As the pandemic-fuelled liquidity begins to wane and the reality of inflation and higher interest rates sets in, many economies will face considerable challenges. Middle East and North Africa (MENA) countries are vying to attract global investors and increase Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). Yet, capital flows are reversing from emerging to developed markets—specifically in the United States, where interest rates are rising to levels not seen since 2018. The year 2018 is illustrative: during that time, emerging markets experienced substantial capital outflows as international investors reduced their exposure and consolidated their risk into emerging economies with fewer perceived risks, given their proactive and progressive economic policies.
Attracting foreign investors into emerging market economies has always been difficult. Nevertheless, thanks to the extended period of near-zero interest rates, emerging markets were blessed with investors hungry for higher returns. The plentiful supply of money coupled with historically low yields in rich countries led investors to explore higher yields in riskier markets across various assets, including public equities, public debt, private equity, and venture capital. The lower cost of capital allowed investors to finance opportunities that otherwise would have been unfeasible.
Unfortunately, the party is over, and the pain is just beginning. The US Federal Reserve has started an aggressive interest rate hiking campaign, which will likely be the sharpest rise in interest rates since former chair of the Federal Reserve Paul Volcker’s war on inflation from 1979 to 1982. Many economists believe this will likely lead to a recession in the world’s biggest economy.
A US economic slowdown or a recession couldn’t come at a worse time for emerging markets, particularly those in MENA, where most are fighting chronic unemployment, especially among youth and women, slowing growth, and higher debt levels. Large oil-exporting countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) — such as Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) — are better positioned given heightened commodity prices. However, their lack of interest rate autonomy given the dollar peg limits their ability to deviate their monetary policy from that of the United States.
Additionally, the global demand destruction cannot be ignored as the post-pandemic surge in demand levels off, with consumers beginning to feel the pinch from inflation and rising interest rates. This may put a damper on global energy demand and tourism. Inflation also impacts global emerging markets, causing a perfect storm for the arrival of tough economic times. Currency depreciation against the dollar is increasing the cost of imports and repaying foreign currency debts for banks, companies, and governments, many of which racked up significant debt during the pandemic.
Research suggests that the impact of US monetary tightening on emerging markets will vary depending on the factors for the change. Interest rate hikes driven by US economic expansion will likely lead to positive spillover effects that benefit more than hurt emerging markets and, therefore, are neutral on capital flows. On the other hand, interest rate hikes to fend off inflation will likely lead to emerging markets disruption. Here, there are two key points to mention. First, there is a more significant effect on emerging markets from rising interest rates due to inflation than those due to growth. Second, emerging economies with stable domestic conditions and policies tend to fare better and experience less volatility. In a global economic environment with slower growth, higher cost of capital, and a shrinking capital pool for riskier assets, discerning international investors will consolidate their investments in the highest-quality emerging markets.
The Goldilocks moment experienced in markets over the past couple of years is subsiding. Geopolitical risk, inflation, and US interest rates are all rising. In addition, two crucial macroeconomic trends will impact the future capital flows to emerging markets. First, globalization policies that have focused overwhelmingly on cost efficiency and rationalization will now focus on resiliency and values-based investments. At an Atlantic Council event on April 13, US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen articulated a blueprint for US trade policy, stating, “The US would now favor the friend-shoring of supply chains to a large number of trusted countries that share a set of norms and values about how to operate in the global economy.”
Second, Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) issues are gaining more attention with countries and companies putting them on the agenda. For an indication of what’s to come, consider Total, the French oil and gas giant, marking its shift to renewable energy and rebranding to TotalEnergies, as well as Engine No. 1, a US impact hedge fund, hijacking ExxonMobil’s board to drive a green strategy at the company. As a result of the confluence of these complex issues on top of challenging macro-economic concerns, investor appetite for emerging market assets is weakening. It will become more discerning in the coming years.
But all isn’t lost. There will be divergent outcomes and risks depending on the domestic conditions of each emerging market. Thoughtful investors will continue to seek opportunities in emerging markets, especially in private markets, where the predominant share of opportunities exists. However, as financial conditions tighten, differentiation between emerging markets will increase. MENA countries can better position themselves amongst others competing for capital by:
Attracting and empowering strong policymakers to make dynamic and bold decisions that complex changes in the global economy require. Deepening the bench of talented policymakers should be another priority.
