The GCC consulting market faces 6 key post-pandemic challenges

The GCC consulting market faces 6 key post-pandemic challenges

AMEInfo‘ Hadi Khatib, business editor, in an exclusive article about how the GCC consulting market faces 6 key post-pandemic challenges elaborated on the consulting sector in the Gulf area of the MENA.

The consultancy business is directly or rather proportionately related to the construction sector that is predicted by GlobalData to recover in 2021 slowly but after contracting by 4.5% in 2020. The region ramping up vaccination programmes is optimistically forecast to recover with 1.9% in 2021 and 4.1% in 2022, by the same leading data and analytics company. So, let us hear Hadi’s thoughts.

The GCC consulting market faces 6 key post-pandemic challenges

After a 12% contraction last year, the GCC consultancy sector faces six challenges to continue leveraging the region’s aspirations for sustainable and profitable business and economic development

  • The standout performer in 2020 was healthcare, seeing exceptional growth of more than 19%
  • GCC’s largest consulting market, financial services, took a big hit in 2020, with revenues falling by $160 mn
  • A strong consulting market growth of approximately 17% across the GCC region forecasted in 2021

The GCC consulting market contracted for the first time in its history—down by just over 12% in 2020, with COVID-19 wiping out nearly $400 million in revenues. The market is now worth around $2.7 billion, a new report by Source Global Research revealed.  

2020 saw nervous clients put consulting projects on hold, particularly in hard-hit industries, such as retail, hospitality, and aviation, but also mega projects such as NEOM, World Cup 2022, Qiddiya, and more.

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AMEinfo interviewed Edward Haigh, Joint Managing Director at Source Global Research, to inquire about last year’s results and next year’s forecasts.

The discussion revealed six key areas consultants need to keep in mind to gradually recoup their losses and continue leveraging the region’s aspirations for sustainable and profitable business and economic development.    

“Consultants will continue to play an important role helping clients in all sectors create greater efficiencies in their organizations, but the key for consultants today will be to re-engage and re-align with their clients in this new normal,” Haigh told AMEinfo.     

Areas where COVID-19 boosted consultancies  

The standout performer in 2020 was healthcare, seeing exceptional growth of more than 19%. 

“So much of that initial surge and response to the pandemic has already happened, and as such consulting to the healthcare sector will slow down in 2021, but pick up again in 2022,” Haigh said. “Consultants will bring new solutions and world-class innovation and expertise to bear on the issues healthcare professionals are facing, particularly around engaging with patients, embedding technology in everything organizations do, and providing remote diagnosis and access to healthcare.”  

The GCC consulting market also saw growth in the technology market segment in 2020, as the need to rapidly facilitate the shift to remote working drove strong demand of 5.2%. 

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Cybersecurity services performed particularly well as companies sought to secure remote work, driving growth of 11.4% last year. Source Global Research expects the cybersecurity consulting market to grow a further 30% in 2021, taking total revenues to $236 mn. 

While the GCC’s largest consulting market, financial services, took a big hit in 2020, with revenues falling by $160 mn, Source Global Research expects consultants working in this sector to regain their losses in 2021, as banks push forward with ambitious digital transformation projects, spurred on by both customers embracing digital banking and the competitive threat from fintechs.

Consulting bounce back: Forecasts for 2021

Source Global Research is forecasting strong consulting market growth of approximately 17% across the GCC region in 2021.  

Some 63% of organizations in the GCC say their use of consulting support will increase over the next 18 months, with an especially strong interest in the energy & resources, technology, media & telecoms, and manufacturing sectors. Healthcare will prove to be an important sector for consultancies as well.

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“The current underpinning the GCC healthcare market today is the creation of a state of the art, forward-looking, citizen-centric, healthcare system fit for its time. There is far less legacy that’s being carried forward if we are to compare the GCC with markets such as the US or UK,” Haigh explained. “This presents a far greater opportunity to create a future healthcare system from scratch, and a greater opportunity for consultants to provide support, too.”  

6 challenges facing GCC consultancies

1- Consultancy fee rates 

Around 44% of clients expect consultants to cut their fees this year, with 13% expecting the cuts to be steep, in contrast to pre-pandemic expectations that 84% of GCC clients expected rates to rise. 

The reason provided was that 55% of clients said they believe many firms are qualified to perform the work that needs to be done, driving down rates.  

Haigh said: “Given the ongoing pandemic and its deleterious effect on the consulting market last year, one might well expect consulting fees to suffer over the next 18 months.” 

2- Freedom of movement 

 “The GCC’s consulting market arguably relies on two things more than anything else: freedom of movement for consultants and reliably high oil prices.” 

