Panels & Talks




Innovation Ecosystems

Saturday April 20, 1:30-2:30PM

Innovation Ecosystems: The Foundational Elements

Governments around the world are now pooling resources and funding into creating “innovation ecosystems” in specific industries and trades, attempting to build clusters in order to benefit from the spillovers of agglomeration. The success stories are evident, but the path to these fully-fledged innovation hubs less so.

What is the state of innovation ecosystems in the MENA region? Have our governments begun to invest in these ecosystems and does it provide the return on investment? This panel will aim to decipher how we can grow these ecosystems both from the bottom-up, and top-down that need to be in place in order to fashion such an ecosystem.


  • Elissa Freiha, Founder & Bosslady at womena

  • Fouad Maksoud, Best Innovator of the Arab World in Stars of Science Season 9

  • Hisham Elhaddad, Co-Founder and Managing Partner at HOF Capital

  • Malaz Madani, Founder of

Moderator: Dana Alansari, MIT Sloan MBA Candidate


Green Cities

Saturday April 20, 1:30-2:30PM

Green Cities: The Compromise Between Development and Sustainability

Cities and their residents are the worst contributors towards climate change. However, when your city is lagging behind in terms of production and development, it can become very difficult to choose between development and sustainability, especially when so many of the world’s leading cities didn’t have to. However, our leaders have foundways of developing sustainably. This can include waste management facilities, building solar power infrastructure, and even moving towards a car sharing model rather than a car ownership model. This panel will attempt to dissect development and sustainability from the angles of urban design, entrepreneurship, and legal organization.


  • ElFatih ElTahir, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at MIT

  • Karim Elgendy, Lead Sustainability Consultant at Dar Al-Handasah (Shair & Partners) & Founder of Carboun

  • Sébastien Mannai, Founder and CEO Acoustic Wells

Moderator: Dana Dabbousi, Bachelor of Science Candidate at MIT


Data-Driven Decisions

Saturday April 20, 3:00-4:00PM

Data-Driven Decisions

It has been said that the currency of the very near future will be data. It will be bought, traded, and used as leverage. Thus, we see a race from governments, companies, and even individuals to try and amass as much data as possible. From an urban context, this type of data can help drive much needed decisions about whether to add a bike lane on a street or to invest in a neighborhood health clinic.

However, given the vulnerability and sensitivity of data, an infrastructure for data collection and analysis must be developed. How can we integrate this infrastructure with the workflow of governance and decision-making while keeping in mind the important considerations of scalability, security, and availability.


  • Munther Dahleh, Director of IDSS at MIT

  • Rida Qadri, PhD Candidate in Urban Information Systems at MIT

  • Sofiane Abbar, Senior Software Engineer and Researcher at Qatar Computing Research Institute

Moderator: Rim Hariss, PhD Candidate in Operations Research at MIT



Sunday April 21, 9:30-10.30AM

Reconstruction: The Future of Cities in Crisis

Reconstruction will be a dominant theme in many countries in the MENA region that have undergone some form of destruction in the past decade. Additionally, construction for the inflow of refugees in many of our cities is severely needed. Reconstruction can be an opportunity to restart many of the economies in the region and employ an abundant amount of local power.

It’s apparent that many governments in the region are going to need international assistance in order to start this reconstruction. How can we ensure that this rebuilding is to our favor? How can we guarantee that culture and tradition is maintained throughout the reconstruction process in terms of both design and function? The panelists will lead the discussion in a very interesting direction.


  • Jessica Wolff, Urban Planning & Research Consultant

  • Malik El-Abdeh, Program Manager at the European Institute of Peace

  • Rouba Mhaissen, Founder & Director at Sawa for Development and Aid

Moderator: Nour Ghadanfar, Master of City Planning Candidate at MIT


Big Plans

Saturday April 20, 4:00-5:00PM

Big Plans: The Era of Grand Visions

Cities have historically been seen as organic, living creatures. They grow and shrink with regional and global trends and are quite difficult to control. However, there has been a resurgence in Corbusier-like planned cities, especially in the Arab world. Why are governments choosing to plan cities from the top-down rather than have cities develop from the bottom-up? Are such cities, whether Masdar or Songdo, considered successes or failures? And how do we avoid the dreaded copy-paste syndrome that we see in almost every planned city. Our panel will provide a lively discussion showing us both sides of the coin.


