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Crescent Enterprises – Badr Jafr

UAE, SHARJAH - Economy

Badr Jafar

CEO, Crescent Enterprises

Bio

A business executive and social entrepreneur from the UAE, Badr Jafar is the CEO of Crescent Enterprises, a diversified business operating across nine industry sectors in 15 countries. Badr is the appointed Special Envoy for Business and Philanthropy. He is also the President of Crescent Petroleum and servers as the Chairman of Gulftainer and Pearl Petroleum. Appointed to serve as COP28 Special Representative for Business and Philanthropy and as a member of the COP28 Advisory Committee, Badr also chaired the inaugural COP28 Business and Philanthropy Forum. He is actively engaged with a diverse range of non-profit organizations and initiatives focused on humanitarian aid and international development, strategic philanthropy, corporate governance, entrepreneurship, education, and the arts, including serving as a member of the United Nations Secretary General’s High-Level Panel on Humanitarian Financing and the UNESCO International Commission on the Futures of Education. He holds a master’s degree in engineering from the University of Cambridge and a business degree from the Cambridge Judge Business School.

"Sharjah’s economy is heavily diversified, with over 95% of its GDP coming from non-oil sectors. "
TBY talks to Badr Jafar, CEO of Crescent Enterprises, about Sharjah’s economy, opportunities for investors, and participation in COP28.
Crescent Enterprises has significantly influenced Sharjah’s entrepreneurial landscape. Can you elaborate on the impact of your initiatives and their role in transforming Sharjah into a vibrant hub for start-ups?

Crescent Enterprises operates and oversees businesses from startups to large-scale enterprises in infrastructure sectors like ports and logistics. With our corporate venture capital platform CE-Ventures, our investments span early- to late-stage high-growth startups in the UAE and globally. Additionally, our in-house venture builder platform, CE-Creates, conceptualizes, nurtures and scales businesses built on strong foundations of social purpose. Beyond capital, Crescent Enterprises partners with entrepreneurs to support them by providing industry expertise, and operational support to ensure these startups can scale effectively. As a founding partner of Sharjah Entrepreneurship Center – Sheraa, we support their social enterprise track which further underscores our commitment to fostering innovation that addresses broader societal challenges. This is integral to the value systems that underpin our business model.

Which sectors within Sharjah’s economy are performing well, and what are the emerging opportunities within these sectors?

Sharjah’s economy is heavily diversified, with over 95% of its GDP coming from non-oil sectors. One of the key drivers of Sharjah’s economy has been the industrial sector, which contributes nearly 16% to the UAE’s industrial GDP. Sharjah has also established its position as one of the leading logistics hubs in the country. Gulftainer, our ports and logistics subsidiary, has operated the Sharjah Container Terminal since 1976, which was the first container terminal in the Middle East. On the east coast, Gulftainer operates Khorfakkan Container Terminal which has been witnessing volume growth, and increased container-handling capacity and services expansion. In addition, education has been one of the most promising, growing, and renowned sectors of Sharjah, as it is home to several leading universities, including the University of Sharjah and the American University of Sharjah. Alongside the education sector, the emirate has also been investing towards capitalizing on the opportunity presented by the rapid growth of technology, and has set up notable research and development facilities, as seen through the establishment of the Sharjah Research, Technology, and Innovation Park, which has attracted several innovative companies from around the world. The intersection of a robust academic foundation, supported by research and development facilities, and a thriving diverse economy presents an opportunity to develop innovative and transformative technology companies in Sharjah.

Your engagement at COP28 in your role as Special Representative for Business and Philanthropy has been noteworthy. As we look to the future, what are Crescent Enterprises’ key sustainability projects and initiatives?

