Trade is an integral part of the peace process; peace and stability are the best promoters of trade…Interview with Ghazi Abu Nahl, President of Nest Investments Holdings Limited
Nest Investments Holding, Palestine, trade, peace, Cyprus
He is a self-made businessman from Palestine who has worked very hard to build up a huge global business venture with hundreds of employees. Not only does he own one of the biggest insurance companies in the Afro Asia region, but he owns a bank and runs fifteen World Trade Centres throughout the Middle East, North Africa and Cyprus. During the World Trade Centre Association’s Conference on “Peace and Stability Through Trade” we had the chance to meet with this exceptional businessman, who started it all from scratch. As he puts it himself –– there is no secret, only hard work.
Recently, his company launched a new and important concept that will facilitate international trade “ TradeCard Holdings”, which they offer to their clients who will have access to a hosted document management and financial settlement platform available via the Web or through a seamless integration with back office systems. The offering provides visibility into financial processes for information sharing among all parties in a transaction. A workflow engine triggers and records tasks of all approved parties. A range of transaction settlement services is available including open account services, a letter-of-credit alternative and electronic invoice presentment. A network of trade services suppliers, including manufacturers, logistics, inspection and cargo insurance companies worldwide , currently support system users.
Q: Why did you choose to attend this conference on peace and stability through trade?
To us, trade means the development of good faith and good communication in a peaceful environment. Peace is a pre-requisite for trade, but I also think that you need to work hard for peace. I think that in the Middle East there are certain stable areas but, there are many others where there is instability, like Iraq and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In Iraq there is a lot of suffering, with too many people being killed every day. If the money spent on the military could be used for other constructive things, the country would be considerably more stable. On the Palestinian side, I believe that most people would agree that we need to change the situation. I wish that 10% of military expenses were allocated to the process of peace and justice. For Palestinians, passing through a checkpoint every 15 minutes on a highway connecting two cities is not the best way to conduct trade. This creates instability, and people struggle to protect their land, their livelihood, their education –– this is an area where you cannot find peace.
When we invest in peaceful means such as building infrastructure and educating the young, then you would find more prosperity, more trade and better communication, with more benefit to everyone.
The world is like a village with its peoples inter-dependent on one another and we, through our business activities are contributing to this process of bringing communities together. We are trying to make a nice life for everybody in our communities despite the circumstances we face in certain areas. I believe in trade and trade is definitely a contributor to the peace process.
Q: How did you start in business and how many employees do you have?
In order to make a long story short…We started out as insurance brokers, then we expanded the insurance business and kept on expanding. There is no magical or mysterious formula to our success; working hard is the only secret. We have over 600 employees working directly with us and many, many more who work with our associates and strategic partners, worldwide. I strive to support them all in anyway I can; I believe we have a good story to tell and an excellent support system throughout our group of companies.
Q: Did you start everything from scratch?
Yes, I started as a junior in an insurance brokerage and I had ambitions; I never gave up on those ambitions. When I set up my first business, it was a small family business but now it has become a multi-national holding company; a professional institution . I’m proud of what we are doing.
Q: Do you see any improvement in the Middle East?
I do not see any improvement in the near future. Peace talks will not work unless they involve all the affected people who have been displaced from their homes and find themselves as refugees in far flung countries, as well as those who live under constant occupation in a very difficult circumstances. We must also ease the pain and suffering of the people before we can expect them to come to the negotiating table. Children must be allowed to go to school in safety; elderly and sick people must be able to go to hospital quickly and in dignity. Can you imagine what it’s like to spend your time passing through checkpoints? This is where the problems lie; there are too many checkpoints that serve to humiliate innocent people. Can you imagine how many people have had heart attacks at these checkpoints? How many pregnant women aborted while waiting to be let through? This is the case everywhere in Palestine such as Gaza, Ramallah and many other places –– everywhere. I know because I often visit these places myself.
Q: There are supposed to be a lot of things going on under the surface that will result in an independent state.
Independent State? I wish! Which territory? Which land? If your land and house has been taken away by somebody; how prepared are you to compromise? I hope and dream that there is some progress, but so far nothing substantive has happened. I’m not a politician and I have never been part of any political movement, but I’m part of the human community and I feel that dignity and justice are pre-requisite to stability. We need peace and we need stability and we are prepared to work hard to get it.
Q: Why did you move to Cyprus?
I am a Palestinian but, through the circumstances we talked about earlier, I had to pursue my career outside Palestine. Now, I have businesses in Qatar, Jordan, Palestine, Bahrain, Cyprus, Spain, Algeria, Libya ,USA, Malysia, Lebanon, Yemen, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, England etc. Cyprus is where our headquarters are but I am constantly travelling and visiting our offices and people. But, my home is still Palestine.
Q: I know a lot of Palestinians still have keys to the houses that have been taken.
Yes, absolutely and my family is one of many tens of thousands of Palestinian families who have keys but no homes. My father and my grandfather had homes in Gaza and Ramallah. It proved impossible for us to stay in Gaza where you find 2 million people caught behind a high wall with no fuel, food or essential supplies … I hope that one day Israel will come to understand that we have to live together with equal rights –– it really has to come from both sides.
If there was no wall and people could move freely, I think there would have been more stability. You cannot build factories and open the shops without stability and securities. We have an insurance activity in Gaza, but it’s really very difficult to conduct business in those circumstances with the infrastructure reduced to an absolute minimum.
Q: What about the people?
They are suffering every day. I feel that I’m losing my homeland. But I have confidence in humanity. I have Jewish friends, my lawyer is Jewish and I’m proud of his friendship and we never had any problems doing business together. I do not have any problem with any religion; the only thing is the loss of land, loss of hope and seeing no future.
Why are my people refugees everywhere? This is the situation. I would like to have peace, and to live together in peace with Christians, Jews and Muslims. I have businesses in Europe, in Asia, in Africa,in USA. I am happy to see not only profit, but how many families are working together to reach their aspirations. There are many wonderful things in life that all humans deserve to enjoy in peace and security but my people are denied them through no fault of their own!
Q: Do you have a message to our readers?
Give priority to education and communication amongst nations. I wish one day to see all the people of the world work together everywhere –– in peace and harmony. Why not? I believe in trade, because when you are trading with goods, you are not trading bullets. Trade is an integral element of the peace process; peace and stability are the best promoters of trade. There is a nice balance between the two. We all have to work towards this dream; I remain optimistic and hopeful!