Against the Grain: Encouraging the Diaspora's Return to Lebanon

Last week, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs organized the 4th annual Lebanese Diaspora Energy (LDE) Conference, ushering in over 1,700 participants from around the world. The aim? To reunite emigrant Lebanese with the land of their fathers and forefathers. The means? A forum through which said Lebanese can recount their stories and import some of their outstanding successes to Lebanon.

The 4th annual Lebanon Diaspora Energy Conference took place
May 4-5, 2017, at Biel in Beirut

Indeed, the conference was a high-brow affair, attracting the President of the Lebanese Republic General Michel Aoun, Prime Minister Saad Hariri, Foreign Affairs Minister Gebran Bassil, and a slate of other public officials.

The Lebanon Diaspora Energy Conference was attended by President of Lebanon
General Michel Aoun as well as Prime Minister Saad Hariri

Panels tackled a range of topics, from banking and financial systems to branding Lebanon and the role of social media. Locals and expats alike debated the extent to which Lebanon can retain and develop talents and how equipped the infrastructure is to handle an injection of investments from prospectors.

I was invited to attend the two-day gathering on behalf of my company and LDE Platinum Sponsor Bank of Beirut. In light of LDE, we launched a dedicated online platform called Lebanon Investors to connect the diaspora to local economic opportunities. Both investors and entrepreneurs can create an exhaustive profile online, which is subsequently matched up with local industrial contacts and partners.

Eventually, Lebanon Investors will incorporate an active forum where users can commune under the umbrella of mutual investment interests, industries, and so on. Business News by Lebanon Opportunities published a brief on our endeavor, and I harp on this occasion to encourage international Lebanese readers contemplating investing in Lebanon to fill out this quick form here.

Lebanon Investors by Bank of Beirut:
Connecting the diaspora to economic opportunities in Lebanon

Having grown up among the diaspora for two and a half decades, I felt a common bond and empathy with those who had exacted the arduous journey to Beirut to partake in LDE (not to mention the stringent security checkpoints we all endured on day one!). Though I’ve resided here for six years now, I continue to identify with Lebanese expats and straddle both sides of the divide.

There was an unmistakable electric buzz in the assembly hall, as world-acclaimed second- and third-generation Lebanese made their way to the podium and spoke of a profound fondness for the motherland. From former presidential candidate Luis Abi Nader of the Dominican Republic waxing poetic in Spanish; to recently retired US Congressman Nick Rahhal with his West Virginian drawl; the audience was stirred to emotion by the impassioned stories of folks who professed pride in their heritage.

Former presidential candidate of the Dominican Republic Luis Abi Nader

Former US Congressman Nick Rahhal from West Virginia

For many, this marked the very first trip to Lebanon ever or in an astonishingly long stretch of time. Over lunch on Day 2, I met a lovely Armenian-Lebanese lady named Nayiri who, as a child in 1977, had immigrated to Quebec with her family to escape the hostile Civil War raging in Beirut. She assimilated into the Canadian culture and eventually established her own family there, never once entertaining the notion of visiting Lebanon again.

40 years later, Nayiri found herself wrestling with inner demons before hopping on a plane bound for BEY and LDE. Trust me when I say how overwhelmed she was with what she encountered—the chaleur and charm of locals, the unshackled spirit of citizens, and the positivity piercing the air. Now her main challenge is how to acquaint her progeny with her newfound love, Lebanon.

On the whole, LDE succeeded in celebrating the diaspora’s achievements; promoting Lebanese heritage; and fostering a link between Lebanese locally and abroad. Taking it a step further, expats were reminded of how imperative their role is as self-appointed ambassadors of Lebanon, and how collectively they can help restore the image of Lebanon and the world’s trust in our nation’s economy.

You have to hope that LDE will continue to gather momentum in the coming years. Apparently it's already beginning to, because regional LDE conferences are scheduled for Las Vegas in September; Cancun in November; and come next year, Australia, France, and beyond.

Bank of Beirut & Lebanon Investors stand


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