In the laste decades, Arab countries became one of the majors poles of attraction for Foreign Direct Investments.
Since 2001 Algeria has embarked on a process of reforms aimed at diversifying and modernizing the economy through state-centred economic planning, with the objective of boosting the realization of core infrastructure, developing telecommunications, fostering scientific research, improving public services and combating unemployment.
The Algerian economy is still heavily dependent on the hydrocarbons sector, which accounts for 25% of GDP. However, the government started to implement a series of reforms aiming the economic diversification and industrialization of the country in order to make Algeria more geared for market needs. In addition, the country is working to improve the entrepreneurial climate, thus promoting the attractiveness of foreign investment.
The Kingdom of Bahrain is one of the most dynamic and accessible economies in the MENA region. Significant structural reforms in the financial, labour and investment sectors made the country a particularly competitive commercial and financial hub. First among the Gulf countries to start exploration and oil extraction, Bahrain was also the first country to undertake economic diversification. The Oil & Gas sector accounts for about 19% of GDP, followed by the financial and manufacturing sectors, representing respectively 17% and 15% of the GDP and considered to be a priority along with the ICT sector.
The Egyptian economy is extremely diversified and its main sectors are manufacturing, mining and tourism.
The geographical location combined with the relatively young age of the population and the governmental efforts to reform the economy made Egypt a very promising market, thanks also to the strong support of regional partners, primarily Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait.
The “Vision 2030” sets out the guidelines for the coming years and provides for important measures for sustainable development in the country. The adoption of a series of measures such as the revision of the Investment Act, the simplification of the Licensing regime and the lately renewed bankruptcy law are positive signs for a future economic growth.
Since 2003, the country’s reconstruction efforts were focused on the liberalization of the economy, the development of free competition and the attraction of foreign investment. To this end, the country approved significant structural reforms. In September 2013, Iraq also launched the second National Development Plan (NDP), which is still today under implementation, with some 357 billion dollars allocated for rebuilding the country.
The plan should also encourage incentives, guarantees and exemptions for foreign investors. For example, foreign investors are entitled to certain tax exemptions for a period between 10 and 15 years, to repatriation of the profits resulted from the investment, and to hire foreign workers for the development of investment projects.
Despite the surrounding region’s instability, Jordan has witnessed a moderate economic growth, which according to the International Monetary Fund seems destined to last. This positive trend is partly due to investments and international loans from the Gulf Cooperation Council, the European Union and the US.
In addition, Jordan has signed in recent years several trade agreements, which are considered to be crucial for the revival of the economy. These trade agreements include the Euro – Mediterranean Association Agreement (EU – AA), the Greater Arab League Free Trade Agreement (GAFTA) and the Free Trade Agreement with the United States (FTA).
The country is also finalizing ad hoc programs aiming the reduction of public debt and the promotion of sustainable development. The Jordanian Investment Board has also highlighted several sectors considered to be of “high potential for investment”: in particular, health and pharmaceuticals, tourism, education, engineering, transport and logistics, agro-food and mining industries. A big boost is given to the private sector through public-private partnerships (PPPs) and through the creation of economic zones that offer multiple economic and fiscal benefits.
Kuwait is one of the most productive countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council. Over the past five years, Kuwait has implemented a series of measures to improve the legislative framework. These reforms included a partial privatization roadmap, a financial stability plan and various social development programs. Kuwait is planning to launch additional reforms, concerning in particular the liberalisation of the financial market, a brand new labour legislation and additional laws to improve the business framework.
The legislative framework is strengthened by the national efforts to diversify the economy: while the country is still heavily dependent on the oil industry, economic diversification became the main challenge addressed by the 2015-2020 development plan, which is currently under implementation.
Like other Arab countries, Kuwait also launched its Vision (Vision 2035). Among other strategic objectives, the main targets are a GDP growth, investments for the private sector and several projects to make Kuwait an important financial and commercial hub.
According to the World Bank estimates, in recent years Lebanon’s economic growth witnessed a setback, mostly due to the domestic political tensions and the deterioration of the security conditions in the region. To revitalize the economy, the government has embarked on strengthening public finances, reducing the country’s debt, boosting infrastructure and improving the economic and entrepreneurial climate. Several structural reforms have been adopted targeting competitiveness and infrastructures.
Although the volumes of trade are smaller than other Arab countries, Lebanon’s affinity with the Western world, the strategic position in the Middle East and a strong national interest for the Made in Italy brand make Lebanon a strategic market for Italian companies.
Despite the strong social and political instability, Libya remains a fundamental partner for its abundant natural and financial resources.
Most of the sanctions that struck the country were eliminated and major investments in the infrastructure are expected in the upcoming years. In this context, Libya offers great investment opportunities, especially in the construction and in the oil industry.
The economic development of Mauritania mainly concerns agriculture, farming, oil production, fishing, and fish processing. The extractive industry is also a pillar of the national economy: thanks to the enormous resources available, the country is currently the second largest iron exporter in the African continent.
The prospects of the Mauritanian economy are positive: thanks to the cooperation with various international institutions and ambitious development projects, the country is embarking on a sustainable path for development.
