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MENA Development Partners

MENA Development Partners LLC

Developing successful business relationships in the Middle East.

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Doing Business in the Middle East


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MEGA Construction Projects in the Middle East

Posted on April 4, 2013 at 12:32 PM Comments comments (246)
Mega construction projects in the Middle East are once again on the uptick. While many of these mega projects are government funded, there are some that are results of foreign investment.  Because of this, the construction industry across the Middle East is experiencing a marked resurgence & economic boom again. I am particularly intrigued by the new economic cities in Saudi being built under the patronage of His Majesty King Abdullah:

  • King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC) in Rabigh
  • Prince Abdul Aziz Bin Mousaed Economic City (PABMEC) in Hael
  • Knowledge Economic City (KEC) in Medinah
  • Jazan Economic City (JEC) in Jazan

But these mega projects are not just happening in Saudi Arabia, they also include the  Al Maktoum International Airport, and the Abu Dhabi Islands. There is also an increased interest including tourism, health care, education and renewable energy (which I will be talking about in my next blog!)

25 Top Construction Companies in Saudi Arabia

Posted on April 1, 2013 at 3:37 PM Comments comments (517)
Since so much of MENA Development Partners' focus is on the Saudi construction industry, I found this article in this week's edition of

Saudi Arabia’s most important construction companies. Compiled by Construction Week and Venture Middle East.

Who are the key companies behind one of the biggest national redevelopment programmes in the world?

The Big 25 List shows the companies that are constructing the new kingdom, from roads and railways to the hundreds of thousands of new homes and complete industrial and medical cities.

The list is dominated by family-run firms like the Saudi Binladin Group and Saudi Oger, both of which have held their place for decades and still secure the largest projects.
However, the last few years have also seen a proliferation of fast-growing local firms along with joint ventures between KSA contractors and international companies.

With the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia only faltering slightly during the economic crisis and in the wake of heady government investment across sectors the market is in many ways more fiercely contested than ever.

The 25 contractors listed below are ranked in order of founding year in the field of contracting in the Kingdom.

Saudi's Big 25
  1. Saudi Bin Ladin Group
  2. Al Rashid Trading & Contracting Co. (RTCC)
  3. Al Ayuni Investment & Contracting Co.
  4. Al Harbi Trading & Contracting Co. Ltd.
  5. Arabian Bemco Contracting Co.
  6. Al Shoula Group
  7. Almabani General Contractors
  8. Al Fouzan Trading & General Construction Company
  9. ABV Rock Group
  10. El Seif Engineering & Contacting
  11. Baytur Construction & Contracting
  12. International Centre for Construction Company (ICC)
  13. Saudi Oger
  14. Freyssinet Saudi Arabia
  15. A.S. Alsayed & Partners Contracting
  16. Saudi Lebanese Tarouk Contracting Co.
  17. Al Arrab Trading & Contracting
  18. Al Latifia Trading & Contracting
  19. Azmeel Contracting Establishment
  20. Abdul Rahman Saad Al Rashid & Sons (Artar)
  21. FARE Constructions - Fawaz Al Hokair Trading & Contracting Establishment
  22. Al Habtoor Leighton
  23. Al Rajhi Construction (ARC)
  24. TAV Construction
  25. Arabtec Construction

Why so much on Saudi Arabia vs. other countries in the region

Posted on March 23, 2013 at 9:42 PM Comments comments (58)
I feel like I need to add a bit of explanation why so much of the section on the "Business News in the Middle East" in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Without sounding too simplistic, because there is so much more in business news coming out of Saudi than other countries in the region these days.

There are always times when one country's economic boom is much sexier and interesting than another's. And this happens to currently be the case in the Kingdom. (While they probably would not like to refer to their boom as sexy, it certainly is much more compelling.) "

Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency's policy is likely to mirror that of the US; consequently, we do not foresee any changes before 2014,” the National Commercial Bank (NCB) said in its report yesterday.

Arab News also commented "The robust economy facilitated the possibility of maintaining an elevated level of credit expansions as investments increase within the Kingdom. Local banks are expected to maintain the current level of credit with a more selective approach for 2013."

So I believe it is Sutton's Law that simply states "Go where the money is... and go there often." Although this saying may be an urban myth, I ask you, need I say more?

Women in Business in the Middle East

Posted on March 22, 2013 at 9:23 PM Comments comments (54)
This particular post makes me a little nervous. As a woman, who has always had a career, I obviously understand how important it is for women to have rights to work, earn money and do whatever needs to be done to support themselves, their children and even sometimes, their husbands. I also respect tradition, culture and above all, religion. In my opinion, there can't be one answer or solution to this very complex issue.