Driving policies supportive of private sector development and investment. Reducing government-owned enterprises and providing ample space for private companies to grow and prosper on an even playing field is critical to building a dynamic economy.
Continuing to nurture the nascent entrepreneurial ecosystem. Entrepreneurial economies are consistently more resilient and lead to better outcomes over the long term.
Enhancing regional and international economic integration through bilateral and multilateral agreements with more robust economies. Proactive engagement with multilateral financial institutions will also increase financial stability and resilience.
Standardizing policies according to global norms for greater regional and international integration. Investor appetite is greatly improved in emerging markets that adopt regulations and standards from developed countries.
Increasing transparency and reducing uncertainty around laws and regulations. Investors and companies need more clarity on the game’s rules in order to play it confidently and competently.
Several MENA countries continue to take bold steps to improve their global competitiveness. One such example is the privatization programs of government-owned enterprises in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE to increase liquidity in local capital markets, improve transparency, and expand private sector participation. Those countries that maintain their momentum will be clear winners in the coming years. History is rich with evidence that economic challenges are followed by periods of historic gains.
Amjad Ahmad is Director and Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council’s empower ME Initiative at the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East.
America is in a fast pursuit toward achieving President Biden’s stated goal that “we are going to get rid of fossil fuels” to achieve the Green New Deal’s (GND) pursuit of wind turbines and solar panels to provide electricity to run the world, but WAIT, everything in our materialistic lives and economies cannot exist without crude oil, coal, and natural gas.
Everything that needs electricity, from lights, vehicles, iPhones, defibrillators, computers, telecommunications, etc., are all made with the oil derivatives manufactured from crude oil.
The need for electricity will decrease over time without crude oil. With no new things to power, and the deterioration of current things made with oil derivatives over the next few decades and centuries, the existing items that need electricity will not have replacement parts and will ultimately become obsolete in the future and the need for electricity will diminish accordingly.
The Green New Deal proposal calls on the federal government to wean the United States from fossil fuels and focus on electricity from wind and solar, but why? What will there be to power in the future without fossil fuels?
Rather than list the more than 6,000 products made from the oil derivatives manufactured from crude oil, I will let the readers list what is NOT dependent on oil derivatives that will need electricity. They can begin listing them here ______ ________ _______.
And by the way, crude oil came before electricity. The electricity that came AFTER the discovery of oil, is comprised of components made with those same oil derivatives from crude oil. Thus, getting rid of crude oil, also eliminates our ability to make wind turbines, solar panels, as well as those vehicles intended to be powered by an EV battery.
Today, Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) divesting in fossil fuels are all the rage with big banks, Wall Street firms, and financial institutions, to divest in all 3 fossil fuels of coal, natural gas, and crude oil. Both President Biden and the United Nations support allowing banks and investment giants to collude to reshape economies and our energy infrastructure toward JUST electricity from wind and solar.
A reduction in the usage of coal, natural gas, and crude oil would lead us to life as it was without the crude oil infrastructure and those products manufactured from oil that did not exist before 1900, i.e., the decarbonized world that existed in the 1800’s and before when life was hard, and life expectancy was short.
Ridding the world of crude oil would result in less manufactured oil derivatives and lead to a reduction in each of the following:
The 50,000 heavy-weight and long-range merchant ships that are moving products throughout the world.
The 50,000 heavy-weight and long-range jets used by commercial airlines, private usage, and the military.
The number of wind turbines and solar panels as they are made with oil derivatives from crude oil.
The pesticides to control locusts and other pests.
The tires for the billions of vehicles.
The asphalt for the millions of miles of roadways.
The medications and medical equipment.
The water filtration systems.
The sanitation systems.
The communications systems, including cell phones, computers, iPhones, and iPads.
The number of cruise ships that now move twenty-five million passengers around the world.
The space program.
