The Future

A report from the future: 31 December 2020

As we approach the end of another year, it’s always a time for reflection. Perhaps for Al-Dabbagh Group reflection is mixed with the quiet contemplation of a job well done, objectives achieved. For Al-Dabbagh it’s the end of a year and the end of a decade.

It always promised to be an interesting period. Determined to make the difficult transition from first to second to third generation of a family business, Al-Dabbagh Group remained true to a set of three founding principles. The father and founder, His Excellency Sheikh Abdullah Al-Dabbagh, set up the business in 1962. We will return to him in this report but first we need to record some significant achievements by the family’s second and third generations.

In 2011, as part of an initiative to sustain the founding spirit, principles and values, Club 32 had been formed. This brought together the members of the family’s third generation. Working to a programme where each of them crafted a Life Plan, the 32 individuals set goals to achieve each year that contributed to the ultimate 20×20 goal.

The fruits of that investment can now be seen. More than twenty of the Club 32 members, young men and women, have now begun to make names for themselves in fields as diverse as government, academia, engineering, technology, art and philanthropy. Indeed the highlights of this year’s Annual Gathering of the extended family in Jeddah were the talks and presentations given by members of Club 32.

The Al-Dabbagh Group Art Collection now represents one of the most important corporate art collections in the Middle East and the Group’s belief that art unleashes the entrepreneurial spirit now bears certain fruits. It seems that the case might have been made by the financial results that show Al-Dabbagh Group growing year on year. Now in 2020 they are one of the world’s top twenty family-owned businesses. In their various portfolios, they have become world leaders. At the same time interesting ventures are emerging from other businesses in their Incubation portfolio.

It is interesting and instructive to look back to where this all began because history always informs the future. In 1960 a young man from Saudi Arabia was awarded an Eisenhower Fellowship. He was the first recipient of the Fellowship from the Middle East, and he set off bright-eyed to explore America. It was, however, an exploration with a purpose.

The purpose came from the young man’s training as an agricultural engineer. From this, and coupled with his background as the first Saudi agricultural engineer, His Excellency Sheikh Abdullah Al-Dabbagh further deepened his interest in agriculture and water, and that interest continued into a lifelong pursuit of excellence in those fields. The six-month road trip all across the USA took him to centres of excellence including universities and research institutes, dams and large-scale irrigation projects, which concluded with an Oval Office meeting with President Eisenhower.

Born and raised in a country with little rain, the importance of water has always been clear to the family. It is noticeable that Al-Dabbagh Group’s philanthropic efforts have focused more determinedly on alleviating the problems associated with water. Many years ago, after setting up the Stars Foundation as their global philanthropic arm, tangible commitments were made: to support more than 20 million children and communities worldwide. The support was wide-ranging, helping NGOs in areas such as health, education, protection and WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene). The world’s problems have not gone away but at least 20 million children and their communities are now receiving more opportunities to do better things with their lives.

Now it’s the year-end. The year is 2020. A time for reflection as we observed earlier. A time to realize that achievements are made by hard work and by great teamwork. Achievements are also spurred by the inspiration of past leaders and by the power of forward thinking.

The greatest respect we can pay to the heroes of the past is to say that we will continue their work in the future.