Lost business opportunities in the Kingdom |
Arab News - 15 June, 2012
Author: Saad Al-Dosari
A few days ago, Facebook Inc. announced the launch of its first MENA office in Dubai. Exciting as it that sounds, the news came as a no surprise to anyone! If Facebook wants a presence in the region, there is no place like Dubai. After all, Facebook will only be joining the tens, if not hundreds, of global companies operating from Dubai. Google, Microsoft, and Cisco, are just a few of those.
All these offices operate as headquarters covering the whole MENA region. I can only admire such accomplishments of our small and young neighbor Dubai, and its remarkable efforts in creating such an attractive business environment and investment heaven. But at the same time, I cannot help but feel a bit of envy mixed with a bit of sorrow. Not because of any ill intentions toward this lovely young state, but because of the pain of seeing its Saudi counterpart losing huge investment opportunities.
It is not a secret that most of the global business carried out in the UAE is mainly targeting the Saudi market, either by directly selling products or services, or indirectly, to seek funds and investments.
Saudi Arabia is where the money is. If you happen to be working for a local company that is dealing with international consultants, vendors, or suppliers, I can confidently say that you heard statements such as these repeatedly, “We need some time to review this contract at our main office in Dubai”, and “We will discuss your campaign requirements with our creative director in Dubai.”
Thumbs up to Dubai, admiration and respect, but let’s stop for a minute and wonder why are we losing all this business? What are we going to do with our economic cities? What happened to them anyway? You might have forgotten about them, but we are supposed to have four fully-functional economic cities. These cities were the dream of this country’s future, I want to say ‘are’ the dream, but honestly, I am not comfortable saying it.
If these cities were completed as planned, they would have propelled this country’s economy in so many ways. For example, they would have opened new job opportunities and allowed a different kind of knowledge and experience to flow into the country.
There are a lot of businesses we could capitalize on because of the attractiveness of our markets, oil and gas industries are not everything. We need more financial, marketing, advertising agencies and consultancies in the country. Such cities would have absorbed the huge number of graduates coming back after finishing their higher education abroad.
We are only hearing good news about the attractiveness of our investment and business environment, but I think we are not able to feel this first hand. Years have passed and the horizon is only filled with promises. We might need to acknowledge that foreign investments are not only attracted by the strength of our economical status. Other factors we are desperately lacking: Infrastructure, communication and transportation platforms, visas and country entrance issues, complicated governmental procedures, and many social aspects as well.
Maybe working on these factors along with completing the economic cities will put us on the right path to recover some of those lost opportunities.