While oil prices suffered during the pandemic with average closing prices of $40, 20% less than 2019, oil has rebounded in 2021 and is currently flirting with $65 going to $70, spelling relief for consultancies. 

“Access to Qatar has, historically, not been easy and only those who had previously established presence in the country were able to operate there, but enough work exists in other parts of the region— Saudi and the UAE for example—and so attention shifted elsewhere,” Haigh said.

“But to some extent, the events over the past 12 months have helped find a solution to that. For many, instead of having to be on-site, remote consulting proved it matters less whether someone is based in Riyadh or Dubai,” Haigh revealed. “The really exciting opportunity for leaders in Saudi, UAE, and other GCC countries is that this provides access to consultants wherever they are in the world, not just in the region.”

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3- Geopolitics and reputational risks

Geopolitics and reputational risk weigh very significantly on the minds of consultancies, according to Haigh. 

“The risks are prevalent in the GCC more than anywhere else. They have the potential to cause dramatic changes in consultants’ businesses, whether that’s a market shutting down suddenly, the taps being turned off, or a leader insisting on changing consultancies midstream,” explained Haigh.  

“Consultants have helped clients identify some of the problems that they themselves are creating, but honestly, consultants are used to working in these fairly extreme conditions.” 

4- Relationships

Relative to other parts of the world, those with relationships tend to benefit more significantly in the GCC. In the early days, consultants had to invest a lot of time building those relationships with clients. Spending a year on building a personal and professional relationship before seeing anything in return is quite normal here.

5- Client ambitions

Haigh said consultants don’t mind their clients’ desire to get things done very quickly, but “Consulting firms tend to find themselves cast in the role of naysayers a bit.”

“They are often put in a position where they affirm their ability to perform the project at hand, but have to caution the client that it will take more time than originally allocated,” Haigh said.

“Based on their experience with other projects, consultants are always trying to insert more realistic time frames and find a way to harness and manage their clients’ ambitions and expectations.”

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6- Talent allocation

UAE and Saudi have recently been involved in a tug of war to attract business, each easing regulatory frameworks and offering business incentives to pull SMEs, entrepreneurs, and large corporates over to their side.  

“This is a healthy competition for supremacy on projects, and it has been a major driver of growth for consultancies for a number of years,” Haigh explained.

“But, I think what is less clear, is how this will impact the market in terms of supply. Saudi is the largest consulting market, but UAE is where most of the consultants are based. And moving consultants between those two countries has been an enormously challenging thing,” Haigh indicated. 

Haigh added that there is a real supply issue for consultants across the region, not just in terms of keeping up with demand, but also figuring out who to put where. 

“Making sure that the expertise is available on both sides was made all the more challenging with physical restrictions on talent getting into the country, or talent themselves preferring to work in and from the UAE, instead of more restrictive areas,” said Haigh. “Localization efforts in many GCC countries has exacerbated supply challenges.”  

hadi.khatib@thewickfirm.com

Longest 3D printed concrete pedestrian bridge

Longest 3D printed concrete pedestrian bridge

The Bridge Project is underway in Nijmegen, built by BAM and Weber Beamix is debated by Davide Sher. It could have well been a proper infrastructural operation for any country of the MENA region, were it not for all socio-economical factors. In effect, this Longest 3D printed concrete pedestrian bridge could be the answer to a multitude of requirements.

Longest 3D printed concrete pedestrian bridge begins to take form

March 30, 2021

The world’s longest 3D printed concrete pedestrian bridge, co-commissioned by Rijkswaterstaat (Dutch Directorate-General for Public Works and Water Management), is being built in Dukenburg in the city of Nijmegen, Netherlands, and printed in Eindhoven, where the 3D printing facility of BAM and Weber Beamix is located. Summum Engineering was responsible for the parametric modeling, in order to elaborate and rationalize the freeform geometry, designed by Michiel van der Kley.

This project, also dubbed “The Bridge Project”, is an initiative of Rijkswaterstaat, Michiel van der Kley in collaboration with Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e), and an effort to innovate, apply new techniques in the building environment, specifically the 3D printing of concrete, and to find new ways to collaborate.

While looking for a location, Nijmegen seemed an ideal place, following the city’s position as Green Capital of Europe in 2018, and their wish to have an eye-catching and iconic memento of that year. Rijkswaterstaat believes it is not only building a bridge but building the future as well, turning 3D concrete printing from innovation to proven technology.

