The Middle East is one to watch having taken centre stage over the past year. We recently saw the World Cup hosted in Qatar, which came as two notable visits took place by Western leaders, Rishi Sunak and Joe Biden. the leaders discussed collaboration opportunities with His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Salman, the Crown Prince and Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Coupled with traditional growth markets becoming more challenging with financial uncertainty and war happening, the Western part of the world is increasingly seeing the Middle East region as one that is full of opportunity.
The sectors that are open to opportunities for investment and growth range from technology to renewable energy and from commercial real estate to transport. Also, new private equity opportunities are presenting themselves with investments focused on cybersecurity, healthcare, industrials, and consumer goods and services.
Saudi Arabia continues to actively pursue various initiatives to establish itself as the leading hub of technology in the Middle East. By investing in digital infrastructure, such as data centres, metaverse infrastructure and fibre optic cables, countries like Saudi Arabia are creating exciting opportunities for tech businesses.
Saudi Arabia’s four new economic zones in Riyadh, Jazan, Ras Al-Khair, and King Abdullah Economic City are also attracting attention. They offer competitive corporate tax rates, exemption from import customs charges, 100% foreign enterprise ownership and the flexibility to hire top global talent.
The trends driving growth in the Middle East
Driven by Vision 2030 – a unique transformative economic and social reform blueprint hoping to open Saudi Arabia up to the world – commitments are being made by several countries in the region to diversify and invest in new sectors outside of oil.
The region is proactively exploring different avenues to ensure they lead in innovative creations and long-term growth and sustainability by diversifying their economy.
This presents opportunities for a variety of sectors. The six countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) – the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia, Oman, Kuwait, Qatar, and Bahrain – are very quick to adapt to changes and will introduce new legal frameworks and authorities to help expedite areas of growth.
The region is also very quick to invest in and adopt new trends. Look at the metaverse for example. Saudi Arabia is developing a huge entertainment area, ‘Qiddiya’ – a disruptive destination that offers innovative and immersive experiences such as virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR)integrated on a scale never seen before.
With a dynamic, young (a third of the population is aged 15-29), educated, technologically minded population that wants to spend, there are exciting prospects for UK tech businesses to consider.
Technology is thriving
There are more than 108 million people aged between 15 and 29 in the Middle East; this age group makes up almost a third of the population. With this growing young and tech-savvy population comes an increasing demand for digital products and services which is evident when you look at mobile internet usage.
Mobile internet usage highlights the increasing demand for digital products and services in the region; the number of users reached over 300 million in 2021, with predictions being reported that it would reach 50% of the population by the end of 2022.
Tech is sought-after, and businesses with digital solutions will be one of the fastest-growing segments in the region.
The technological advances and digital infrastructure investment in the gaming market, for example, give an expected growth rate of 13.88% during 2022-2027.
The UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar will also be the first to adopt 5G in the Middle East, with the UAE planning 5G coverage in 90% of the country by 2023.
This landscape lends itself to digital entertainment, e-commerce, fintech, and telecommunication services – and WOLF, as a technology business, is an example, employing an increasing range of talented professionals in the Middle East and successfully operating over there. We run an app for Arabic users, offering an audio, virtual world of entertaining communities, successfully driving more than three million consumers from the market to become users of our app. In part thanks to having local teams in the region.
The technological advances and digital infrastructure investment in the gaming market give an expected growth rate of 13.88% during 2022-2027.
The Middle Eastern political landscape
Prominent leaders have created a business-friendly environment that promotes growth and development.
The positive developments in the political landscape of the GCC region, in particular, have had a significant impact on businesses, specifically foreign businesses, which is good news for UK businesses looking to enter the Middle Eastern market.
The Middle East operates under its own rules and regulations, but more businesses are recognising the opportunities and managing to set up and grow successfully. Information and support is available to help with business creation, and thanks to recent reforms and an eagerness to attract international investment, things should only get easier.
About the Author
Gary Knight, CEO at WOLF, explains the opportunities that are offered in the Middle East and why it’s a market for technology businesses to consider.