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In conversation with Philippe Jabre

Throughout the Covid pandemic, the APJ galvanized resources to meet the extraordinary need for social help amongst vulnerable Lebanese people.

In 2023, the Association plans to continue in its core focus providing academic support, notably through its scholarships program.

In this short interview with Philippe Jabre, we consider some of our achievements in 2022 and look forward to the year ahead.

What are your reflections regarding 2022 as a year? Philippe Jabre: The unfortunate developments that characterised 2021 produced many requests that came to the APJ, and we basically saw the same trend of needs continue in 2022. Specifically, this meant meeting the basic needs of the most vulnerable people – providing food, medicines, and helping to rebuild people’s homes in Beirut. The APJ’s budget for 2022 stayed the same however, so the association covered many needs from the same resources. Nonetheless, in 2022 it was good to see a revival in culture and the arts in Lebanon.

Looking ahead to 2023, what are your priorities? We plan to remain focused on educational support, which is what we have been doing since the beginning. It is our way of investing in people’s future.

But we will also continue providing support towards health, particularly through institutions. For example, we still give funding to the Lebanese NGO arcenciel which works with vulnerable people, to enable them to continue offering medical attention and operations, and to distribute medicines. We are also continuing support for academic institutions like the American University of Beirut and Saint Joseph University (USJ) and through them of course the students who study at these universities. Our primary goal is that the institutions APJ supports help Lebanese society at the end of the day.

Despite the crises and difficult situation, do you see glimmers of hope and opportunity for Lebanon? Yes, definitely. We can see some stabilisation in the ongoing crisis in Lebanon.

Travel and tourism have resumed, which is a good opportunity. The Lebanese society and economy seem to be adapting to the situation and we see that Lebanese living abroad, the diaspora, are also helping by sending money home. This gives hope for the country. In recent years with the financial crisis, the Covid-pandemic, and the devastating Beirut explosion, the country hit rock bottom. Now it has started to climb slowly upwards and there is some stability in terms of growth. Have there been any structural changes within the APJ recently?

Our team on the ground, in Beirut, remains the same. Last year, we worked with the international non-profit Give2Asia to make it possible for United States residents to give directly to the APJ. We are delighted with this partnership as the organisation believes in strengthening local communities and has education as a key focus area. We have already seen some donations come through the platform.

What is it that drives the APJ? The APJ is a catalyst for improvement, help and support. There is a lot of goodwill in Lebanon, I can clearly feel it when I’m there. Providing help to people in Lebanon creates synergies and people come up with new ideas to improve society, which moves society forward. Support begets support.

To date, what are your reflections on the Almaza brewery in which you acquired a majority stake?

Almaza is a very resilient company. It is a strong brand that everybody knows and which is closely linked to Lebanese cuisine – the beer accompanies the good food. And the brewery itself is full of hardworking and talented people, providing 200 jobs directly and 100 jobs indirectly.

In the first year since I became involved, Almaza did not lose money despite the economic challenges. The business environment for beverages proves to be very stable despite global supply chain issues.

We have since enlarged the company’s focus to include the hospitality and leisure sector, leveraging the strong Almaza brand.

And, as part of a related and exciting new venture, we recently launched a new craft beer project.