Longest 3D printed concrete pedestrian bridge
Longest 3D printed concrete pedestrian bridge
Longest 3D printed concrete pedestrian bridge

The longest 3D printed bridge in the world, soon be installed in Nijmegen, is now in full swing and four more bridges for North Holland are in the pipeline at Weber Beamix. Sometimes it may seem that 3D printing is used only mainly for aesthetic display projects but the truth that is increasingly emerging is that printed objects have been finding their way to more practical applications, and a very large market is rapidly developing, all over the world, with huge projects now underway all over Europe, in the US, in Africa, in the Middle East, in China and in Australia.

Digital design and construction are expected to lead to new concepts for building, with lower risks and better conditions. 3D printing technology has the potential for more affordable, faster, durable and freeform methods of construction. Rijkswaterstaat and Michiel van der Kley were intent on exploring designs that are almost impossible to make with traditional techniques involving formworks, to find out whether or not 3D printing allows for much greater design freedom, and other benefits as well. A first test bridge was produced by TU/e, and the final bridge will be printed and assembled by BAM, using the joint printing facility set up with Weber Beamix.

Longest 3D printed concrete pedestrian bridge
Longest 3D printed concrete pedestrian bridge

The possibilities of freeform construction with 3D printing also lead to new challenges, such as the approach to structural safety, the method of analysis for such shapes, and determining the input for the 3D printer. In order to elaborate and rationalize the freeform design, Summum Engineering was commissioned by the structural engineers, Witteveen+Bos, to create a parametric model.

This model took the initial shape, conformed it to structural constraints set by the engineers, segmented it based on printing specifications from TU/e, and then generated the bridge’s internal geometry. Three types of outputs were determined: first, exterior surfaces of the segmented bridge as input to the Revit-model and 2D drawings by Witteveen+Bos; second, meshes, including of the internal geometry, as input to their finite element calculations in DIANA; and, third, printing paths for the 3D printers of TU/e, and later BAM and Weber Beamix, based on their printing specifications.

Photo of Davide Sher

Davide Sher

Since 2002, Davide has built up extensive experience as a technology journalist, market analyst and consultant for the additive manufacturing industry. Born in Milan, Italy, he spent 12 years in the United States, where he completed his studies at SUNY USB. As a journalist covering the tech and videogame industry for over 10 years, he began covering the AM industry in 2013, first as an international journalist and subsequently as a market analyst, focusing on the additive manufacturing industry and relative vertical markets. In 2016 he co-founded London-based 3dpbm. Today the company publishes the leading news and insights websites 3D Printing Media Network and Replicatore, as well as 3D Printing Business Directory, the largest global directory of companies in the additive manufacturing industry.

Saudi Arabia ‘to plant 10 billion trees’

Saudi Arabia ‘to plant 10 billion trees’

Climate Change affects the vast majority of the MENA region, mainly through becoming bereft of water scarcity resulting in deforestation for years. Across the MENA region, as the ground is getting hotter and drier, it would be more challenging to tackle practical measures that can salvage and revitalise, in some cases, restore the degraded resources that remain. Greening the desert might sound irrealistic, but Jordan launched a campaign for a 10-million tree Green wall. In turn, Saudi Arabia’s Prince Mohammed said the Green Saudi Initiative aims to plant 10 billion trees in the country over the coming decades. Saudi Arabia ‘to plant 10 billion trees’ in bid to tackle climate change per The Independent and according to other reports, Riyadh will also work with other Arab countries on an initiative to plant another 40 billion trees across the Middle East as part of one of the most extensive reforestation programmes in the world.

Is it, however, truly reforestation or, put in another way, another operation of Greening the desert. Or is it, like two birds with one stone, perhaps a wish to redeem itself from all those evil fossil fuels, or is it a try at grabbing an honourable seat at the next Glasgow’s COP?.

In any case, here is the story.

Saudi Arabia ‘to plant 10 billion trees’ in bid to tackle climate change

Green plan unveiled as part of plan to overcome Saudi Arabia’s economic reliance on oil

David Harding

Saudi Arabia ‘to plant 10 billion trees’
Image reboot: Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (Reuters)

Saudi Arabia, one of the world’s largest oil producers, has announced ambitious proposals for a “green initiative” to tackle climate change with plans including the planting of 10 billion trees across the Kingdom.

The “Saudi Green Initiative” aims to reduce the country’s emissions by generating half of its energy from renewables by 2030. The move was championed by Saudi’s de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

He said: “As a leading global oil producer, we are fully aware of our share of responsibility in advancing the fight against the climate crisis and that, as our pioneering role in stabilising energy markets during the oil and gas era, we will act to lead the next green era.”

The initiative is part of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 plan, which aims to wean the country off of its reliance on oil.

