Of course some countries have extensive state-backed welfare systems that rely on even the lowest earners paying into a nationalized fund that is then redistributed by politicians.
However, a far more long-standing tradition lies in the way in which high net worth individuals and industry pioneers put their energy and money back into helping the region or country of their origin.
The Middle East has more than its fair share of motivated people such as these, with a number of homegrown philanthropists having made and still making a very real difference to the lives of those who live in the region.
The Forbes Middle East’s Arab billionaires ranking includes 36 individuals. Even though the list does not include members of royal families, their net worth is estimated to be around $120 billion.
This gives some small idea of the amount of money that is available to those wishing to make a difference and leave their mark on the societies they came from.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed
In 2011 Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed made a significant impact on the fight against polio, the terrible disease that often cripples and sometimes kills those who contract it, by donating US$50 million to UNICEF and the World Health Organization to deliver vaccines in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
No less a person than Bill Gates highlighted the importance of the donation saying “The Crown Prince made a significant commitment to partner with us on polio.”
Thankfully polio eradication is a realistic aim as safe and effective vaccines are available and programs to immunize children mean that today only a few thousand cases remain across the world. Nevertheless, there is still work to be done to get rid of the problem completely.
Miloud Chaabi built the first American university in Morocco by donating a tenth of his fortune towards making the project a reality.
The Miloud Chaabi Foundation also supports activities in areas other than education, with many different aspects of health, social services, culture, sport, and environmental issues benefiting from its patronage.
Philanthropist Ehsanollah Bayat is another major force for good in the region, with his Bayat Foundation helping develop major water projects in Afghanistan that have brought immense benefits to rural communities in the country.
Possibly most well known for his work with the Afghan Telecoms business, founder Ehsan Bayat is a successful Afghan entrepreneur who has played a major role in helping to rebuild his native country.
In 1986, Bayat achieved his BSc in engineering technology from the New Jersey Institute of Technology and whilst still living abroad he established the Florida-based telecommunications company Telephone Systems International Inc. with the specific aim of developing a commercial telephone network in Afghanistan.
Bayat returned to Afghanistan in 2001 and founded the Afghan Wireless Communications Company, a partnership between Afghan Wireless and the Afghan Ministry of Communications.
Looking to the future
With a mix of wealth and poverty, the Middle East still faces many challenges across the whole region.
While it cannot be expected wealthy individuals alone can solve all the problems, homegrown philanthropists are playing a vital role in making sure that the wider societies are able to look to the future and provide services and facilities to enable people to live a full and happier life.
Photo is Public Domain
Contributing Author Bio
Luke is a freelance business and economics writer currently focusing on world philanthropy and its place in modern emerging countries.