The reality of doing business in the Middle East

11 Jul, '14

I’m doing some research into the small business environment in the Middle East with the view of introducing an innovative program to help Bahraini youth to make entrepreneurship their choice, their preferred career path. The program is part of the Entrepreneurs’ Organisation. It’s the Global Student Entrepreneur Award, or GSEA for short. Reading some of the resources online, I came across this painful piece:

Let’s get one thing straight: doing business in the Middle East is not about enhancing profit margins or improving your skills base.

Unlike emerging markets in Asia and Eastern Europe, this region does not have a ready supply of well-trained, hard-working people – nor are employees cheap – so if outsourcing’s your game you’d better look elsewhere. The reason? In oil-rich states around the Gulf coast government handouts and a ‘not what you know but who you know’ business ethic have removed incentives to work hard or take risks as an entrepreneur. [ source ]

Ouch!

The article is from Startup.co.uk which defines itself as

the UK’s leading independent, online resource for anyone starting and growing a business.

The article continues to rip the culture of “deservedness” in the Gulf in particular while offering grounded glimpses of what the future might hold, as emphasis is shifting in the area – supposedly – in the education field and governments are now preferring technical skills over religion in formal study. I’m skeptical about this assertion in particular. I truly believe that the best way to fix a wrong is to recognise that it’s wrong in the first place.

Anyway, I encourage you to read the article. It’s a good wake up call and provides a good platform for us to start fixing things. If not for us, at least it will be for future generations.

I hope that by EO Bahrain introducing GSEA, that’s a good step in that direction. Let me know if you know a young enterprising Bahraini who is in university and has been running his or her own business for the last six months. I’d love to talk to them. Hopefully they’ll qualify for GSEA and a future that is less bleak than that article provides.

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