Before we rid the world of all three fossil fuels of coal, natural gas, and crude oil, the greenies need to identify the replacement or clone for crude oil, to keep the world’s population of 8 billion fed and healthy, and economies running with the more than 6,000 products now made with manufactured derivatives from crude oil, along with the fuels manufactured from crude oil to move the heavy-weight and long-range needs of more than 50,000 jets and more than 50,000 merchant ships, and the military and space programs.
Open government policies should be focused on reducing our usage, via both conservation and improved efficiencies, to REDUCE not ELIMINATE crude oil, and reduce its footprint as much as practical and possible, is truly the only plan that will work.
Wind and solar may be able to generate electricity from breezes and sunshine, but they cannot manufacture anything. Again, what is the need for the Green New Deal’s electricity from breezes and sunshine when you have nothing new to power in the future?
Ronald Stein, Founder and Ambassador for Energy & Infrastructure of PTS Advance, headquartered in Irvine, California.
Start-ups are these days rewriting the big MENA growth. A story that sums up the new trend at this conjecture in business life in the MENA region. Most importantly, it is showing the way of a hydrocarbon-based economy moving into a more diversified one . . .
The above featured image is of World Economic Forum that explored the same topic back in 2019. Here is the story as it stands in 2022:
Saudi start-ups rewriting the big MENA growth story
Start-ups from across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) had raised nearly $375 million during the past month, with the Saudi firms taking a sizeable chunk of the pie, netting $219 million across 23 investment deals in February, according to a report.
With 58% of overall funding in the wider region going towards Saudi Arabia, it is no surprise to hear that headcount has grown by 20% within the kingdom’s start-ups over the past 12 months, said the report by leading recruitment consultancy Robert Walters Group, adding that this figure is expected to grow further this year as the government continues to create the ideal environment for start-up growth and international investment.
The competitive recruitment landscape between big corporates and start-ups continues to grow, with approximately 3 times the number of jobs posted vs available talent.
Faisal Saqallah, the Consultant from Robert Walters Saudi Arabia, shares his thoughts on why start-ups are winning the race on talent.
The Career Accelerator
With relatively flat structures and hands-on founders and CEOs – new starters can find themselves lining up into the senior leadership team from day one, explained Saqallah.
By taking on several different responsibilities and working closely with senior members of the team, start-up environments enable you to prove your worth early on, as well providing an opportunity for your work will be recognised if it has had a direct impact on the business, he stated.
Unlike within corporate structures, leaders will be able to clearly see your involvement in a project’s initial stages to completion, and as a result, the rate of advancement at start-ups tends to be much faster.
According to the Robert Walters Report – Act Like a Start-Up and Win the War on Talent – 50% of professionals in Saudi Arabia are interested in working for a start-up for their next career move.
“This is not surprising therefore to see that our survey found that over half of professionals (52%) would be willing to take a pay cut and join a start-up if they saw an opportunity to progress much quicker than they would do within a corporate set-up,” stated Saqallah.
“After any period of economic change, we typically see a wave of entrepreneurial or start-up activity – and so it doesn’t surprise me to hear of the success of this sector, so much so that Saudi Arabia now ranks sixth in global entrepreneurial competitiveness,” he stated.
“But what is most interesting is how these relatively-new 10-30 person companies are managing to draw some of the county’s top talent away from established firms who typically offer much higher levels of job security,” noted Saqallah.
“Post pandemic we have seen a significant shift in what professionals want from their employer – with purpose, culture, and people, rated above competitive pay and the well mapped-out corporate ladder,” he added.
Start-ups are designed to have high growth potential – and so it is not surprising to see that on average decisions are processed 4x quicker in a start-up than within a large firm (250+).
The changing and fast-paced nature of a start-up will keep employees on their toes, encouraging them to develop new skills as they go, and push boundaries beyond the initial job description.
Working for a start-up, you’ll understand how the whole company works and develops commercial acumen not expected of you when lower down in corporate structures. Some start-up leaders argue that these on-the-job business lessons are in fact better than an MBA.
Our survey found that 33% of professionals are leaving their corporate jobs in order to ‘try something new,’ with a further 15% looking to reskill.
