With an undeniable passion for healthcare and investment that transcends business profit, but rather concentrates on having a lasting impact on social, political and economic equality; it is little wonder Kamel Ghribi is the perfect example of an indefatigable businessman that everyone should aspire to be. Ghribi is the Tunisian born founder of Swiss-based GK Investment Holding Group, a private equity and investment firm whose primary focus is in the healthcare, real estate, private equity and consultancy sectors. He also serves as the Chairman of GSD Healthcare Middle East, which is part of the Italian private healthcare behemoth Gruppo Ospedaliero San Dontato (GSD).
GQ had a chat with Ghribi about his life ethos, business strategies, philanthropic ventures and the business advice he has for aspiring entrepreneurs.
GQ: How would you describe yourself?
Kamel Ghribi: I would describe myself as someone who lives by the profound belief that brilliance lies within us all if we have the courage, honesty, clarity and integrity to embrace our vision and purpose in life. I thank my eclectic childhood in Sfax for cementing those values in me. Throughout my noteworthy career, I have never wavered from my core belief that if we are unable to communicate our personal vision and draw others in then we will never inspire them to learn more, become more and have the courage to shape a better future.
GQ: Tell us about the evolution of your career:
Kamel Ghribi: I began my long and prestigious career in the Oil & Petrochemical sector. My first significant role was at Olympic Petroleum Corporation in New York, where at the age of 29 I had already climbed the corporate ladder to occupy the role of Vice President. Simultaneously, I held down the role of President of Olympic Management in Italy. By 1994, I was nominated Chairman of Olympic Energy - an energy holding company based in Europe. Thereafter followed a series of chairmanships until in early 2004 when I decided to dedicate my time to my newly founded Swiss-based investment holding – GK Investment Holding Group.
Due to astute business acumen, GK Investment Holding group has become a phenomenal success and is now a leading consultancy firm that facilitates formidable partnerships and cross border transactions in the Middle East, Europe and Africa.
GQ: Share with us some of the work and achievements you have garnered in Africa:
Kamel Ghribi: I have always firmly believed the business world cannot stand simply for profit at any cost. Rather, it has the ability and duty to help strengthen national institutions and infrastructures through robust financial frameworks that can combine strategic and blended investments across a variety of sectors. In order to achieve this goal, investments must benefit the nations in which businesses operate.
To this end, I have often undertaken diplomatic activities behind the scenes and focussed my holdings’ investments in areas such as healthcare, education and infrastructure in Africa. I also promote sustainable development through my business interests and believe the most successful projects undertaken are conscientious and socially responsible. More and more, whilst carrying out my business activities during the 1990s, I found myself involved in promoting other fundamental ballasts, such as the promotion of diversity, peace and dialogue and raising the profile of access to universal healthcare. My business philosophy continues to promote the idea of the business world as a ‘global’ compatriot working relentlessly from a genuine will to make all nations economically stronger, better and safer places for future generations.
I have long held the belief that a global entrepreneur’s worldview can often provide a different perspective which can, in turn, permit a point of comparison, indeed a paradigm, against which to measure progress. Such a view allows us to see the strengths and the flaws in any given society, from the grassroots up to the higher governmental institutions – just as in business, so in politics, there is always room for improvement.
GQ: What drives you, or what is your passion?
Kamel Ghribi: I have had a lifelong commitment and passion towards Africa and the Middle East. That passion was born from a profound sense of accountability towards a continent that has never had the opportunity to take its rightful position on the world stage economically, socially or politically. I have also committed to addressing the deep-rooted lack of understanding between certain nations that have prevented the creation of strong political institutions and cultures that provide the foundation for strong and united nations.
In recent years I have pushed for an honest review of our political agenda as I believe it is the only way that we can find solutions to the challenges we are facing. Social, cultural and economic inequality give rise to political populism and religious extremism, which in turn create conflict and discourage investors. I believe that the business challenges we face today require solutions that not only expand investments but also address and involve the communities affected by our decisions. By developing innovative business and investment solutions based on respect for cultural diversity, I recognise the essential role heritage and culture plays in our ability to develop new markets globally. Projects must contribute to and strengthen social coherence through an ethical corporate responsibility that engages all those affected by business decisions taken. In particular, within the sphere of healthcare and education.
However, I have often stated that none of this is achievable unless Africa and the Middle East get a taste of peace and stable governance. The demographic dividends of a young population can only be boosted if that population is well educated and has access to affordable healthcare. To this end, in 2017, I accepted the role as Chairman of GSD Middle East. To date, I consider this role as one of the most significant that I have ever had the honour of filling.
Healthcare has been a longstanding area of both personal and entrepreneurial interest to me. I have always taken a special interest in the healthcare sector for what it represents, not only in terms of human values and development for the community but also its impact on the economy and welfare of the population.
As Chairman of GSD Middle East, my principal aim has been to help the first international branch of the GSD group grow and expand in the Middle East and Africa through strategic development initiatives specifically tailored to meet the needs of the region. Ever aware that a nation’s healthcare system is a key indicator of the health of its citizens, its communities, and ultimately the economic wellbeing of the nation itself, I hope to assist governments in the serious challenge of providing economically accessible services with the highest standards of care all populations.
GQ: Any Advice for other upcoming entrepreneurs:
Kamel Ghribi: Be yourself and do not try to be anything other than yourself. Be sure in the knowledge that you are unique and think carefully about what you want from life, not what others want for you or from you. Be enterprising and aim to excel at everything you do in the understanding that only your passion will lead you into the future with certainty. Make things happen. Follow your own path and take pride in who you are so that you continue to grow freely and never be at the mercy of someone else’s will. If we are true to our uniqueness then our business success will never diminish with the passing of the years.