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Top 10 Thriving Industries in The Middle East to Start a Business

The Middle East is one of the world's top economic regions. Many countries have a business-friendly environment and industries that are great for investors and entrepreneurs looking to startup

  • 2021 will see a rebound in Freight and Logistics in many countries. In Kuwait by 3.8%, Oman by 5% annually until 2022, and in Dubai 
  • Saudi Arabia and the UAE have one of the highest rates of “new or increased” users in online deliveries (restaurant products and groceries) and communications (videoconferencing and remote learning)
  • The UAE already has 624, Saudi Arabia 257, and Qatar 166. English schools and courses have been in high demand across the Middle East for some time
  • Islamic or Sharia-compliant finance with the majority the worlds 1,389 Sharia-compliant firms situated in the region and generating assets worth US$490

Top 10 Thriving Industries in the Middle East to Start A Business

The Middle East is one of the world’s top economic regions, especially for oil and gas. Many countries have a business-friendly environment and industries that are great for investors and entrepreneurs looking to startup. To see our list of the best countries click here. This article guides you through the best ten thriving industries in the Middle East to start a business.

1. Logistics

Logistics forms a crucial element in any country as it deals with the transport of goods and services. The rise in construction, tourism, online ordering, and cross border trading in the Middle East has placed a greater requirement for streamlined, better and faster logistics.

2021 will see a rebound in Freight and Logistics in many countries. In Kuwait by 3.8%, Oman by 5% annually until 2022, and in Dubai which recently created the Jebel Free Zone with a new international airport. The zone is expected to handle a capacity of 12 million tonnes of cargo and 160 million passengers upon completion. For any new investor or entrepreneur, the logistics business provides profitable growth opportunities in the Middle East.

2. International Trade

The thriving of international trade go hand-in-hand with the growth in logistics and improving international relations with the outside world. Over the last decade, countries in the Middle East have been opening their borders to foreign trade and expats. Migrants make 80% of the UAE and Qatar populations, 70% of Kuwait, and 55% of Bahrain. Exports and imports in the region have grown massively, from clothing, accessories, toys to electronic goods and industrial units. Investors or entrepreneurs looking to take advantage of the sector can startup export or import activities.

3. E-Commerce

The pandemic brought exponential growth in e-commerce worldwide, with customers ordering goods online, particularly in countries which enforced strict lockdown and social distancing measures. According to McKinsey, consumers in the Gulf Cooperation Council, have done much more online shopping. Saudi Arabia and the UAE have one of the highest rates of “new or increased” users in online deliveries (restaurant products and groceries) and communications (videoconferencing and remote learning). 

Ecommerce will continue to increase in the future as internet coverage reaches more areas in the Middle East and the world, making it easier to shop online. Today, the Global Ecommerce market is worth $2.2 trillion and is growing annually by 24%, which is four times faster than the global retail sector as a whole.

4. Healthcare

Healthcare is categorised as a high priority sector in many regions of the world, including the Middle East. Ever since the onset of the Corona pandemic, countries across the region have increased their GDP spending in healthcare infrastructure and research development. The UAE’s expenditure alone is expected to grow from U$17 billion U$21.3 billion between 2017 and 2021. The healthcare industry in the Middle East will grow at a rapid pace in the next few years.

5. English Language School

The growth in international trade and immigration has led people and companies to learn and use English as a second language alongside Arabic. According to Relocate Global, between 2017-2018 internationals schools, many of which teach in English, grew significantly by 430 in Dubai. The UAE already has 624, Saudi Arabia 257, and Qatar 166.

English schools and courses have been in high demand across the Middle East for some time. In particular for digital learning products, which had the highest growth rates between 2014 and 15 by 25% in Kuwait and UAE, 20% in Oman, 19% in Lebanon, 17% in Turkey, and 16% in Bahrain. This demand has only been rising and provides an excellent opportunity for any entrepreneur to startup or invest in the English Language Schooling industry in the Middle East. 

6. Energy, oil and natural gas

The region has some of the highest oil and natural gas reserves globally, which make up as much as 40% to 70% of the government revenue and GDP in many Middle Eastern countries. But energy is shifting towards renewable sources and green solutions, leading to major reforms in the region. Countries are increasing investments in renewable energy sources such as electric, solar, wind, and hydroelectricity, like Saudi Arabia, which is investing US$590 million in a new gas pipeline. This sector is the best one for investment in the region.

7. Defence and security

Defence and security is a high priority sector in the Middle East, as many countries have long suffered civil wars with neighbours and western nations. Research and development in this industry has always been high and is expected to keep growing. Defence technology and manufacturing, including imports, are among the most profitable products in the region.

8. Financial Services

Financial services provided in Middle Eastern countries are vibrant and strong. Services like banking, FinTech, stock brokerages, portfolio, asset and investment management are amongst the top businesses in the middle east with many large multinational companies located in the region. It’s also the best region for providing Islamic or Sharia-compliant finance with the majority the worlds 1,389 Sharia-compliant firms situated in the region and generating assets worth US$490. Entrepreneurs with sound knowledge of traditional and Islamic finance should consider entering the Middle East’s financial services market. 

9. Construction and real estate

Construction and real estate are one of the fastest-growing industries in the Middle East. The sector provides 5 million jobs with around 200,000 in construction and is a significant contributor to economies in the region, including 6% of the GDP in UAE and 7% in Saudi Arabia in 2018. Many countries are investing heavily to achieve their ambitious plans for developing housing, transport networks, and commercial and industrial infrastructure.

10. Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is making life much easier for us. AI is everywhere now, from the phones we use to computers. The scope of work within AI ranges from finance, data analysis, to transport. Many countries in the region are investing heavily in AI in an attempt to make smart cities that will be driven by technology. Things like road accidents, crime, shopping, and banking will be tracked and solved live as they happen. The UAE Artificial Intelligence Strategy 2031, and Saudi Arabia Vision 2030 plan place AI capabilities at the centre of national economic strategies and both countries. The Middle East provides a wide array of opportunities for entrepreneurs to research and develop AI-based technology to cater to the region’s current and future domestic needs.

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