Benelux business council Abu Dhabi

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Board of Directors

The Board of Directors is made of not less than 5 and not more than 9 persons of Benelux origins and the board should be divided between the three nationalities: Belgium, The Netherlands and Luxembourg. Therefore, it has to be composed of at least two Dutch, two Belgians and one Luxembourger. The BBC also has 1 Event and Office Manager. 

Honorary Chairman

H.E. Sheikh Nahyan Bin Mubarak Al Nahyan


Barbara Farahnick-Mathonet

Chairwoman (Belgian National)

Barbara Farahnick-Mathonet is the founder and president of ADCA (Abu Dhabi Circle of Art), a group of women aiming at developing the Art Community. She is also an ambassador for Abu Dhabi Art Fair. Before that she worked for more than 20 years for Chanel France where she was a regional Sales Manager, responsible for the distribution of Chanel cosmetics covering the North of France regions. Previously, she worked for Estee Lauder as a Sales Manager for 3 years. She lived many years in Belgium, France, Luxembourg and now in the UAE for seven years. 

Gilles Klein

Vice Chairman (Luxembourg National)

Gilles Klein is coming from Luxembourg. He has, as a member of Civil Defense, more than 40 years’ experience in emergency and rescue services. Being an active volunteer as well as a certified trainer for accident and rescue, he has a large experience in the branch. Since 1995 he made his leisure-time pursuit into his profession and successfully introduced One Seven, one of the most efficient firefighting devices in his home country Luxembourg as well as in other countries worldwide. Since 2004 he is product manager One Seven, and he was one of the co-founders of the One Seven Academy. After first contacts to the UAE in 2012, where he became a resident in 2014; he is today the president of One Seven Middle East introducing successfully the product range of the innovative technology for Civil Defense as well as for mobile and stationary high-rise firefighting. As a former student from the IST in Luxembourg he has a deep knowledge about the needs in oil & gas industry, waste to energy and the renewable energy industry, which are also a scope of the innovative technology in the UAE and all over the world. The daily contact and communication with professionals in this domain is allowing his company, which is permanently investing in research & development, to keep a leading position in the branch and today keeps many patents for life saving firefighting and fire preventing systems.

Frank Wouters

Vice Chairman (Dutch National)

Frank Wouters has been leading renewable energy projects, transactions, and technology development for 30 years. He has played a lead role in development of renewable generation projects valued at over $5 billion. As Deputy Director-General of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) he managed a US$350 million IRENA/Abu Dhabi Fund for Development project facility. Frank has served on the board of energy companies in Europe, Asia, Africa and the USA. He currently serves as Director of the EU GCC Clean Energy Technology Network, Global Lead Green Hydrogen at Worley, he is Fellow, Payne Institute, Colorado School of Mines and he is interim Board Chairman of Gorestreet Capital, London and Board Advisor Vast Solar, Australia. Frank has authored several books on renewable energy.

Thomas Chery

Secretary & Director of Membership (Belgian National)

Thomas Chery has over 20 years of international banking experience acquired in Brussels, London and Abu Dhabi. He has been on the Board of the Benelux Business Council since May 2016. Thomas started his professional career in the Corporate & Investment Banking division of Deutsche Bank in Brussels before moving to London in early 2004 where he worked for RBS and managed corporate relationships in the Benelux region. In late 2008, Thomas moved to the UAE with RBS. In August 2014, Thomas joined FAB (First Abu Dhabi Bank) to head Corporate & Investment Banking in Abu Dhabi and is now Managing Director & Head of Global Subsidiaries for Abu Dhabi in the Corporate & Investment Banking division of FAB. Over the years, Thomas has amassed a wealth of knowledge in international banking & financing matters as well as the energy sector. He has an extensive network of business & social connections in Abu Dhabi where he has lived & worked since November 2008. Thomas holds a Master’s degree in Business Management from ICHEC in Brussels. He is married to Florence and they have 3 Children.

Laurent van Helden

Treasurer (Dutch National)

Laurent van Helden has 15 years of experience in the international oil and gas sector. He is general manager for the Frames Group office in the UAE, a position he has held since 2009. Frames Group is a Dutch company that designs and manufactures oil and gas processing equipment for the upstream oil and gas industries. Laurent van Helden has lived most of his life outside of the Netherlands with long stints in Australia and India before moving to the UAE. Laurent holds a bachelor degree in engineering from the University of Sydney. He is married to Mirjam, who is co-owner of The Room Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi’s Fitness and Lifestyle club.

