This year’s Executive Facts and Forecasts has picked three nations in the MENA region that it believes best represents its economic heartbeat: an emerging Sudan, a thrusting UAE and a Lebanon that is in transition but which has potential in abundance.
One of the exciting stories of the past years has been the resurgence of Sudan from decades of political conflict and war, enabling the country to truly access its natural resources — such as oil and sugar — and use these to develop a burgeoning economy. The result has been double-digit growth that has propelled Sudan into the limelight and made it attractive to investors seeking to diversify their emerging markets portfolio.
The UAE (and the rest of the GCC for that matter) had another record year and will continue to set new economic benchmarks. Those who believe that the oil boom is past its peak had better think again. This is not a flash-in-the-pan correction similar to what was experienced in the 70s; black gold will maintain its robustness to fund even greater projects and fuel prosperity throughout the region and beyond. But this success is not just down to increased oil revenues; they have merely helped implement a remarkable vision that has seen assets used to create sustainable economic development and transform a region into throbbing modern metropolis
Lebanon, being the regional barometer that it is, must thank its lucky stars that the political crisis that has plagued the little Mediterranean nation since mid-2006 happened during the current oil boom. The economic development in the GCC has allowed Lebanese talent to be absorbed into, and contribute to, the dream and brand Lebanon was able to diversify and become less reliant on an ailing and limited local economy. The good news is that the election of a new president at the end of 2007 should herald at least three years of calm and allow Lebanon to once again take its place as the most elegant boutique in the regional mall.
What we at Executive hope to showcase in this annual issue is that, despite the tag of instability that is so often attached to the region, the Middle East and North Africa is filled with credible and sustainable opportunities with the vision and talent to make them happen.