Region/Countries: Africa and the Middle East, United Arab Emirates Industry: Other Date: May 2016

Why this is important to Wisconsin businesses: Opportunities for Wisconsin companies

The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region’s information and communications technology (ICT) spending forecast for 2016 is expected to grow $104 billion, up from $101 billion last year. The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries are the front-runners in the Middle East’s spending surge on ICT. Within the region, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia are the two largest ICT markets, followed by Qatar.

This increase in spending is driven by government-led infrastructure development projects; e-government initiatives; investment in government services, education and health care services; transformations in the transportation, banking and financial services sectors; and private sector developments, as governments in the region pursue diversification strategies into non-oil sectors. Currently in an era of transformation, organizations in the region are increasingly seeking out third platform technologies such as cloud, mobile, social and big data. Also of interest are third platform tech innovations such as wearables, 3D printing, virtual reality and drones, which are driving consumer electronics retail across the region.

High income and a propensity to spend among consumers, enterprises and the government make UAE one of the most lucrative ICT markets globally. Demand for ICT products and services will be sustained due to the steady performance of the UAE economy, as indicated by many positive indexes, including rising real estate prices, growth in the tourism sector and high business confidence. Expo 2020 and the UAE’s Vision 2021 serve as major catalysts for several ICT initiatives in the UAE including:

  • Dubai Smart Government, an initiative established in 2000 to provide online government services to businesses, citizens, residents and visitors.
  • Dubai Smart City, an initiative aimed at linking government services and the public through the use of smart devices, accessed freely using high-speed wireless internet connections.

Dubai Internet City (DIC), a technology business community and free zone, is home to a host of the world’s leading ICT companies. Companies licensed in DIC operate with tax-free benefits and 100 percent foreign ownership. The list of companies operating in DIC is a “who’s who” of the top tech companies in the world: Google, Cisco, Siemens, Intel, HP, Dell, GE and Facebook, to name a few. In addition to the ideal tax-free/foreign ownership benefits, DIC is the natural geographic hub for serving the broader Middle East region.

To explore the possibilities for your own company, it is always wise to visit the region, as the Middle East in general is still a market based on personal relationships. Business development from a distance may lead to an occasional project or order, but sustainable business generation is built by establishing either a direct relationship or a strong agency or representative to work on your behalf, which requires some relationship building in and of itself.