The Middle East presents a wide variety of business opportunities and avenues for foreign investment. The petroleum and its related sectors are of course most prominent. However, countries such as Bahrain present a lot of opportunities in other sectors as well, such as financial services, information communications and technology, professional and technical services, tourism, and so on.
Major Avenues for Foreign Investment
- Petroleum and Related Industries
The Middle East is rich in oil and gas reserves; hence, petroleum and related industries are a growing business. The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is expected to have a 10% share of the global petrochemical production business. The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) chemical industry covers various subsectors. These include the manufacture of basic chemicals, fertilizers, nitrogen compounds, plastics and synthetic rubber in primary forms. There are also pesticides, paint, inks, perfumes, synthetic fibers and so on. There are five segments within specialty chemicals that have shown a very strong growth; these are construction chemicals, water treatment chemicals, polymer and plastic additives, paints and coating additives, and oil field chemicals. The plastics industry alone accounts for 11% of total manufacturing in the GCC, a share which is expected to grow to 18% by 2018.
- Financial Services
Bahrain is a recognized global leader in Islamic finance, and has the largest concentration of Islamic financial institutions in the world. Bahrain also has a comprehensive regulatory framework covering all aspects of Islamic finance. Bahrain has been named the GCC’s leading Islamic finance market and 2nd out of 92 countries worldwide, according to the ICD-Thomson Reuters Islamic Finance Development Indicator (IFDI). As business opportunities grow in the Middle East, Islamic finance will continue to see foreign investment inflows.
- Information Communication and Technology
Bahrain’s information and communications technology (ICT) sector’s liberal business policies and advanced infrastructure make the country stand out in the Middle East. Bahrain’s advantage comes from having both a thriving domestic marketplace and being a base for accessing the growing regional market.
- Professional and Technical Services
Bahrain is ideal for foreign investments in professional services in the Middle East and, more specifically, within the GCC market. Bahrain’s educated workforce, strong regulatory environment, and business friendly laws such as 100% foreign ownership of business assets and real estate make the country an attractive foreign investment destination.
Bahrain offers significant potential for investors in its extensive tourism sector, with its many historical and other attractions. In addition, regional tourism is expanding faster than global tourism, at 5%.