Saudi Arabia is the world’s second-largest oil producer, after the United States, accounting for around 12 per cent of global production.

The Crown Prince said it was necessary to cut global carbon emissions as Saudi Arabia and the entire Gulf region faced, “significant climate challenges”, which posed an “immediate economic risk”.

Saudi, one of the Middle East major powers, also claims that it wants to be a regional leader in environmental programmes and wanted to plant 40 billion trees across the region as part of a “Middle East Green Initiative”.

If realised, it would be the world’s largest reforestation programme, said the Saudi prince.

He added: “The Saudi Green Initiative will also reduce carbon emissions by more than four per cent of global contributions, through renewable energy projects that will provide 50 per cent of electricity production in the Kingdom by 2030.”

<p>Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter, aims to generate 50 per cent of its energy from renewables by 2030</p>
Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter, aims to generate 50 per cent of its energy from renewables by 2030(AFP via Getty)

Other countries in the region have also announced environmental plans including Qatar, which claims it will plant 16,000 trees in readiness for hosting next year’s football World Cup.

The Saudi initiative was outlined in a statement but did not reveal how the plans would be realised in a region with extremely limited water resources.

The plan – and the high-profile involvement of one of the most senior officials in Saudi Arabia – may be seen as an attempt to reboot the country’s image, and especially that of the Crown Prince.

It comes just weeks after a declassified US intelligence dossier said Prince Mohammed approved the 2018 murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who had been critical of the Saudi leadership.

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Upsizing could become key travel trend

Upsizing could become key travel trend

With the advent of the pandemic and its ensuing lockdown, life changed for the many peoples of the UAE. But of all aspects of life, travelling is to do with remote working and all its direct consequences reviewed here. So despite the Grim short-term Forecast for the Coronavirus-era Economy why upsizing could become a significant travel trend?

Upsizing could become key travel trend, says study

DUBAI, Financial situations worsening for consumers has been widely discussed amid the Covid-19 pandemic. However, many consumers managed to bypass this financial squeeze and have incidentally become efficient savers. 

Upsizing could become key travel trend

This trend should not be overlooked by tourism companies which need to realise that not all travelers will be wanting a budget-friendly option for their next holiday, says GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.

With saved cash that has accumulated during the pandemic, many travellers may be planning to spend more than usual on their next trip. 

According to GlobalData’s survey, when global respondents were asked if they were concerned about their personal financial situation, 13% stated that they were ‘not concerned’. Although this is still significantly less than the 34% that stated they are ‘extremely concerned’, it means that over one in ten of the global travel market could be financially unaffected by the pandemic and have even saved a considerable amount.

Ralph Hollister, Travel and Tourism Analyst at GlobalData, comments: “Many of the travellers that make up this 13% are likely to be white-collar workers that can work effectively at home. Due to spending the vast majority of their time being confined to their homes in the past year, the urge to travel would have built up. This urge, combined with a significant increase in savings, could mean that many of these travellers will have developed a ‘treat yourself’ mentality, to combat the impact of the pandemic which has increased boredom and frustration for many. This mentality could be present as these consumers start planning their next holiday, which could result in them spending more on room upgrades, business class flights and higher quality rental vehicles.

“As well as saving money on commuting, eating out and on other recreational activities, many of these consumers who have been unaffected by the pandemic have also saved by not booking a holiday last year, or by having their cancelled trip refunded. This could mean that for their next trip, they will go bigger and better on more luxurious travel services and products. This trend could also be driven by a ‘now or never’ mentality, as when travellers have the opportunity to go on holiday, they will spend significantly more and stay for longer in case another situation like the Covid-19 pandemic reoccurs,” Hollister said.  –TradeArabia News Service

Implications for the Future Directions of International Water Law

Implications for the Future Directions of International Water Law

There are principles on all transboundary waterways, be they surface or of the aquifer type and they are taken into account in the United Nations Watercourses Convention Article 5, as the Convention states that utilization of an international watercourse equitably and reasonably accounts for all relevant factors and circumstances, including :

  • Geographic, hydrographic, hydrological, climatic, ecological and other elements of a natural character
  • The social and economic needs of the watercourse in the concerned States 
  • The population dependent on the waterway in the concerned State; 
  • The effects of the use or uses of the watercourse in one State on other States; 
  • Existing and potential uses of the watercourse; 
  • Conservation, protection, development and economy of the water resources of the watercourse and the cost of measures taken to that effect; and 
  • The availability of alternatives, of comparable value, to a particular planned or existing use. The availability of other options, of equal value, to a specific intended or existing service. 

