The Middle East in Need of Business Leaders

The demand for business leaders is closely tied to the nature of the economy. The more developed it is, the greater the need for educated and skilled managers.

The Middle East in Need of Business Leaders

The Middle East hosts some of the most challenging business projects for professional managers today. The Gulf countries are exceptionally vibrant places and people with high quality MBA have excellent employment prospects. With many reputable schools the United Arab Emirates and Qatar are the two centres of business education in the region.

The need for business leaders depends on the specific economy - the more developed and prosperous it is, the greater the need for educated and skilled managers. This can be seen in particular in two of the richest countries in the Middle East and in the world – Qatar and the UAE. The overall value of construction projects in the Emirates is 1.249 trillion. In Qatar the gross domestic product rose by an amazing 18,7 % in 2011. As a result of the prosperity of the two nations there is a great need for qualified executives and quality people in managerial positions; demand outstripping supply. Progress has led to specific requirements for leaders in high positions and business education is one of the best ways to foster the abilities and talent of managers. The Middle Eastern boom can not be sustained if there is insufficient managerial potential.

Construction, construction, construction

The United Arab Emirates and Qatar continue to attract the eyes of the world with impressive building projects. Even the American real-estate mogul Donald Trump admitted that he is jealous of the accomplishments in the Middle Eastern real estate and property sectors. In 2012, the UAE will award construction projects worth more than 15 billion USD – an increase of almost 27 % in comparison with the previous year. Construction is one of the motors of development for the country. So little wonder that it will need all the experience and know-how it can get. Buildings comprise biggest portion in the overall construction projects in the Emirates; being worth a total of USD 871.6 billion, according to research by Ventures Middle East. Moreover, the UAE has energy related construction activities worth USD 190.9 billion and infrastructure projects worth of USD 187.2 billion.

Attracted by the Middle Eastern boom a number of top business schools have congregated there. They train top quality business leaders for the industries not only for the UAE, but also for the entire region. Another positive effect of the presence of MBA schools is to boost the level of internationalisation of the business atmosphere. The UAE has an international profile but due to its wealth and largely self-sustaining economy, it is prone to isolation. Amonst the excellent business schools which have established representation in the UAE are INSEAD at Abu Dhabi, followed by the London Business School, Hult International Business School, Manchester Business School Worldwide, Cass Business School, Strathclyde Business School and many others...

There are many projects in the UAE which are waiting to become reality. The famous Metropolitan Hotel in Dubai was closed in March 2012 to make way for a new project: a tourist complex valued at $1.3bn. Dubai Sports City is a visionary plan for the first entirely sports city in the world. Built on 50,000,000 square feet, it comes with a price tag of 4 billion dollars. The mega-business district Business Bay is planned to be completed between 2012 and 2015. With its 240 buildings it will cost about 30 billion dollars. Another ambitious project - Dubai’s Al Maktoum International Airport, the value of which is estimated at USD 34 billion, will open in 2027, according to the CEO of Dubai Airports Paul Griffiths. In the meantime, until these plans become reality, the interest of the world towards the desert wonderland has transformed the current Dubai International Airport into the fourth largest airport in the world. With about 51 million travellers passing through, it is a very close second to Hong Kong, currently number three in the world..

The state of the economy

The crisis which began in 2008 led to the postponing of many business initiatives. However , it seems that now the markets are beginning starting to thaw. The UAE economy grew by 3, 3 % in 2011. The fall in theUAE real-estate sector, caused by the crisis has indeed been profound and according to Deutsche Bank AG house prices fell by 64 %. “Frenzy is a good way to put it,” Craig Plumb, head of research in the U.A.E. for Jones Lang LaSalle, a property consulting firm, recalls. “People were paying more for projects that weren’t built than projects that were built”, he explains for the New York Times. In 2009 Dubai requested a standstill on the debt of the state-owned Dubai World. It is very important for the whole country and for the region to have a sustainable economy and that competent managers are in a position to make the decisions.

