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Eye of Riyadh
Business & Money | Sunday 5 May, 2024 9:01 am |

Economy Middle East Summit 2024 Highlights Economic Growth Prospects of MENA Region

The Economy Middle East Summit 2024 convened high-profile leaders at Abu Dhabi Global Market to share insights on “Accelerating Future Growth ” of the MENA region.


The event brought together top-tier attendees including UAE Minister of Economy H.E. Abdulla Bin Touq Al-Marri. Salem Al Darei, CEO of ADGM Authority, delivered the welcome notes before the summit hosted several panel discussions. The summit's agenda focused on key challenges and opportunities in banking and finance, technology, hospitality, tourism and the future of mobility.


The event focused on navigating the global economic landscape beyond 2024 and emphasized the MENA region's economic outlook amidst new global realities. Discussions explored tomorrow's digital financial services landscape and highlighted the significance of tourism as a key economic driver. The summit also featured insights into future technology ecosystems and fireside chats with key industry figures including Hatem Dowidar, Group CEO, e& and H.E. Badr Al-Olama, Director General, Abu Dhabi Investment Office, provided further perspectives on economic development and innovation.


H.E. Abdulla bin Touq Al Marri, UAE minister of Economy, confirmed that the Emirates has made great strides in diversifying its national economy and shifting towards a flexible economic model based on knowledge and innovation. As a result, the non-oil sector today accounts for 74% of the country’s total GDP. This confirms the effectiveness of the steps the UAE has adopted to further economic diversification, in line with the goals of the 'We the UAE 2031' vision and the UAE Centennial Plan 2071.


In his speech at the summit, the economy minister said: “The UAE continues its efforts to provide an incubating environment for conducting business and economic activities and develop flexible and competitive legislation and economic policies that will enhance the country’s attractiveness for foreign investments through establishing a suitable economic climate for investors, capital owners, and entrepreneurs. The most notable developments in this regard include the granting of the 100% foreign ownership of companies, the modernization of visa and residency systems, and the introduction of self-employment and long-term residency pathways, which contribute to strengthening the country’s ability to confront global economic changes. They also contribute to consolidating its position as a leading destination for business and investment.”


H.E. Bin Touq pointed out that the summit serves as a key platform to shed light on the most prominent shifts in the global economic dynamics, and how to benefit from them in promoting sustainable economic growth at the local, regional and international levels, especially since the global economy is going through a state of uncertainty.


Roberta Gatti Chief Economist to the MENA region, The World Bank, said: “The MENA region is returning to its pre-pandemic trend of low growth, in the context of a global economy that is decelerating for the third consecutive year. MENA’s gross domestic product (GDP) is forecast to rise to 2.7% in 2024, which is a tepid increase from 1.9% in 2023.  This outlook is marked by uncertainty, amidst the conflict in the region and rising levels of debt. In addition, rising debt is heavily concentrated in oil-importing economies, which now have a debt-to-GDP ratio 50 percent higher than the global average of emerging market and developing economies. Oil importers in MENA are borrowing against an uncertain future. In the past decade, they have not been able to grow or even inflate their way out of debt, stressing the need for fiscal discipline and debt transparency, when debt stocks increase due to below-the-line spending.  For oil exporters, the challenge is one of economic and fiscal-revenue diversification. This is because of the structural change in global oil markets and the rising demand for renewable sources of energy.”


In the first panel discussion, ‘Economic Frontiers: Navigating the Global Landscape in 2024 and Beyond,’ speakers included Dr. Mahmoud Mohieldin, UN Special Envoy on Financing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Executive Director, International Monetary Fund; Chris Williamson, Chief Business Economist at Standard & Poor's Markets Intelligence; and Andrew Torre, Regional President of Visa for the Central and Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa region. The session was moderated by Ziad Daoud, chief emerging markets economist, Bloomberg Economics, and highlighted the importance of strategic economic diversification, innovation ecosystems and the role of foreign investments. It also discussed emerging industries, investment opportunities, and the role of the Middle East in the rapidly evolving international business environment.


In panel two, ‘MENA Economic Outlook: Adapting to New Global Realities,’ H.E. Dr. Hala Elsaid, Minister of Planning and Economic Development of Egypt, Roberta Gatti, who attended virtually, Chief Economist for the MENA region at the World Bank and Dr. Nasser Saidi, President and Founder Nasser Saidi & Associates Former DIFC Chief Economist, Economic Adviser & Consultant, focused on how geopolitical shifts affect regional economies, including Middle East conflicts, the Red Sea's strategic importance and changes within BRICS countries. They analyzed economic policies' impact on stability and growth, offering insights for exploring this evolving landscape. The session was moderated by Dr. Rawaa Harati, Founder & CEO, KINZ consultancy. 


The ‘Digital Frontiers in Finance: Exploring Tomorrow’s Financial Services Landscape,’ panel examined accelerating digital transformation, embracing fintech innovations and navigating regulatory challenges. Speakers included Emmanuel Givanakis, CEO of FSRA at ADGM, Rola Abu Manneh, CEO of Standard Chartered UAE, Middle East, and Pakistan, Damian Hitchen, CEO of Saxo Bank MENA, and the moderator Jean Abou Assi, Partner leading digital financial services at PwC Middle East. They also discussed future market trade, highlighting the interplay between innovation and regulation and shared insights on adapting to an ever-evolving regulatory landscape. 


The session ‘Tourism: The Pillar of Economic Strength,’ was moderated by Sunil John, founder of Asdaa’ BCW and former CEO of the MENA region for BCW. This discussion examined tourism as a key driver of economic growth, contributing to job creation, infrastructure development and cultural exchange, including its effects on small businesses and regional investment. Tourism serves as a double engine for the Gulf region, encouraging entrepreneurship and innovation while fostering cultural understanding, though growth must be balanced for environmental sustainability. Speakers included H.E. Saeed Ali Obaid Al Fazari, Executive Director of the Strategic Affairs Sector at the Department of Culture and Tourism - Abu Dhabi; and Dr. Saeeda Jaafar, Senior Vice President and Group Country Manager of the Visa Group in the GCC; and Haitham Mattar, President of IHG Hotels & Resorts, India, Middle East and Africa.


Joe Chidiac, CEO and publisher of Economy Middle East, organized the summit. He said: "Bringing together visionary leaders, distinguished ministers and industry experts, the Economy Middle East Summit 2024 served as a vibrant platform for innovative thinking, revolutionary ideas and collaboration, all aimed at driving accelerated growth across the Middle East.”


The summit was held in partnership with ADGM, one of the world’s leading international financial centers. It was supported by the Department of Economic Development in Abu Dhabi and Visa, the leading global company in payment services. Strategic partnerships included Alef Education and Standard Chartered. 




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