At Crescent Enterprises, sustainability is a core tenet of our approach, permeating all areas of our operations to ensure we meet environmental and social responsibilities. Through our in-house venture builder, CE-Creates, we have launched several sustainable ventures, one example is ION, which is a sustainable mobility solutions company in partnership with BEEAH, with operations across the emirates also offering ride-hailing services with electric vehicles. As part of ION’s commitment to sustainable mobility it will install, operate, and host over 1,500 chargers on its platform in the next 10 years. In the energy sector and through our sister company Crescent Petroleum, we have enabled the avoidance of more than 5.7 million tons of CO2 annually by replacing liquid fuels with clean burning natural gas in power generation in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, home to more than 6million people. Furthermore, our concerted efforts in reducing emissions have reduced the carbon intensity from our operations to 6.0 kgCO2e/BOE, which is less than half the global industry average. In 2022 and 2023, we embraced a UN-approved certified carbon offset strategy and achieved carbon neutrality across our operations. Furthermore, we have invested in transitioning towards sustainable assets across ports and logistics through our operating businesses such as Gulftainer and Momentum Logistics, this has enabled us to reduce carbon emissions by 70% over the past decade through the introduction of sustainable green technologies.

Given the increasing focus on climate and the intersection with technology, what are areas within the climate technology space that bear promise?

The climate technology sector is multi-faceted with entrepreneurs building companies and developing solutions across a variety of sectors. Existing technologies have the potential to mitigate 65% of all emissions, however, this still leaves a gap of 35% that needs to be reduced through technologies that are yet to achieve commercialization and scale. Standard Chartered estimates emerging economies will require an additional investment of USD94.8 trillion to help them transition to a net-zero economy by 2060. Closer to home, the startup ecosystem has been driving growth in climate tech venture capital investments, where over the past 5 years, the Middle East, North Africa and Turkey region has seen USD651 million in funding across 148 startups, as highlighted in ‘The State of Climate Tech Venture Capital Report’, that was launched by CE-Ventures in partnership with MAGNiTT. Transportation, which will remain a fundamental necessity globally, is a low-hanging fruit to tackle in the near-term, given the advancements in electric mobility, and emerging adoption rates. However, there needs to be continued investment in building a supportive network and infrastructure for widespread adoption. CE-Creates is focusing on this very critical point through ION, where it is building an end-to-end network solution for electric mobility. When looking at another core necessity, the agricultural sector is a large contributor to global emissions, as it accounts for nearly one third of the total. In the region, startups developing solutions towards climate resiliency in the agriculture sector raised USD288 million of venture capital funding over the past 5.5 years, the highest amount among climate tech venture funding. A priority area is investing in sustainable food systems, which is being enabled through technologies such as vertical framing, advancements in seed engineering, and robotics. Effective investments in these areas could lead to substantial environmental and economic benefits. CE-Ventures has partnered with global investors that are at the forefront of developing sustainable food systems and climate technologies.

As Crescent Enterprises expands its footprint beyond the UAE, what strategies are you employing and what specific opportunities are you targeting in these new markets?

Our global expansion strategy is multi-pronged, where CE-Operates continues to explore and evaluate opportunities to scale its port management and logistics operations. In the near-term, CE-Invests, our strategic investments platform, is focused on investing in priority sectors such as consumer, healthcare, and financial services where we are seeing compelling opportunities across India and Southeast Asia driven by favourable demographics. CE-Ventures has built a robust portfolio across major technology ecosystems globally and will continue to invest in high growth sectors such as life sciences, specifically microbiome, and the deep tech sectors across the US and Europe. CE-Creates will continue scaling its businesses which are poised to expand operations across the region.

Considering the potential and challenges ahead, if you could make one strategic wish for Crescent Enterprises, what would it be?

A strategic goal, rather than a wish, is to enable and lead the growth of the private sector to tap into the potential of the youth population in the wider region, where unemployment remains high at around 40%. The government has taken an active role in developing an ecosystem to support the population and has developed conducive frameworks for the private sector. The opportunity for the private sector lies in tapping into this potential and expanding on it further.

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