Investment in the MENA region increased 23% between 2014 and 2015, making MENA the only emerging market to register year-on-year growth in such a measure, according to EMPEA Data Insights published in February 2016. The gulf countries have made significant efforts to transform themselves from being a transit point for global trade to establishing themselves as important business locations. Not only have the GCC countries taken several steps to attract investors, but growing consumer demand for manufactured products has also paved the way for global investment.
Business Prospects in The Gulf
The GCC countries enjoy a strategic location on the world map. This gives them easy access to nearly two-thirds of the globe. These countries have long posed as important hubs for global trade. but the advent of ultra-modern cities and growing infrastructure facilities have made them apt for business investment. Free trade agreements and the establishment of free trade zones, which allow 100% business ownership, have also boosted global investment.
The gulf countries as ranked by the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business is led by the UAE (31), followed by Bahrain (65), Qatar (68), Oman (70), Saudi Arabia (82) and Kuwait (101). The Ease of Doing Business rankings are given after analysing the various aspects of setting up a business and the country’s openness to foreign trade and investments. The UAE and Bahrain lead the way for making it easy to set up a business, mainly because of favourable laws and simpler procedures. Also, liberal laws in general are a major factor why these countries are preferred. Saudi Arabia in comparison has stricter laws; however, with time it has made efforts to welcome foreign investment.
The gulf economy is a preferable choice for global investment as it is a fairly raw and untapped market. The development stage of its various economies offers numerous opportunities for growth and expansion. Interestingly, despite being a fairly new market, it is home to one of the oldest and strongest financial structures in the world. It has also made efforts to modernize itself in terms of infrastructure and living as evident from the evolution of cities like Dubai, Doha and Manama. Allowing expats to work alongside GCC nationals makes a fully efficient and strong labour force.
Establishing your business in the UAE or Bahrain gives you easy access to the entire gulf region through air, road and water. Some of the popular sectors for investment are Internet, e-Commerce and Apps, Food and Beverage, Real Estate, IT, Hardware and Software, Technology, Tourism and Hotels.