Being a start-up team member comes with great responsibilities. No matter what your title is, your work will make an impact on the company’s growth and success – and so in turn this will make you feel like the job you’re doing has an actual purpose and is a huge motivation.
In fact, a third of professionals (34%) state that the reason they move to a start-up is for challenging and interesting work – with many stating that the skills they adopt in self-management and task prioritisation then cross over into their personal life.
According to the Robert Walters, working for a fast-growth start-up can be an intense experience, so you’ll inevitably become more proactive and ambitious outside of work too.
You’ll be constantly thinking about how to improve things, be more aware of problems and how to solve them and become more open to new cultures and ways of thinking. You’ll also learn to love challenges and even look for them!, it stated.
True Team Spirit
Almost half of professionals (42%) state that the most important value when looking for a future workplace is ‘colleagues and culture that inspire them to do their best – that’s why the company culture at start-ups is something to be valued.
Due to their smaller size, start-ups tend to foster a close-knit, collaborative environment, that encourages people to help where they can on tasks outside of their original remit.
“You’ll be surrounded by highly hardworking, talented, and ambitious people willing to do the impossible. There is a huge motivation to learn from others and contribute with your own knowledge and experience,” explained Saqallah.
Start-ups often favour a fluid structure over a rigid corporate-inspired hierarchy, enabling open discussion and co-operation between all team members.
It is not surprising then to hear that 30% of professionals state that the most appealing thing about a start-up is the open & effective management structure.
Talent the only criteria
Start-ups have a core focus of finding the very best talent who can help achieve their ambitious goals, and as a result, remove any sort of socio-economic or geographical barriers in order to find their stars.
As a result within a start-up, it is not surprising to come across all kinds of co-workers, from all kinds of nationalities, backgrounds, and ideologies – and due to the small nature of the teams, there will naturally be ample cross-over working with colleagues with different skill sets or working styles.
This strong multicultural environment can open your mind beyond work and tasks. It also leads employees to have a global vision.
And diversity doesn’t just rest with the people, it is safe to say that almost no two days are the same within a start-up. Typically, most members of the team have to ‘juggle many hats and take on duties outside of their specific role to contribute to the success of the wider business.
The diversity of tasks helps you to develop new skills very quickly, added to that you will often be learning directly from the founder of the company and/or senior employees.
This an invaluable opportunity when you are in the early stages of your career. Not only will this keep you stimulated in your day-to-day role, but it will also give you the opportunity to find out what you are most interested in and discover what you are best at.
Innovation is the key
Start-ups are different from traditional businesses primarily because they are grounded on disruptive innovation, created to address a perceived ‘problem’ in the market.
Joining a start-up means adopting an ‘out of the box’ mindset – an ability to think on your feet and get creative with smaller budgets and fewer resources.
Autonomy is not considered a perk within a start-up but a given – in fact, it is the reason why 28% of professionals leave a corporate job to join a newly established business.
However, it is not all ‘small-time,’ in order to aid your creativity you’ll find yourself learning and using the most modern and innovative tools and platforms on a daily basis – whilst shaky to start off with you’ll soon start to embrace and speak the ‘start-up language’ in no time!
Many start-ups have an ‘exit strategy’ in mind, which means you will be working towards an ambitious deadline right from the get-go, according to Robert Walters Group.
Growth targets will be ambitious, but if achieved by the team then they stand to cash in from significant rounds of funding as shares are often offered as part of job packages as a way of competing with corporate pay, it stated.
At a start-up, your hard work can payback sometimes 10x the amount you’d get in yearly corporate bonuses within 5-7 years of joining a fast-growth start-up. The key here is to join a business whose product and vision you will truly believe in, it added.
The developed countries of the “global north” are responsible for 92% of excess global emissions, according to a 2020 study in The Lancet Planetary Health. Yet it is the rest of the world – the “global south” – that disproportionately bears the brunt of climate change. Emergency measures to reflect more of the Sun could help temporarily avoid the worst impacts, but it must serve to improve the safety of those most affected.
