Middle East and North Africa
Key Emerging Markets: Qatar, UAE, Oman, Kuwait, Algeria, Tunisia
Major Industries: Oil Production, Petroleum, Natural Gas, Tourism, Finance and Real Estate
The Middle East is the point of intersection of three continents – Asia, Africa and Europe. Historically it was the economic and cultural crossroads between these three continents, with strategic waterways that allowed them to establish trade routes with one another. Today its geographical location accords the Middle East significant military importance for world powers interested in gaining greater influence over the region and its adjacent areas.
Stability of Region
Since the onset of the Arab Spring uprising three years ago, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region has been rife with protests, revolutions, and war. During periods of prosperity, deep-rooted issues such as the sorely-lacking voice and accountability of the people lay latent. Notably, Yemen, has devasted devastated by a civil war with roots in the failure of a political transition supposed to bring stability to the country following an Arab Spring uprising.
Oil forms the backbone of many MENA countries, with the region holding more than 75% of the world's total oil reserves. The oil-rich GCC countries, Algeria and Libya earn enormous incomes from the sale of oil and gas, while the other MENA countries earn their incomes through far less profitable sources. With half of the world’s known oil and gas reserves, MENA is the bedrock of the world’s hydrocarbon supply. However, in recent times, regional overreliance on oil to fund state fiscal budgets have become more of a liability. Several states, such as the UAE, have made commitments to diversify their economies away from oil. Yet, it remains to be seen if, and when, they will be successful.
Political tensions will continue to be the main roadblock of progress for most MENA nations. A politically driven attack on Saudi oil reserves in 2019 once again made apparent the fragility of geopolitical relationships in the region, and the potential implications it may have on the economy-at-large. It remains imperative that nations continue their diversification efforts or risk the full-blown effects of volatile prices, as we saw during the peak of the COVID – 19 Pandemic.