Doha, Amman Favored By MNCs As New Regional Hubs

The wave of political upheaval that has swept the Middle East and North Africa since early 2011 has had a major effect on business operations for most multinational corporations (MNCs) in the region. Many companies had ambitious expansion plans for markets like Egypt, Syria and Bahrain, but these have been put on hold, in many cases for several years, given lingering political uncertainty and knock-on economic effects.

A survey conducted in December 2011 by Dunia Frontier Consultants of senior executives and managers at MNCs in the Middle East revealed significant insights into the shifting market landscape, including how MNCs approach their decisions to enter new markets and set up and staff new offices.

Over the next 10 years, while Dubai will retain preeminence as a regional business hub, Doha and Amman are expected to capture the activity of MNCs as they move to tap consumer demand in Saudi Arabia and the Levant, and provide government- and B2B services for massive infrastructure spending in Qatar. While Dubai’s current status is based on first-mover advantage, infrastructure and quality of life for expatriate staff, several respondents suggested that Doha may within the next decade succeed in positioning itself as a viable alternative for MNCs working both regionally and internationally.

The survey also revealed how information and communications technology and ease of transportation are allowing many MNCs to pursue leaner, more cost-efficient and decentralized office and staffing policies. It also highlighted that bureaucracy, regulation and cultural barriers remain the most commonly cited challenges to doing business in the Middle East.