March 16, 2006
MENA Economies & Investment: Your Views
In comments, a newcomer who I have likely frightened away expressed the following sentiment: why are you trying to convince us to bring money into the region's economy? Is it because you know where the MENA economy is heading? I'm no expert, but I'd guess that buying Arab stocks right now is equivalent to buying a timeshare on the Titanic.
Let me leave aside the charming misapprehension that I personally am pimping MENA securities (although of late I wish I were), and simply see what those who read here think.
Posted by The Lounsbury at March 16, 2006 03:02 PM
Filed Under: Biz - Private in MENA
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you wish you were a MENA pimp!
sadly though that is not the case.
Depends which kind of investments and where in MENA.
Arab stocks are a joke. Leaks, corruption, etc, makes you a sitting duck if you're not an insider. OTOH, if you can pull the right strings, your return is garanteed.
As an entrepreneur, you can definitely do business there. Different kinds of businesses according to the country of course. In some countries, you'd better remain small and discreet, or ruling families will become very hungry. Most countries outside the Gulf don't make good markets except for the local small entrepreneur. There's little chance you can really make a lot of money there by European or North American standards. And if you can and corruption doesn't put you on your knees, rules and regulations make it very hard to move your capital around. You can benefit from the cheap labor though if you export towards Europe. OTOH high skilled labor is very hard to find and not so competitive compared to some Asian destinations (even though my experience with Indians in IT is that their skills are well overhyped and I expect much disappointment). But MENA definitely has a geographical and linguistic advantage when it comes to Europe. Make sure your management is adapted to local culture though, or you'd end up losing all your money.
To sum up, if you want to make money in MENA, the best strategy is:
- Forget about securities.
- Make sure you carry a Western passport.
- If you want to sell, head for the Gulf.
- If you still want to sell outside the Gulf, think of reinvesting your benefits in an export oriented business, and make an import proxy outside that would allow you to get your benefits out by way of goods or services transfers as opposed to the much more difficult money transfers.
- Make sure you fully understand local practices (and no, even being an Arab from the diaspora doesn't mean you do get all the subtleties, you'll certainly break your teeth before you can juggle with ease so define a budget for that).
Of course, there's no systematic rule. There will always be exceptions and specifics in every sector.
Posted by: Shaheen at March 17, 2006 12:21 AM
Right at the moment, MENA, but especially the gulf, seems to be a much better place to hunt for money to invest than to invest money. At the moment, the region is drowning in cash that it has no idea what to do with. Consider Exhibit A.
From their "About Us" page.
Together with business associates from whom I gained my inspiration for the businesspants.com idea, I found the ideal place for this enterprise of commercial men’s underwear - beyond Switzerland, in Dubai, the business city with the perfect logistical and technical infrastructure to support the very first underwear label for the United Arab Emirates - businesspants.com.
Indeed. Not to mention gullible investors with oil tankers full of cash that they can apparently afford to use for camel bedding. It's a real pity that the dotcom boom did not coincide with a period of astronomical oil prices.
Then, of course, there's the spaceport the UAE is building.
While the UAE is sort of the regional poster-child for excess, lots of countries in the region have similar "problems." Even Libya is sitting on something like 15 or 20 billion USD worth of cash it doesn't know what to do with, though I suspect that has a lot do with bureaucratic inertia.
With that much money sloshing around, the smart bet is, unfortunately, to play the rent game and seek to direct it/get a piece of it rather than run a business that trys to actually add value. This kind of thing has been a huge distortion for many economies in the region for a long time and it appears to be getting worse, not better.
Posted by: Anonymous at March 17, 2006 03:41 AM