The economic policy undertaken by Morocco in recent years coupled with the strengthening of social development strategies achieved macroeconomic stability. Low levels of inflation, an improved financial sector and resilient growth in the services industry characterize the actual economic situation.
In line with other countries in the area, Morocco undertook a development plan aiming to reduce its energy dependence by exploiting the country’s strategic position, in particular by strengthening the logistics sector, and attracting foreign direct investment to stimulate both industrial production and exports.
In order to boost trade relations with the European Union, Morocco is negotiating today a free trade agreement that could eliminate non-tariff barriers and simplifiy customs procedures.
Oman has always promoted the private sector, considered to be the country’s main impulse for future growth. The Sultanate’s development strategy is based on the creation of an extremely competitive market economy.
Like many Arab countries, Oman is also pursuing a policy of diversifying the economy as explained in the country’s “Vision 2020“. The goal is to reduce the country’s dependence on oil by assisting private sector investments. In particular, the Vision 2020 is aiming the expansion of the gas sector and the promotion of international tourism.
The current five-year development plan also envisages investments of 106.5 billion dollars for the development of infrastructure and transport facilities.
The economy of Palestine largely depends on foreign aid and is strongly influenced by the climate of political uncertainty entangling the country.
In February 2016, the World Bank approved a $ 40 million investment in support of the Palestinian Development Plan aimed at reducing public debt and increasing public finance transparency in order to improve the entrepreneurial climate and attract investments.
The private sector is on the rise, despite the need for greater impetus to overcome the obstacle to unemployment. Projects for strengthening basic infrastructure and for the promotion of trade and economic activities are also foreseen.
Over the last ten years, Qatar witnessed a remarkable economic growth, largely sustained by the enormous natural resources the country possesses. This has led to the implementation of an investment strategy in key areas such as health, education, petrochemicals and trade. National infrastructures enjoyed particular attention generated by the World Cup in 2022.
According to the estimates of the International Monetary Fund on the country’s growth, Qatar represents an excellent market to invest. In terms of business opportunities and investment, the most promising sectors are construction, financial services, research and development, IT, tourism and petrochemicals.
The only Arab country member of the G20, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and OPEC, Saudi Arabia is the largest worldwide oil producer and exporter and represents the largest economic market in the MENA region. Despite the predominant role of the oil industry, the Kingdom launched an intense reform program, culminating with the “Vision 2030” plan, aimed at diversifying the economy, promoting foreign investment and reducing unemployment.
To achieve the objectives presented in the “Vision 2030”, the Saudi government plans to invest in energy, transport and services projects.
The Syrian economy continues to deteriorate as a result of the ongoing conflict. The Syrian government is struggling to address the effects of international sanctions, the massive infrastructure damage, the reduced domestic demand and production, the reduced funding and the ever-growing inflation.
Prior to the conflict, Syria launched a series of economic reforms aiming a partial liberalization of the economy, still highly regulated.
The Sudanese separation that followed the 2011 referendum, has put in place a number of economic and social challenges that the country is still facing. However, the loss of about 75% of oil reserves to South Sudan has stimulated the country to introduce a diversification policies aimed specifically at sustainable development.
Despite the division, the economies of the two countries remain strongly interdependent, thus laying the foundations for a future prosperous economic development and peaceful coexistence. The end of the conflict and the adoption of the Sudanese Investment Act, ratified in 2013, have paved the way for the much needed foreign investments and aid.
Sudan has also undertaken a number of ambitious projects to ensure food security and sustainable development in the country
Because of geographic proximity and an ever-increasing integration in the Euro-Mediterranean region, Tunisia represents the ideal economic partner for Italy.
In recent years, the country has experienced stable growth, which, according to estimates by the International Monetary Fund would continue to run in 2017. In addition, a number of structural and legislative reforms are planned, including customs modernization, a brand new law on public-private partnerships and a new code for investments aiming to boost the national economy and to attract international investors.
In order to revitalise the country, the Tunisian government presented in November 2016 a five-year strategic development plan including a series of public and private infrastructure and investment projects with a netvalue of 60 billions of dollars. These projects are considered a key point in Tunisian politics as they are aimed at the development of the country and the reduction of unemployment
Thanks to a strategic geographic location and an abundance of fossil fuel reserves, the United Arab Emirates developed a solid, dynamic and open economy, capable of attracting huge foreign investments and masses of visitors.
It is a stable market with a strong industrial base and a strong and expanding service sector. Moreover, the creation of so-called free zones was a major catalyst for attracting foreign capital, thus contributing to the economic diversification of the country. New rules on foreign investment and commercial law have paved the way for further opportunities outside the free trade areas.
The reduction of dependence on the oil sector remains a strategic target of the Emirate’s economy, and the development of industries such as renewable energy, infrastructure, construction and tourism, also driven by Dubai Expo 2020, are a key area for the future growth of the country.
The Yemeni economy’s outlook is closely linked to the country’s ability to re-establish short-term political stability and to develop new instruments to ensure medium-to-long-term economic growth. Revenues from the oil sector are going to disappear with the expected depletion of reserves by 2021. This depletion however will not entirely mutate the production and export of liquefied natural gas.
In this context, the major priority for Yemen is to give impetus to the private sector and to develop an effective strategy to solve the problem of unemployment, which currently afflicts the country.