The term is likely unfamiliar to most Canadian companies, but itâ€™s worth familiarising yourself with the acronym forâ€œMiddle East and North Africaâ€. Extending from Africaâ€™s north-west coast through the Middle East to Iran, MENA is home to 8 of out the 12 OPEC nations and a population of 300 million, only slightly less than the population of the European Union.
The region comprises the worldâ€™s largest sovereign wealth funds (SWF), totalling $US 1.6 Trillion which represents 42% of global SWF. In aggregate, this is one of the most populous and wealthiest regions on the planet.
The MENA Region is defined by the World Bank as including: Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates.
Despite the undeniable impact of the downturn on the region, nations such as Bahrain, Qatar, the UAE and Saudi Arabia have been able to weather the storm extremely well thanks to their strong financial position and significant reserves. In particular, Saudi Arabia continues to pour money into infrastructure projects, with the government pledging US$ 400 billion over the 2008-2012 period. Likewise, in the UAE transportation (rail and mass transit), power and water treatment will remain investment and priority growth segments, with projects in this area continuing unabated.Â
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Almost all of the countries in MENA have taken significant steps to reduce trade impediments. Tariffs have been reduced throughout the region, from an average of 20 percent in 2000 to 13 percent by 2007, resulting in the strongest regional progress in trade reform during the period. Leading the charge was the Gulf Cooperation Council, made up of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, the UAE and Saudi Arabia. Tariffs in the G.C.C. have dropped to 5% on most products.Â
MENA offers tremendous potential across a variety of industries, but is a region not without its challenges for foreign companies; language, culture, distance and poor understanding of market parameters to name a few.Â Â
Approaching the MENA region in a methodical and comprehensive manner will give you the opportunity to maximise on the opportunities while minimising the risks associated with entry. We can work with you to develop an effective strategy to help you realize the tremendous opportunities the MENA region represents.