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Mena needs investment for sustainable growth

Abdul Basit
Filed on February 5, 2013

The Middle East and North Africa (Mena) needs foreign investment, expertise and public private partnership for sustainable economic growth, top industry experts said.

It is estimated that $4.3 trillion are to be invested in construction projects across the Mena region by 2020. The need for railways, ports pipelines and desalination plants could create real economic potential in the region, the experts said at the Mena Economic Forum, which concluded in Sharjah on Monday.

Mena needs investment for sustainable growth (/assets/oldimages/meena_040213.jpg)

According to the World Bank estimates the region, which has a population of about 400 million people, hosts 60 per cent of world’s oil wealth and around 40 per cent of gas reserves. Population is growing at 2.2 per cent, which is almost double the global population growth rate.

Held under the patronage of His Highness Dr Shaikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah and President of American University of Sharjah (AUS), the Mena Economic Forum 2013 hosted a series of panel discussions aimed at exploring areas for mutually beneficial partnerships between the Mena region and Europe.

The industry specialists highlighted the challenges and opportunities in the aftermath of the Arab Spring as the region is confronted with an increasing need for infrastructure due to social, economic and demographic changes.

There was no difference of opinion among the panelists about the need of foreign direct investment (FDI), better education and efforts to reduce unemployment in the region. But they also stressed the need for security of capital to attract FDI. Smooth transition, security, political and economic ability is most important to lure foreign investors.

They said that the region’s private sector needs governmental institutions support for their growth and on the other hand youth of the region requires funds to have their own small business to help themselves and generate employment opportunities. Skill development is also important to increase productivity, they added.

Liwas Holding chairman Salah Al Shamsi said there is lot of projects in the region for foreign investment, but there is a need for legislation. “We also need to have a competent body to attractive investment,” he added.

Saif Al Ghafli, chief executive of Al Hosn Gas, said that there is no single solution for all as there is Arab Spring and there is also impact from European Union crisis. Al Ghafli mentioned that there are a lot of success stories and there is a need to replicate depending on the need of the country.

He said the region offers a lot of investment opportunities in oil, gas, petrochemical, water, power, transport and other infrastructure development. There is a need for improvement in healthcare sector, he added. He concluded his brief speech with the remarks: there is a daunting task ahead.

Dr Afnan Al Shuaiby, secretary general and chief executive, Arab British Chamber of Commerce, UK, said GCC countries and stable and offer right environment for businesses, but other countries have challenges. “We have amazing ideas, but execution is also very important,” she said.

MoU signed

On the sidelines of the conference, AUS announced a partnership with CAPMena and Le Groupe Euromed Management for the Euro Mena Chair of Management. A Partnership Agreement in this regard was signed on Monday in the presence of the Ruler of Sharjah. The Chair will be a unique place of training, research and exchange for the benefit of students, entrepreneurs, executives and managers of European and Arab companies wishing to develop their skills, expand their network of influence and contribute to better mutual understanding. A key result of the MoU will lead to the development of knowledge resources and fundamental research that aimed at addressing key challenges faced by the Arab world. It will also help form a think-tank focused on issues related to the Mena region and training programs, development of social entrepreneurship and event organization that involves leading corporations and academics from the EU and the Mena regions.

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