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Could Djibouti be the next Dubai?.

Could Djibouti be the next Dubai?

Herding sheep and goats, cultivating dates, fishing, pearling and trading with its neighbours were the main activities of Dubai as recently as quarter of a century ago. Today, of course, it has become one the world’s leading luxury-tourism destinations, where almost all the world-famous brand names are represented. The resort already has more than 40,000 rooms and apartments – a figure set to more than double by 2016.

Much of this infrastructure has been built on the back of oil revenues. The first oil strike in 1966 was followed three years later by Dubai’s first oil exports. The money earned has been modest compared to that of some other states in the region, but it has been ploughed into infrastructure projects – transport facilities, schools, hospitals and, of course, tourism development – which have laid the foundations for today’s modern society.

Now Djibouti, in east Africa, and Rwanda, in central Africa, may be about to get the Dubai treatment. Gimbel (Fortune magazine, 3 March 2008) reports that bin Salayem, founder and chairman of the huge Middle Eastern holding company Dubai World, hopes to apply the strategy he used in Dubai to other underdeveloped regions of the world. He already plans to build a five-star hotel at Djibouti’s Lake Assal and has earmarked Rwanda as another possible luxury-tourism destination.

The Rwandan economy has been growing at more than 5% a year since the turn of the century, driven not only by coffee and tea exports, but also by the expanding tourism industry. Poverty continues to affect almost 20% of the Rwandan population of almost 10 million, however, and images of the state-sponsored genocide of 1994 remain deeply etched in the memories of many in the West. The Rwandan Government claims that the country is now stable, but maintaining this stability may depend on how much of the wealth generated by tourism the Government manages to get into the pockets of the nation’s poor.

If Rwanda succeeds in attracting the world’s rich and famous, perhaps former City golden girl Robin Saunders will be among the visitors. A woman who thrives on living life to the full, she marked her 40th birthday and tenth wedding anniversary at a luxury party in a historic palace in Florence.

The American financier, rarely far from the limelight as a woman in the male-dominated world of finance, played a significant role in the £426 million loan to rebuild Wembley stadium, backed Philip Green in his takeover of Bhs and has advised Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone.

Czarniawska (Organization journal, Mar 2008) quotes reports from British and German newspapers about the successes and failures in the career of the former employee of WestLB and Deutsche Bank, and asks more generally if it is possible to break out of the stereotypes that have developed for women in finance – that they are often brave and successful, but ought really to be working in some other line of business.

Try telling that to the Bank of England. Its former chief cashier, whose name appeared on all England’s banknotes, was Merlyn Lowther, and its ex-deputy governor was Rachel Lomax.

Such positive role-models are encouraged by Women in Banking and Finance (WIBF), a professional association committed to encouraging constructive attitudes to women in the financial-services industry. It provides support and encouragement to members to help them to realize their potential, and serves as a consultancy and advisory service to corporations seeking to empower the women they employ.