Somewhere between 15% and 40% of CO₂ emissions will remain in the atmosphere longer than 1,000 years. Since so much climate change is already “locked in”, any strategy to tackle it based on emissions reduction alone, regardless of how quickly we reduce them, would still result in catastrophic ice losses in the Arctic and Antarctica leading to sea level rise, loss of low-lying countries and hundreds of millions of climate refugees. It would still mean global food and water shortages, massive flooding and wild fires, and a permanent loss of ecosystems. These devastating changes will continue to disproportionately impact the global south.
We believe the best way to avert major disaster is to develop and deploy temporary schemes which can partially shield some of the Earth from incoming solar radiation, at least until emissions reductions and carbon capture and storage can be scaled up.
There are two main approaches which have very different characteristics. The first involves releasing small reflective particles into the upper atmosphere, which would reflect sunlight back into space. Known as “stratospheric aerosol injection”, this process would cool the globe for several years or more, but it is controversial because of the potential for global and long-lasting unintended consequences.
The other approach, “marine cloud brightening”, involves ships generating sea spray. The water droplets evaporate and the resulting salt crystals get carried up into the air. This gives clouds something to form around, and helps cool the planet since the clouds formed by small salt crystals reflect more of the Sun’s energy.
As these particles are returned to the ocean in a matter of weeks, it is much easier to “turn off” cloud brightening if ever it was deemed necessary. Together with its potential to be deployed on a more regional basis, this makes it more likely to be acceptable to the public and policymakers.
Most of what we understand about these technologies come from computer simulations known as climate models. There have been some real-world experiments, however. For instance China has injected particles in the atmosphere to try and seed new clouds and encourage precipitation in remote mountains, and has covered a glacier with cloth to prevent it melting. In Peru, authorities once painted a mountain white in order to reflect more heat and protect its glacier (darker colours are more absorbent). There are plans to protect Australia’s Great Barrier Reef with cloud brightening.
These initial steps give us valuable insights into the possibilities and limitations of these technologies. But further funding and research is needed to understand the limitations and risks.
There are technical questions to be addressed, but there are also critical social science issues – research will need to examine the contexts in which these kinds of technology develop, with a focus on dimensions of gender, ethics, justice, equity and sustainable development among communities most affected by climate change. Research collaborations and governance mechanisms must evolve to provide space for leadership from these communities, which will in turn strengthen global capacities to develop and deploy safe, inclusive technologies as an intermediate solution to climate change.
Potential to avert catastrophe
The cost of climate injustice cannot be easily quantified. However, communities least able to adapt, perhaps due to a lack of resources, pre-existing conflicts, or because they’re based in an area already prone to droughts or hurricanes, may well argue that no amount of climate change is safe. Technological advancements such as marine cloud brightening mean there is a potential pathway to avert catastrophe and this needs to be further developed.
If we place human life and global environmental security at the heart of our response, we must explore potential technologies that could save countless lives and stave off the worst impacts of climate change until mitigation policies catch up with reality. But crucially, decisions on how the research is undertaken and whether interventions should be deployed have to be led by (not just involve) those who will otherwise be most affected by climate change.
One possible way forward is to establish research centres in the global south. Exchange between centres could be co-hosted by an inter-governmental body such as the UN’s environment programme UNEP, together with civil society and academia. Something similar happened during the Green Revolution in the 1950s and 1960s when new agricultural technologies spread worldwide, and can be seen in humanitarian situations today.
Regional bodies, such as the African Union and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, could get involved, though the question of who will actually deploy these technologies – which country’s navy or air force will spray the particles – should be decided by international agreement. Nations most affected by the effects of climate change (and least able to adapt) should play leadership roles in not just steering the research but overseeing who, how and when any deployment is made.
LOLWAH AL-KHATER, Assistant Foreign Minister at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the State of Qatar, is Executive Director of the Doha Forum and BRIAN FINLAY, President and CEO of the Stimson Center elaborate an article of Project Syndicate on how Building the Green-Recovery Consensus should be undertaken as off these days.
Even if everyone can agree in principle that the global recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic should be equitable and sustainable, that doesn’t mean it will be. What is needed is a concrete roadmap with clear goals, timelines, and innovative ideas to ensure that policymakers around the world are on the same page.
