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The 6 Best Business Ideas for Expats and Foreigners in The Middle East

Many countries in the Middle East have created free zones, changed laws, and have thriving industries making their economies great for foreigners and expats to set up companies

  • Many countries in the Middle East have created free zones, changed laws, and have thriving industries making their economies great for foreigners and expats to set up companies
  • IT services spending has grown in the Middle East from US$10.13 billion in 2017 to US$12.78 billion by 2020
  • Become a courier service for warehouses or large goods providers like Amazon. Uber recently bought its Middle Eastern rival Careem for US$3.1 billion to tap into this market
  • Growing demand for learning English from students, the adult working population, locals and expats or immigrants who use English as a second language

Thousands of immigrants have been relocating to the Middle East in the last decade to look for work. If you are one of them or would like to invest money in the region, why not start up a business instead. Many countries in the Middle East have created free zones, changed laws, and have thriving industries making their economies great for foreigners and expats to set up companies. Here are seven of the best business ideas to startup a profitable company in the Middle East now.

To read more about Free Zones in the Middle East visit PWC

Once you’ve chosen your idea, take a look through the best industries and countries to startup in, so that you can make an informed and great decision. Read through the World Bank Country profile which tells you everything you’ll need to start a business in that country, then use our Business Plan to create a solid plan and get going.

1. Building and Construction company

Many countries in the region, including The UAE, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Bahrain, have recently outlined plans for developing new and existing cities infrastructure. Everything from homes, transport networks, hotels, schooling, energy, sporting facilities, and businesses will need construction. 

Depending on your startup capital, you can create a company that delivers small or large private and government construction projects or only provide workers and equipment. Buying the building equipment will be the highest costs, and bidding for contracts could be difficult. Once you have this, there is a lot of profit to be made. 

2. IT Service Provider

IT services spending has grown in the Middle East from US$10.13 billion in 2017 to US$12.78 billion by 2020. And, despite the pandemic companies are continuing to spend money on IT services such as CRM, ERP, and SCM software to ensure they continue operating remotely. Many countries are also building smart cities that require IT services to run things like supermarkets, robot-run oil and energy plants, or transport networks. Starting a company that provides IT software or hardware services will generate revenues now and in the future. 

3. Financial Advisor or Wealth Manager

Both traditional and Islamic-sharia banking is a huge industry in the Middle East. There are also many high net worth individuals living, investing, or travelling in the region, and immigrants who make up the large majority of the populations in some countries. Such as 80% of the UAE and Qatar populations, 70% of Kuwait, and 55% of Bahrain. It is a melting pot of potential customers for financial advisors and wealth managers. All these individuals will value honest and sound advice on how to use their finances, and companies who can help them safely look after or invest their money. There is an immense need for companies and consultants who can offer these professional financial services.

4. Goods Transporter

 Growth in construction, new cities, and Ecommerce throughout the Middle East is placing a heavy burden on the transportation industry to deliver equipment and goods. You can set up a private company that specialises in transporting goods for one sector. If you don’t have the finance, then become a courier service for warehouses or large goods providers like Amazon. Uber recently bought its Middle Eastern rival Careem for US$3.1 billion to tap into this market. You can do the same by launching a company that offers fast and reliable transport services either as a courier or equipment delivery.

5. Tourism Provider

More and more tourists are visiting the Middle East as a holiday destination, predominantly Dubai. This will increase with the growth of smarter cities, opening of borders to international trade, World Cup happening in Qatar 2022 and the August 2020 UAE-Israeli agreement to normalise relations. Tourists will want to visit destinations and experience the culture. Starting up a company that sells tourist experience packages, information, or deals for things like hotels or flights could be very profitable over a long period. 

6. English Tutor or Translator

A report ran by Relocate Global highlights the growing amount of International schools in the Middle East between 2017-2018 grew by 430 in Dubai, and 18 in the UAE, which now has 624. Saudi Arabia has 257, and Qatar 166. These schools mostly teach in English to primary, secondary and university students. This shows the growing demand for learning English from just students. There is still demand from the adult working population, from both locals and expats or immigrants who use English as a second language. If you are an English speaker, you can teach private English classes to this market without needing a teachers license or qualifications. All you need are learning materials and exams for students to practice taking reputable language tests like The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL).

Other notable ideas

There are several other fields for launching your company in the Middle East that could be good, but they are not as cheap, fast or profitable as the above. This includes security services, companies to deal with environment-related issues, an oil and gas company, or an importer or exporter.

Amin Bilal is a business consultant, founder of CompanyHand.com, and content creator. He specialises in advising SMEs and large multinational corporations solve finance, operational, and technological problems.

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