In my 25 years plus experience of living in the UAE and traveling through GCC I was always surprised by number of American brands in the GCC market and lack of Canadian businesses active in that market. I could never really understand the reasons that second and third tier or niche US brands were all the rage in GCC but hardly any Canadian companies were present. For example in food and beverage sector one can find the likes of Hardees, Southern Fried Chicken, Pizza Inn, Papa Jones, Seatles Best along with KFC, Pizza Hut and Starbucks but till two years ago even Tim Horton was not to be seen in the region leave alone something like Hero Burger or any other local brand/niche brand such as Naked Pizza. Similarly Carrefour and Geant are in GCC and Harvey Nichols, Marks & Spencer and Bloomingdales but there is no CanadianTire or Hudson/s Bay anywhere in the GCC.
This lead me to think possibly due to Canada’s access to a market as large as US has meant there isn’t much interest in rest of the world, few meetings I have had with business people in Canada has supported my assumption. But India and China are fairly large markets but both of them have very strong presence in GCC. India has had historic links to the region and makes up large part of population in the region but even China has increased its presence in the region over the past 10 years. In early 2003 number of Chinese living in the UAE was just over 100,000 and that number now has crossed 1 million in just over 10 years and is expected to grow beyond 2 million in the next 10 years.
So here is what GCC is all about
GCC stands for Gulf Cooperation Council and primarily consists of 6 countries that joined a political, economic cooperation council in May 1981. These countries are Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain. These countries have many commonalities like they are all monarchies, all of them are driven or developed from tribal societies and tribal allegiance runs strong amongst its citizens. But most striking common thread that distinguishes GCC from rest of the Middle East is its economic power and potential if offers. combined GCC are 14th largest economy in the world. They produce 1/3 of global oil, have had sustained GDP growth (Qatar has the highest per capita income in the world at over 116k/per person) for the past 15 years and about half of their population is less than 30 years old and most of them have significant disposable income. These factors combined present numerous economic and business opportunities. GCC countries are vigorously investing their oil earned money to build infrastructure, develop industrial base to reduce heavy reliance on oil and gas.
These countries have the desire to make a name for themselves and have the willingness, funds and the structure to fulfill those desires. In the recent past Qatar has won FIFA 2022 word cup and just last month Dubai has been awarded Expo2020 amidst much fanfare. Both these trophy events require significant infrastructure developments and both UAE and Qatar are investing heavily to develop required road and metro network, hotel, airport and other relevant infrastructure. Currently GCC has over US$ 700 billion worth of projects underway that represent tremendous opportunities for the businesses willing to make a move.
WIth young population coming into the mainstream economy, development opportunities for retail, healthcare, telecoms, aviation, housing and relevant services are only going to increase. Post 9/11 UAE and Qatar played a significant role and sustaining global aviation industry and the result is that Dubai is now the hub of global aviation industry with Emirates airline being one of the best and largest airlines in the world and Dubai, home to only 2 million people, boasts an airport which is second busiest airport in the world in terms of passenger traffic.
My intention is to try and introduce size and relevance of GCC opportunities to Canadian businesses that are trying to grow. With slow down in the US economy over the past 5 years it is time for Canadian businesses to expand and seek growth in markets that have fundamental economic drivers like population growth, access to fund, willingness to grow and are geographically located within 4 hours or almost half of world population. I have had experience of working with people from oil and gas, aviation, telecom, retail, food and beverages, publishing, events, petrochemicals and construction and can help Canadian businesses that are interested in exploring opportunities in these sectors.
UAE rail to link to GCC network (gulfnews.com)
Non Oil Sector to Drive Uae Future Growth (hispanicbusiness.com)
GCC total industrial investments up from US$81b in 1998 to US$338b in 2012, says Gulf Organization for Industrial Consulting (hispanicbusiness.com)
Kuwait tops GCC in allowing Gulf nationals to own stocks (arabtimesonline.com)