A few weeks ago, the Middle East Excellence Awards Institute honored women in leadership by recognizing a select group of women in business in various business and government organizations who play a distinct role in the regional and global development.These nominees, winners and participants in these kinds of events deserve the highest accolades. Being a woman who has achieved excellence in a region that has a lot of red tape and road blocks for them to get past have done something truly extraordinary.

While some of the Middle Eastern countries educate to the highest level and hence have some of the most capable doctors, business women and even world leaders. There are others in the region where girls receive no education, can barely read & write and are not seen as part of society. Many of these countries that view and treat women in this manner do so in the name of their religion. Why is it that in a region with countries following the same religion can some give women the highest ranks and respect while others put them on the same level as farm animals?

While I may be jumping around here a bit and not following standard writing styles, I guess that is okay when it is a blog expressing my own opinions... but violence against women is NOT something that only happens in the Middle East. It happens everywhere!!!

Clearly this is not an issue that will be easily fixed, nor as I said above is it something that will only have one option as a solution. What he can hopefully do is continue awareness of the issue of women in business in the Middle East (and women's rights in general). Perhaps one solution is that we put more emphasis on the business to start focusing more on women. Even beyond eduction, if businesses start emphasizing the importance of women being part of the business culture, maybe that would be a baby step that could be have a huge impact on women's rights. Just a thought...

I also found this terrific website that I am it isn't getting more attention. I think the UN does more for the world than any other organization.

Saudi construction sector needs companies with experience - why won't anyone go??

Posted on March 21, 2013 at 6:34 PM Comments comments (47)
With almost as much as US $300 billion worth of infrastructure projects – including things like water desalination plants, power plants, roads and highways as well as like schools and hospitals and sea ports– the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is planning, designing, bidding & constructing to ramp-up to be the "Saudi Arabia of the Future" by 2020. With this massive undertaking, there is a great need in the construction sector for companies with experience in these kinds of large-scale projects. So the question I am asking... where are these companies going to come from and how do we get them connected with the Saudi officials to learn about their capabilities?

Transportation (rail, metro, roads, bridges) projects alone such as account for at least US $175 billion. Water & power are approximately US $59 billion. Health care and education and similar types projects the same approximate US $59. Who is going to help make these aggressive projects happen?

As an American (and Capitalist), all I can think of is, "what the heck, why are American companies not running as fast as they can to get a piece of the action??" The American economy STINKS, all these jobs and projects that have been promised by the current administration when elected the first time & again the second told us all about these great new construction & infrastructure opportunities for American companies. (This blog is not intended to be political and my opinions are a bit more than transparent, sorry!) But let's face it, these projects just ain't happening.

Okay, so getting back to all these humungous (and already funded) projects in Saudi &  American construction companies sending folks over in hoards but that is just not happening either. Even the strongest US construction companies who offer the best projects in everything from hospitals to roads to power plants have NO DESIRE TO do business there. They might having a few chats and then politely explain this is not an area they want to do business in. What is baffling to me is, there is no business here... why not give it a shot.

More on Water Desalination

Posted on March 18, 2013 at 8:24 PM Comments comments (62)
In my continued fascination (okay, obsession) with learning about water desalination in the Middle East, I saw today that the Governor of Riyadh is launching a 1.6 Saudi Riyals water desal effort. What makes this one so interesting is that he has VERY AGGRESSIVELY planned the project, which is normally an 18-month time frame into a 6-month window.

I hope they have some amazing project managers who work well together, realize the importance of the project time-line and who speak-up when necessary to ensure that the project does not fail. I really hope that someone invests in Joseph Grenny's books/ CDs on "Silence Fails" before they start the project on April 6th!

I found this very interesting article by George Pitagorsky he states that "It is usually when the project is over or under managed that we have failures.  Common project management causes of failure are:
  • “Wishful” Planning – Planning that is based on the desire to have something done by a deadline and within a budget limit without regard to the reality of the situation.
  • Lack of portfolio management – initiating projects without regard to whether they are justified based on sound business reasons
  • Poor project control communication – Hiding the reality of project trouble until it is too late to do anything but bemoan a horrible outcome
  • Lack of accountability – Allowing project stakeholders to fail to deliver what is expected of them without accountability.
  • Absentee sponsors – Sponsors failing to perform their functions to provide direction and leverage." - Project Times 21 December 2011

Pakistan-Iran gas pipeline defies US

Posted on March 18, 2013 at 10:28 AM Comments comments (30)
Jonathan Marcus BBC Diplomatic Correspondent wrote "The pipeline decision is bound to provide an additional irritant in relations between Washington and Islamabad. The US has consistently warned that the pipeline - if built - could potentially lead to US sanctions against Pakistan as part of Washington's efforts to contain Iran's nuclear programme."

