In a world where 85% of the population lives outside Northern America and Europe, and where commercial and technological connectivity has scaled unprecedented heights, we believe it is vital to explore this '85 world' unconstrained by region-specific classifications, outdated Cold War-era mindsets, and small-picture thinking.
We are living amidst a global geo-economic transformation, centring on the rise of emerging markets, the growth of a new global middle class, rapid urbanisation, and unprecedented physical and technological connectivity. A new economic and commercial world is emerging, and we aim to explore it in all its dimensions.
A generation ago, emerging markets accounted for approximately 15% of global GDP. Today, this figure is more than 50%, and rising – currently fuelling two-thirds of global economic growth. Indeed, previously dormant economies in Africa, Asia, and Latin America are now reshaping the global economic landscape.
The Johns Hopkins SAIS-Delma Institute Partnership on Geo-economic Multiplicity explores the impact of the emergence or re-emergence of ‘non-Western’, global economic players by taking a holistic approach to geo-economic trends and their impact.
Co-located in Abu Dhabi and Washington, DC, the lab's mission is founded on the premise that heightened economic activity in Africa, Latin America, and Asia has led to their increasing global relevance. In short, in less than a generation, our world has been turned upside down. To assess the impact of these important geopolitical, geo-economic, and geo-cultural shifts, the lab will work with a network of collaborators, thinkers, and other rising experts to produce original analysis through a variety of media, including digital stories, visualisations, multi-city pop-up talks, roundtables, and more traditional events.
Based in Washington, DC, Afshin is the co-director of the lab and a regular contributor to its online content. Afshin is also a fellow at the Johns Hopkins SAIS Foreign Policy Institute, where he writes broadly on emerging markets, particularly on themes related to the New Silk Road, South-South trade, and global hub cities. Afshin recently published an FPI white paper titled The Pivotal Partnership, outlining UAE-Africa ties as an emerging geocommercial and geo-economic corridor.
Afshin is also a former director of the World Economic Roundtable at the New America Foundation, an ambitious effort to remap the global economy in the wake of the Great Recession, and he currently writes a global affairs column for Newsweek Japan.
A former journalist, his dispatches from West Asia and North Africa and essays have been published in The New York Times, the Financial Times, Foreign Affairs, The Washington Post, Newsweek, Bloomberg View, Bloomberg Businessweek, and dozens of academic and specialty publications.
The founder of The Delma Institute and co-director of the lab, Mishaal holds a BA from the American University in Dubai and an MSc in finance from Skema. Starting his career as an investment banker at HSBC and Deutsche Bank, Mishaal later helped his family establish a building materials business, of which he then became CFO.
After maintaining a popular weekly opinion column in local newspapers, he joined Dubai government to create its contemporary cultural projects strategy. Mishaal continues to think, write, and speak on macro developments within West Asia, North Africa, and beyond.
Outside the office, Mishaal works with his wife, Butheina, on Cinema Akil, an alternative films platform. When not doing that, he is reading history. Mishaal speaks Arabic and English.
Marri oversees the lab’s programming and trajectory, and works closely with its collaborators to produce innovative content. From Wilmington, Delaware, Marri is a recent transplant to Abu Dhabi following a seven-year stint in Washington, DC.
Prior to joining Delma, Marri worked at the Atlantic Council as an assistant director in the Brent Scowcroft Centre’s Middle East Peace and Security Initiative, focusing on Gulf security and the Iran nuclear deal. During her time in DC, she also served as a policy associate for a startup, an assistant in the Ambassador’s Office at the UAE Embassy, and as a part-time fitness instructor. She holds a BA in political science and history from Syracuse University’s Maxwell School and a master's in international affairs from George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs.
Aruba is the resident economist at The Delma Institute and is one of the lab’s in-house contributors. Her previous roles have seen her work as an economic researcher at the UAE Ministry of Foreign Trade, as part of the UN Development Programme Capacity Development Project, and at the INSEAD Abu Dhabi Innovation Policy Initiative. Her key research interests include GCC labour market structures and global labour flows.
She holds a BA in international economics from the American University of Sharjah, and a master's in law and economics from the University of Bern.
Soufian is a resident economist at The Delma Institute and is one of the lab's in-house contributors. Prior to joining Delma, Soufian worked for policy research institutes in Paris and Brussels and also worked for Dubai Economic Council.
He holds two master’s degrees: One in economics from Sciences Po and another in international relations from Université Libre de Bruxelles.
Ilan is a lab collaborator and the author of the lab’s first report, The Rise of 'the Rest'? As a consultant for the UN Conference on Trade and Development, Ilan is currently writing the World Investment Report. He is on the steering committee of the National Minimum Wage Research Initiative in South Africa, and has consulted for the African Development Bank and the International Labour Organisation.
He holds an MSc in development economics from SOAS, University of London and is an economics PhD candidate at the New School in New York.
Ron is the founder and head of strategy and research at Zenials, a fintech company that provides cloud and mobile core banking to small and microfinance banks in Africa and Asia. Prior to this, he worked at the African Development Bank from 2008 to 2014 in a variety of leading capacities. He was an economic advisor to the US Federal Reserve and the UK Department of Health, as well as a professor at the University of Montreal and a long-time fellow at Oxford's Centre for the Study of African Economies.
Ron holds a PhD in economics from the University of Minnesota.
Zenia Lewis works for the African Development Bank on a special US-Africa Trade and Investment Promotion Initiative where she serves as a trade advisor to the African Union Mission in Washington, DC. She also works with DC-based African embassies and governments on US-Africa trade policy. Prior to this, she worked with a boutique international development consulting firm, the African Development Bank in Tunisia, and the Global Economy programme at the Brookings Institution in Washington, DC.
Zenia holds a master’s degree in public policy from the University of Michigan, focusing on international trade and economic development.
Albab is an international development economics expert whose areas of focus include agrarian change and rural development, migration, and private sector development in African countries. Albab is currently working for the Ethiopian Agricultural Transformation Agency, where her role focuses on identifying and resolving systemic bottlenecks in agribusiness and market development. Her previous professional experience includes working with the African Development Bank, the UN Economic Commission for Africa, Setema Private Limited, and Colorado College.
Albab received her master's in development studies from SOAS, University of London, and her BA in economics and Romance languages from Colorado College.
With the world more networked and distributed than ever before, classical notions of power, hierarchy, and order are undergoing dramatic shifts.
At Delma, we want to make sense of this hyper-emergent world, but recognise that 20th-century lenses are incompatible with 21st-century complexities.
Based in Abu Dhabi, and well placed to analyse these realities, we innovate through iterative analytical tools, a commitment to interdisciplinarity, and vernacular insight into local contexts.
In so doing, we are rethinking how we think about the world.
For more than 70 years, the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) has produced great leaders, thinkers, and practitioners of international relations, whose ideas and research inform and shape policy. The school’s interdisciplinary curriculum, delivered across campus locations on three continents, is grounded in the study of international economics, international relations, and regional studies, and prepares students to address the multifaceted challenges facing the world today.
Housed within Johns Hopkins SAIS, the Foreign Policy Institute was established in 1980 to advance practically oriented research and discussion about foreign policy. To this end, it organises research initiatives and study groups, and hosts leaders from around the world as resident or non-resident fellows in fields including international policy, business, journalism, and academia.The Foreign Policy Institute supports and hosts the emerge85 Lab.