Transformation through partnership
The world is witnessing dramatic changes at an even dramatic pace. In January this year, when world leaders assembled in the cold mountain resort of Davos-Klosters in Switzerland for the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting to discuss the ‘great transformation’ that the global economy is witnessing, uppermost in their minds were three concerns – the brewing Eurozone crisis, the changes in the Middle East and North Africa region and its ability to cope with them, and the challenges before the US to energise its economy.
As governmental heads and industry leaders met in Turkey for the World Economic Forum on the Middle East, North Africa and Eurasia, earlier this month, they assembled in a climate of even newer and more challenging realities. The problems that confounded them only five months ago continue unchanged, and there are graver concerns to be addressed.
Perhaps it is the seasonality of the economic cycle or arguably it is politics taking an upper hand, the global debate now is now shifting towards newer realms, including the capability of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) nations to rise up to the global challenges. Growth across the BRICS, despite being at higher rates than in Europe or the US, is being challenged led principally by the uncertainties in Europe.
While policy makers agree that the axis of the global economic lever is seeing a West to East shift, today they also emphasize on the evolution of a new growth cluster – that cover the Middle East, North Africa and Turkey – the MENAT region. Countries such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Iraq, Turkey and Egypt have fundamental differences from a socio-economic perspective, but what brings them together is the unique opportunity they offer for all-round growth.
Collectively, the region has a population of over 450 million and with sound economic fundamentals serve as a powerful economic bloc. MENA, especially, is endowed with resources that prime the global economy; according to estimates some 60 percent of the world’s oil reserves and about 45 percent of the gas reserves are in the region. The region also has an abundance of young talent – nearly 60 percent of the population is estimated to be below the age of 25 years.
Unlike the BRICS nations which represent over 3 billion people and a nominal GDP of about US$14 trillion, it is not size that really matters when it comes to the MENAT region; it is the opportunity they provide for powerful regional transformation led principally by its focus on infrastructure development, its vast pool of talented youngsters, rising oil revenues and a serious commitment to embrace sustainable developmental initiatives.
Most nations in the MENAT region have clearly spelt out their development goals. Turkey’s Vision 2023, for example, is to become one of the largest economies in the world by year 2023; Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2020 envisages all-round social and economic prosperity; UAE’s Vision 2021 aims to make the country one of the best places in the world in the next decade; and Qatar’s National Vision aims at transforming it into an advanced country by 2030, capable of sustaining its own development and providing for a high standard of living for all of its people for generations to come.
The MENAT region today face some of the most fundamental challenges which are being addressed by the Governments through massive infrastructure funding to improve the healthcare sector, enhance transport and logistics, and draw on renewable sources to meet the growing energy and water needs of a fast-growing population.
When some of the fastest-growing economies that share a relative geographic and cultural continuum face similar fundamental challenges, the solution, often, naturally must stem from adopting an integrated approach.
As a business organization, GE adopts this integrated approach to the MENAT region, where we focus on what we call the three Cs – capital, customers and countries. We adopt a company to country approach, where we identify real requirements and partner with governmental and private sector stakeholders to promote a local culture of innovation to address them.
From our experience of over 80 years of operation in the MENA region and over 60 years in Turkey, we realize that the challenges today across the region are essentially about addressing water scarcity, creating jobs, building new hospitals, tapping new energy sources such as solar and wind, and enabling the youth talent to become part of the workforce – in short, offering a better quality of life.
Across the region, there are successful examples where these pressing and primary challenges have been addressed or are being tackled. Saudi Arabia is promoting alternative energy research; Qatar is focused on advanced research and sustaining its appeal as one of the most competitive nations; the UAE is demonstrating its thought leadership in sustainable development; Iraq is focused on building a global partnership model to accelerate its infrastructure development; Turkey and Egypt have several success stories in enhancing healthcare standards – all areas where GE has been privileged to play a partnership role.
With such dynamism in the developmental landscape of the region, true transformation can be accelerated when the private and public sectors join hands for an integrated growth approach – a true and tangible partnership model – where energy rich countries focus on capital investments in the region’s growth, while others share their soft skills, knowledge and other home-grown strengths.
The catalyst in this process of transformation will be region-based innovation, whereby bright minds in the wider MENAT region join hands, with the support of the governments, private sector and educational institutions, to create localized solutions for the region’s requirements.
The beginning in this direction has been made; what we need is a resolve to promote a growth strategy built on tangible partnerships. The region has all the ingredients for long-term success that meets the aspirations of its people – energy resources, abundant renewable sources, capital, technology and manpower. Leveraging them on time is the key; we simply must not miss this opportunity.
By Nabil Habayeb, GE’s President and Chief Executive Officer for the Middle East, North Africa and Turkey