The following essay by Raquella Thaman is a summary of her recently published monograph (under the same title), which appears in Brill Research Perspectives in International Water Law. In effect, the author reviews possible Implications for the Future Directions of International Water Law and concludes that the need for concerted global intervention to maintain the livability of Earth and increase resilience in the face of the rapidly changing availability of resources is vital.

The picture above is for illustration purpose and is that of the Nile bassin (the other watercourse controversy) with indication of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) location.

The Ilisu Dam and its Impact on the Mesopotamian Marshes of Iraq: Implications for the Future Directions of International Water Law

27 January 2021

The fate of the Mesopotamian Marshes of Iraq provides us with a case study on the functional deficits of the existing body of international water law in managing conflict over transboundary watercourses. This monograph argues that international collaboration over transboundary watercourses is imperative for maintaining peace and stability and should force us into thinking of new ways to address these newly emerging and growing challenges in the field.

Water is a transient and finite resource. Moving through the hydrologic cycle, each molecule may find its way from a transboundary watercourse on one continent to a municipal water supply on another, and then back again. It is often said that every drop we drink has already been consumed by one life form or another.

Implications for the Future Directions of International Water Law
The Hydrologic or Water Cycle.
Source: U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

One of the more perilous side effects of climate change is its threat to the water supply of hundreds of millions of people. In many regions the seasonal absence of rain has historically been compensated for by meltwater from glaciers and winter snowpack across international borders in distant mountain ranges. When these glaciers disappear, so will the water supply during the dry season.

As these pressures increase, the need for effective legal regimes to address the sharing of transboundary watercourses likewise increases. In some cases, the existing law governing the utilization of this ephemeral resource has proven inadequate to prevent conflict and ensure access to water and its benefits for people and ecosystems no matter where they lie along the length of the watercourse.

The history and ecology of the Tigris-Euphrates Basin, and the issues surrounding Turkey’s recent impoundment of water behind the Ilisu Dam on the Tigris, provide an example highlighting such challenges. While the need for collaborative approaches to sharing transboundary watercourses is evident, barriers to such collaboration are complex and sometimes deeply entrenched. Additionally, the responsibility of the international community for helping at risk communities maintain access to adequate water supplies cannot be overlooked.

The first few chapters of the monograph set forth the context of the problem. Chapter one briefly introduces the hydrologic cycle and current state of Earth’s ecological systems underlying the need for new developments in international water law. The second chapter is an overview of the Tigris-Euphrates river basin including its hydro-geography, climate and early history of water use. The third chapter describes the significance of the Mesopotamian Marshes themselves as a harbinger for the well-being of the people of Iraq. The fourth chapter examines the water projects that affect the Tigris-Euphrates Basin including controversy surrounding Turkey’s most recent filling of the Ilisu dam and the flooding of Hasankeyf.

Implications for the Future Directions of International Water Law
Map of Iraq with the Tigris and Euphrates River Basins.
Source: Library of Congress

Chapter five of the monograph outlines the law governing the Tigris-Euphrates Basin. The stance of the Tigris-Euphrates Basin states and their seeming embrace of outdated and conflicting approaches to resource allocation are examined.  Existing agreements between the states, both colonial era and post-WWII, and the application of the UN Watercourses Convention are then examined. Finally, other approaches to managing conflict over ecological conditions are examined including a brief analysis of the Rhine Salt Case and the human right to water recognized by the UN General Assembly in 2010.

Chapter six discusses the topic of collaborative water management using the illustrative example of the Senegal River Basin. Three examples of conflict over transboundary watercourses, one historical and two current, are then provided in order to illuminate some of the barriers to collaboration. The first is a nineteenth century dispute between the United States and Mexico over the water of the Rio Grande, which resulted in the production of the Harmon Doctrine. The second provides an example of upstream hydro-hegemony in an overview of the problems arising from China’s development of the upper Mekong River and its impact on those living in the lower Mekong Basin. The third example outlines the problem of downstream hydro-hegemony in the dispute between Ethiopia and Egypt, its downstream neighbor on the Nile, over the building of Ethiopia’s Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.

In conclusion, the need for concerted global intervention to maintain the livability of Earth and increase resilience in the face of the rapidly changing availability of resources will be explored and the clear need for a unified collaborative approach to such intervention reiterated.

The monograph is dedicated to Ms. Fadia Daibes Murad (1966-2009); in recognition of the courage, rigor, and dynamic intellect with which she advocated both for fairness in access to water resources and for gender equity in Palestine and the Middle East.

Ms. Thaman is an attorney and teacher in California. She can be reached at r_thaman @ u.pacific.edu.