Dubai’s economy may expand as much as 4,5 percent in 2012, after growing more than 3 percent in 2011, announced Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, the head of Dubai’s Supreme Fiscal Policy Committee. Tourism accounts for approximately 60 % of the economy of the emirate. Almost 9 million foreign tourists are expected to visit the UAE this year, according to Business Monitor International. The International Monetary Fund, however warned that although recovery looks set to continue, growth may slow to 2,3 % in 2012 due to global uncertainties.

Khatija Haque, senior economist at Emirates NBD, Dubai also explained possible slower growth as a result of external conditions: the euro zone crisis and weaker global growth generally. Another reason, she says, is that the oil production will not increase from the 2011 levels. Haque added, “We think the growth this year will be underpinned by public sector spending”. The government has already announced plans to spend $1.6 billion in the next three years on water and electricity networks in the northern emirates. They have benefitted less from oil and trade than Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

Looking at the past

The story UAE’s success began in 1971 when Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Sharjah, and Umm al-Qaiwain established the country and one year later were joined by Ras Al-Khaimah. In the 60’s significant oil reserves were found in the territory of what was later to become the UAE. The black-gold wealth was concentrated in Abu Dhabi, which holds about 90% of the precious commodity. The money from it was used to build the country’s roads, schools and social infrastructure. A real success for the oil-rich nation is that the oil and gas revenues today form only about 25% of the GDP. In terms of business legislation there are very serious limitations upon foreign ownerships of businesses: a maximum of 49%. Those who want to own more must register a company into to the so-called free zones for foreign investors. An interesting feature of the rich countries in the Gulf is that the non-nationals are often significantly more than the nationals. 90 % of the 1, 8 million population of the city-state is made up of expatriates. Meanwhile Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha were stated to be the most competitive cities in the Middle East in an Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) research.

The Qatar hallmark

With a gross domestic product per capita of more than USD 88,000 for 2010, Qatar has been ranked in the Forbes magazine listinga s the world's wealthiest country. In comparison GDP in the UAE’s is 47,500 USD. Qatar’s economy is more dependent than that of the Emirates on its oil and gas sector, making up about 50% of the country’s GDP, 85% of export earnings, and 70% of government revenues.

This is where the role of the country’s mangers is important, as they should participate in boosting economic diversity. The business school industry in Qatar is still nascent and is likely to undergo further development. HEC Paris established its Executive MBA programme in Doha in 2011 and in March the next year it was announced that Google will finance an academic Chair for teaching and research - 'Google@HEC' Chair. "In the near future, we will see Qatar-based organizations engaging in similar partnerships with HEC, which will allow us to more specifically address the challenges of firms operating in the GCC region and to create knowledge that contributes to Qatar's sustainable growth”, commented the Academic Dean of HEC Paris in Qatar Antoine Hyafil. “The Google Chair affirms our commitment and strength in training future leaders and entrepreneurs in digital business,” he said.

The projects

A senior banker, based in Doha, who wished to remain anonymous, commented upon the political situation in the country for Reuters, saying that Qatar probably has the best leadership in the Arab world. “The prime minister is the hardest working in the region. Their biggest problem is to find people to manage their vision."

The 2022 World Soccer Cup is extremely important for Qatar. The country will invest billions of dollars into infrastructure and construction in the years prior to the event. The second half of 2012 will bring contracts worth $15 to $17 billion and rising in subsequent years. “Transportation will dominate the projects market. Rail will be the largest component at $35 billion, with the first packages on the Doha metro expected to be placed by the end of 2012”, explained Angus Hindley, MEED Insight Research Director . “Up to $30 billion is planned to be invested in road infrastructure, with the focus on the highway network and the Doha Bay crossing while the New Doha International Airport, scheduled to open in late 2012, is preparing for a new round of investment”, he added.

Despite the political instability in some of the countries in the Middle East, the state of the job market and the challenging times as a whole, the need for qualified managers and entrepreneurs remains very strong in the region. Especially in rich countries such as the UAE and Qatar. The biggest test for business leaders and politicians in these nations is continuing the path to a more diversified and sustainable economy.

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