region. Due to what is happening there, many confuse Arab with Islam, and Islam with terrorism, and it really bothered me on a personal level.


“This younger generation has lost hope and doesn’t believe in the system anymore.”


Meanwhile, when I was back home, my mother – who was a teacher at a school for underprivileged kids – used to tell me that the youth don’t want to go to school anymore, that they don’t believe in the system. And it’s not something only in Morocco, it’s something quite global. This younger generation has lost hope and doesn’t believe in this system anymore. They think that if they are born and raised in an underprivileged area, they won’t be able to achieve any kind of excellence. In order to achieve excellence and become successful, they assume that you need to be privileged and go abroad. This is why I decided to quit my job and leave my career in Investment Banking in London to launch this initiative from scratch.

In the first year I met incredible achievers from the region who started from scratch – entrepreneurs, thinkers, CEOs, artists. Some were very famous, some were not. The idea was to understand how these role models achieved excellence in order to inspire the youth and build a program to empower the next generations of young leaders.

Quickly I realized two things: the role models really valued such an initiative, and believed that this could create a movement in the region for the youth. The second thing is that when I started testing this approach and conducting some events and workshops for underprivileged youth, I realized that the messages coming from positive role models of hope had an impact on students. But I didn’t know how to make it concrete then.

A team of great leaders and experts from different backgrounds joined me to build this common vision. We spent several months thinking and interviewing various people and groups to figure out how to bring Arab Excellence from an inspirational project into real empowerment. How could we leverage the strengths of positive role models and actually have a concrete impact on the life of youth in terms of education and employment? We looked at many new programs in California, South Korea, India, and Norway, among others, but could not find any existing model based on role models in another country.

“We found that universities and educational institutions had a need for programs that bridged the gap between inspiration and empowerment – so we decided to create it.”

Meanwhile, while talking to and assessing particular schools, universities, and educational institutions, we found that these institutions had a need for programs that bridged the gap between inspiration and empowerment – so we decided to create it. First, it was leadership-focused, leveraging in an explicit way the stories of positive role models that have made it before to help students as a first step get some confidence and believe in themselves. The second step was to deliver specific tools to help students turn their dreams into an action plan – to turn them into reality with specific tools like diagnostics, mind maps, road maps, and so on. Based on this formula, we did a bootcamp for the students of INSEAD as well as for students in public schools in Morocco.

The results were mind-blowing. We have witnessed students evolving from “I don’t know what I’m going to do with my life” to “This is exactly what I’m going do, this is how I’m going achieve it, this is my vision, this is my plan.” Using role models can have a huge impact on the new generation. Now we are working with other universities, high schools, and educators to build programs for them. The programs include skill sessions – emotional skills, communication skills, networking skills – as well as mentorship. We have been replicating these programs for different groups, especially for underprivileged schools that are in dire need of them.

 We focus on the story and the journey rather than the outcome… When we show young people that there are individuals who grew up in a desert, or a slum, who managed to make it, then they open up their eyes and start believing in themselves.

“Arab Excellence has now become a real movement that is comprised of international private companies, universities, schools, foundations, role models and governments. I believe that we need to build and involve an entire ecosystem of actors to be able to achieve substantial impact on a large scale.”

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