  • Markus Elkatsha, Urbanist, Researcher, and Rocketeer at the MIT Media Lab City Science Group

  • Pedro Ortiz, Senior Fellow at the Marron Institute of Urban Management at NYU

  • Siqi Zheng, Samuel Tak Lee Associate Professor at the MIT Center for Real Estate

Moderator: Ali Al Sammarraie, Master of City Planning Candidate at MIT



Saturday April 20, 4:00-5:00pm

Mobility: The Future of Transportation

The MENA region has one of the fastest growing populations in the world. However, the region’s transportation infrastructure is aging - at best. The private sector will definitely have a role to play, whether through entrepreneurial endeavors like Careem or through grassroots movements like “Maan Nasel”, the campaign that helped to create Amman’s Unofficial Transport Map.

How have our cities become so car-dependent? Given the predicted future trend of car sharing and autonomous vehicles as opposed to car ownership and designated drivers, how will our cities adapt? Can we imagine a MENA with a borderless future, one that celebrates mobility rather than stifles it? These are all questions that our panel will aim to discuss.


  • Hamdi Tabbaa, Head of Levant & Qatar at Uber Middle East

  • Hazem Zureiqat, Partner at Engicon, Co-Founder at Sowt

  • Mostafa Kandil, Co-founder & CEO at Swvl

Moderator: Adham Kalila, Master of Science in City Planning Candidate


Digital Infrastructure

Saturday April 20, 3:00-4:00PM

Digital infrastructure: Blockchain and Other Technologies

Cities have always been more than their physical components. They are an amalgamation of their smells and tastes, and increasingly today their digital identities. The connectivity within and between cities is ever more dependent on this. Thousands of industries like telecom and healthcare have been disrupted by this and thousands of technologies such as blockchain are at the forefront of this revolution of (digital) infrastructure.

As these technologies evolve at a more and more rapid pace, what are the implications? What happens if the MENA region continues to fall behind its Asian, European, and African counterparts when it comes to digital infrastructure?


  • Mashael Alsabah, Scientist at QCRI

  • Moe Ghashim, Entrepreneur

  • Yazan Barguthi, CEO of Jibrel Network

Moderator: Tarek Mansour, co-founder of Kalshi


Smart Cities

Sunday April 21, 9:30-10.30AM

Smart Cities: The Digital Bureaucracy

The term “smart cities” has become synonymous with digitization and automation, with the assumption that these mechanisms can provide a more efficient and operational city government. Estonia has become infamous around the world for its “e-government” platform. In the Middle East, Dubai became the first city to develop a “smart cities” government arm and even a Minister of Artificial Intelligence.

This panel will aim to discuss the following questions: Can digitization provide cities with a reset button or do we have to work on the underlying governmental structures and processes before we can move on to the next step? Is digitization the only way to a “smart city.” Finally, should we even pursue the dream of a smart city with so many other more pressing problems that we need to address?


  • Abdulaziz Al-Homaid, Research associate at QCRI

  • Jeff Shamma, Director for the Center of Excellence for NEOM Research at KAUST

  • Marwan Aboudib, Co-founder and CEO at Tekuma

Moderator: Ali ElSeddik, MIT Sloan MBA Candidate

SciTech Talks

  • 11:20-11:40 Hanna Salameh, Founder at Hanna Salameh Design

  • 11:45-12:05 Iman Oubou, Founder & Editor-In-Chief of SWAAY Media

  • 12:10-12:30 Abdul Mohsen Al-Husseini, Co-founder & CTO at Analytical Space

Tech Talks

Session I

Saturday April 20, 11:20AM -12:30PM

Tech Talks

Session II

Sunday April 21, 1:00-2:55PM

  • 1:00-1:20 Haya Odeh & Amjad Masad, Co-founders at

  • 1:25-1:45 Layal Jebran, President & CEO

  • 1:50-2:10 Abeer AlOlayan, Petroleum Scientist at Aramco

  • 2:15-2:35 Sally Itani, Founder at Architects for Change

  • 2:40-2:55 Malaz Madani, Founder of