Growth opportunities seen in Mideast, Africa markets

DUBAI — Most of the countries in the Middle East and Africa region are key emerging markets and offer great opportunities for investors, top business leaders said at the inaugural CEO Business Summit in Dubai on Tuesday.

By Abdul Basit

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Published: Wed 28 Nov 2012, 9:48 PM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 2:47 PM

They urged governments in the region to create job opportunities for the youth on a priority basis, in addition to provide financial and technical assistance for the promotion of entrepreneurship.

They agreed that innovation is the most important tool for the growth of businesses and revenue generation, and that should be the focus area for future growth.

In addition to Gulf countries, Iraq and North African countries also have investment opportunities to explore in so many sectors from infrastructure to technology, they added.

There are vast opportunities in the GCC and Africa for Aramex, its chief executive officer for the Middle East and Africa Hussein Hachem said during a panel discussion on the first day of the summit. “It’s an attractive market of young population where 50 per cent of the population is below the age of 25,” Hachem said.

With a land mass greater than that of the US, China, Europe and India combined and with a continental population of 1.1 billion, Africa’s potential for development is drawing increased focus from multi-national companies.

Hachem mentioned that Iraq is another important market in the region as there is also scope for investors. “We believe Iraq has tremendous opportunities and this is a fantastic market to go,” he added.

Walid Abu Khaled, member of the advisory board of Petra Solar, said: “It’s great opportunities in every sector to invest and grow in the region.”

After the Arab Spring, governments are more efficient and “I am extremely opportunistic about this region,” especially Gulf countries, which have more opportunities for investors, he added.

He also said there is no definite interpretation for emerging markets, “but in my opinion it’s the countries that are prosperous and have potential for growth”.

Hussain Al Qemzi, group chief executive officer of Noor Islamic Bank, did not agree with fellow panelists in investing in Africa, saying that there is still uncertainty in some African countries, so “there is no reason to go now”.

Citing reasons, he said that sovereign debt is getting worse and exchanges are going down. He said the government’s role is very important to create stability and provide infrastructure to attract investors.

But still, the biggest challenge is that there is no sign of any movement, he said, adding that some movement in infrastructure will create appetite for investors.

Other panelists also spoke about the opportunities and challenges in the region in financial and technology sectors. They include Yasser AbuAteek, CEO of Dar Al Tamleek, and Duncan Mitchell, Cisco’s global senior vice-president of its Emerging Theatre, a region that spans 84 countries, including those in the Middle East.

The CEO Business Summit is being organised by the Dubai World Trade Centre in partnership with Aramex, Cathay Pacific, National Bonds, Noor Islamic Bank, MBC Group, Emerging Markets Leadership Centre, Unilever, Arab Business Club, and CEO Clubs UAE.

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