March 21, 2022
DOHA – While Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is capturing global headlines, COVID-19 continues to wreak socioeconomic havoc around the world. The pandemic has taken more than six million lives, pushed 124 million people into extreme poverty, and impeded progress toward achieving the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. Fortunately, around five billion people have now received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and the World Health Organization and Gavi have set a goal of vaccinating 70% of people in all countries by this July.
Notwithstanding the horrific war in Ukraine, the pandemic and its lasting toll will continue to top the list of pressing global concerns alongside climate change. The effects of the latter crisis are already being felt daily, as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Sixth Assessment Report shows. Just recently, extreme temperatures and droughts have ravaged West Asia and North Africa. Rising sea levels are threatening many island states and low-lying countries. Catastrophic flooding has inundated parts of Europe and China. And wildfires have torn across the American West and large swaths of Australia.
Scientists now warn that “business as usual” will likely increase the average global temperature, relative to the pre-industrial level, by a catastrophic 3-4º Celsius by the end of the century. To keep global warming at a far safer level, below 1.5ºC, carbon dioxide emissions will need to fall by 45% (from 2010 levels) by 2030, and then to net-zero by 2050.
Now that we know Omicron to be less deadly than earlier COVID-19 variants, we should use this moment to build on the momentum generated last November at the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow. The world needs to draft a recovery plan that goes well beyond pandemic response by also starting to tackle climate change. The recovery must be not only broad-based but also green.
What does this mean in practical terms? In advance of the 20th edition of the Doha Forum on March 26-27, our organizations teamed up to explore 20 targeted initiatives for driving a just, healthy, and sustainable global recovery. These are outlined in a recently published report, Building Back Together & Greener.
To make the recovery green and sustainable, we propose a Global Green Hydrogen Alliance to facilitate more efficient, climate-friendly methods of producing hydrogen. Once established, the next steps would include setting up a global inventory of green hydrogen programs, protecting intellectual property and licensing rights while expanding global access, and encouraging alliance-wide standard setting for safe storage and transportation.
A fair and inclusive recovery requires more investment in human capital – particularly to upgrade workers’ skills – and an emphasis on supporting the people who are most at risk. Planning processes should privilege public and private financing for low-carbon activities and infrastructure that have the greatest potential to generate jobs for young people and other vulnerable groups facing employment challenges.
To ensure that the recovery supports health and well-being, we need a Global Fund for Social Protection to assist developing-country governments in providing adequate social programs. Such a fund would boost coordination efforts and mobilize domestic and external resources to provide a buffer against economic shocks, including those induced by climate-related environmental disasters.
Finally, to realize the potential of digitalization in advancing the recovery, we need to promote large-scale investment in information- and communications technology infrastructure, both to achieve digital equity and to leverage the economic, health, and environmental potential of new technologies. International organizations and governments should work with businesses to provide effective and reliable digital connectivity, including through targeted investments in the steady digitalization of most (if not all) public services.
Several significant international meetings will be held over the next seven months, each of which will provide an opportunity to take steps toward a shared recovery. But marshalling governments, businesses, and civil society behind a coherent, representative, and sustained global implementation strategy will require a culminating meeting.
That is why we are calling for a “Green Pandemic Recovery Summit,” to be orchestrated by the United Nations and the G20. A two-day event, timed to coincide with the annual UN General Assembly in September, would help to ensure that political leaders at the highest levels commit to pursuing sustainable and equitable socio-economic development in the post-COVID era.
The trillions of dollars spent by wealthy countries during the pandemic shows that there are financial tools available to tackle serious challenges. What is needed is political will, creative market incentives, and a practical blueprint, with clear goals, timelines, and programming ideas.
Resources drawn from related initiatives can help. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Build Back Better World partnership, and national-level “green deals” are generally aligned in their key objectives. UN Secretary-General António Guterres’sOur Common Agenda report offers additional timely and ambitious ideas for delivering global public goods and addressing major risks.
People and countries are understandably still focused on the pandemic, the fear that humanity is nearing the point of no return with respect to climate change, the war in Ukraine, and other global threats. Fortunately, we already have the multilateral institutions that we need to forge a global political consensus for tackling these overlapping crises. We now must leverage these tools accordingly.
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