Sam Van Steenbrugghe

Board Member (Belgian National)

Sam Van Steenbrugghe has more than 15 years of experience in project and general managing. He started his career with Latexco NV in Belgium, a latex mattress company producing the famous Innergetic Mattress. After four years, he moved to Georgia, USA to be the Project Manager in charge of the construction and startup of a new 100000sf facility with a 600ft long continuous mattress topper production line. Latexco USA was born and he stayed two more years as the Vice President of Operations of the new facility

Then in 2008, he noticed an ad in the newspaper that Iemants, a Belgian company, was looking for a Project Manager for the construction of the façade of the Ferrari World Project on Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, UAE. So Sam, together with a professional team from Iemants took on the challenge and after 1.5 year of hard work the façade and the bullnose of Ferrari World were constructed.

Now, after almost 10 years Abu Dhabi, under the leadership of Sam; Iemants Steel Construction
Middle East LLC successfully managed the steel construction for the Presidential Lounge Airport Abu Dhabi, the Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi and the engineering challenge to open the funnel structure of Ferrari World for a new rollercoaster, The Turbo Track.

Joe Harrison

Embassy Liaison, the Netherlands (British National)

Joe Harrison is Shell’s joint venture asset manager in Abu Dhabi, and a director for the ADNOC Gas Processing joint venture. He is accountable for governance and influence for Shell, together with support for ADNOC and the Emirate’s objectives. His experience in Shell includes secondment to the Basrah Gas company in Iraq, management of Shell Gabon’s front end and discipline engineering teams, technical and project consultancy from Shell Global Solutions in Malaysia, and process engineering in the NAM, The Netherlands. Joe is British, and a chemical engineer from Cambridge University. He enjoys spending time in the desert, and private flying in Ras Al Khaimah. Married to Hermione, a banking and finance lawyer.

Carole Chapelier

Embassy Liaison, Belgium (Belgian National)

Carole has over 20 years of experience working across a range of sectors in private and non-for-profit organizations in Africa and the Middle East. She currently lives in Abu Dhabi and regularly commutes to Dubai to consult for Lapis Communications. Previously, she was based in London where she managed development projects in Africa for the international development arm of the BBC, and in Kigali where she worked for a US consulting firm to increase Rwanda’s exports. Her key strengths lie in audience research, project proposal development, and strategic communications. Carole is married to a thought-provoking economist and has two spirited young boys.

Emmanuelle Entringer

Embassy Liaison, Luxembourg (Luxembourg National)

Emmanuelle Entringer is a Counsel at Arendt & Medernach and the head of their Dubai office. Arendt & Medernach are the largest law firm in Luxembourg and their Dubai office advises clients in the GCC and India on Luxembourg legal matters. Emmanuelle is a Luxembourg national and holds a post-graduate diploma in Commercial Law from Paris I University. She has been working in the UAE for over 12 years and prior to that worked in Luxembourg for various banks and asset managers. Emmanuelle founded the Middle East Working Group of the Association of the Luxembourg Fund Industry. For the last year she served as a board member of the BBC and was in charge of the relations with the Luxembourg embassy.

Mare Visser

Event and Office Manager (Dutch National)

Mare Visser has worked for five years at the Marketing & Communication Department at Amsterdam University College (AUC), the liberal arts & science college of the University of Amsterdam and the Free University of Amsterdam. She also worked as a digital marketing & social media specialist for different agencies in Amsterdam and Abu Dhabi. Since December 2019, Mare is working as the Event & Office Manager for the BeNeLux Business Council where she handles everything ranging from events, PR, administration to members and sponsor management. 

From left to right: Loic Bertolli (Deputy Head of Mission Luxembourg Embassy & Executive Director of the Luxembourg Trade and Investment Office), Douwe Buzeman (Deputy Head of Mission, Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands) Emmanuelle Entringer (Embassy Liaison, Luxembourg), H.E. Frank Mollen (former Ambassador of the Netherlands to the UAE), Gilles Klein (Vice-Chair), Barbara Farahnick-Mathonet (Chairwomen), Frank Wouters (Vice-Chair), H.E. Elisabeth Cardoso (Ambassador of Luxembourg to the UAE), Laurent van Helden (Treasurer), Carole Chapelier (Embassy Liaison, Belgium), Frederic Van Peteghem (First Secretary, Embassy of the Kingdom of Belgium), Sam van Steenbrugghe (Sponsor Relations) and Joe Harrison (Embassy Liaison, The Netherlands). 

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