I don't think there is a more tumultuous relationship than that of the US & Pakistan. While it is often said that "we are friends and respect each others' countries", I doubt that most people, whether US or Pakistani would believe for a moment that this is true. Let's see, Bin Laden was hiding there for who knows how long, the US constantly attacks them with drones. US feels they should be thankful for all the aid we send them but little of it is actually seen. (Many also feel this aid is leading to more corruption within Pakistan).

Now there is additional discussions and development around the gas pipeline that the US is so adamantly against. This will undoubtedly hurt the already fragile relationship between the two countries and sanctions against Pakistan will be detrimental to any hopes of peach between the two nations.

With elections coming up in Pakistan, the US should be watching very closely for any breakdown in Pakistan's democratic process. This in addition to imposing sanctions would set back prospects for stability years to come. Have we not learned from the existing wars and the political unrest in the region that the US cannot "fix" what is happening internally in these countries. Does the US really need to be involved in Pakistan's decision to build the gas pipeline with Iran? How will it benefit us as a country and us as US citizens? In my opinion, it will do nothing but continued harm. I never believe it is always the problem of "someone else", but come-on, enough is enough. Let's show this generation of kids who have grown-up with nothing but war that  there can indeed be peace and the world is a great and amazing place and that countries are here to HELP each other, not to "teach them a lesson".

Saudi vs UAE Construction Investment

Posted on March 17, 2013 at 10:36 AM Comments comments (42)
While much of the construction world as well as the global media have focused on the significance of the cost and magnitude of the projects in the UAE, it seems that the attention to the massive size and amount of projects in the Kingdom have been hidden "under the covers". That said, there are a few key issues to consider as we are close to entering the second quarter of 2013...

Clearly, there is a big difference between KSA and UAE; KSA is a much bigger market and there are many more opportunities there these days.  Not only in terms of size but in terms of growth potential.  In the next few years KSA offers significantly more prospects than any other place in the world right now, in terms of the construction industry. It is not a market to be ignored by any global construction companies. The KSA government budget, recently announced, makes the best projects available in the 1st three months or so after the budget. Thus, right now is the best time to enter Saudi or ramp-up business development opportunities if there is already a presence in the Kingdom. Basically it doesn't make any sense for a large scale construction company to not be present in KSA and be in UAE, where the prospects are comparatively non-existent, these days.

MENA Development Partners would like to talk to you about some of these opportunities and see how we can help your company specifically about getting plugged-in to these lucrative projects! Please contact us at [email protected] to schedule some time for a discussion.

Water Desalination Projects in Middle East

Posted on March 15, 2013 at 10:50 AM Comments comments (38)
I must admit, until a few months ago, I really did not understand (or have an interest in) the whole water desalination process or its importance in the global water supply.

The process in a nutshell is simply taking non-potable water, "cleaning it out", taking out things like salt, waste, other chemicals, etc. and making it suitable for drinking. Clean water is something most Westerners completely take for granted. However, this is a struggle for most of the world's population. Clean water is just not that readily available.

Through the desal process, which can be done on salt water, or on the water that is "left behind" from such things as oil and gas drilling or power plant remnants, etc. So the Middle East due to much of its land being surrounded by salt water and the left over "stuff" in the water that comes-out of the drilling for oil, is a perfect candidate for utilizing water desalination... which they have been doing successfully for decades.

That said, given the major economic boom happening in the Middle East and all of the available jobs, there is just not enough clean water to go around to meet the demands of its new demographics. For example, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia just announced the building of the world's largest desalination plant with a capacity of 600,000 cubic meters of water daily. That is massive (but still not enough)!!

There are all kinds of global conferences and associations on water and governments and businesses realize the importance. Finding solutions is not cheap and it is certainly not easy. There are amazing new companies out there with brilliant scientists creating new technologies to try and help with the global water crisis. In my opinion, acknowledging the issue (which for the most part has been done) is the first step. Educating the Western world on the issue needs a lot more attention.

We have seen what happens when the fear of running out of oil can do to the world... just think about what happens when the fear of running out of water hits the main stream media. It is not something that just happens "to other people". Clean water should never be considered a luxury but unless the Western world (particularly the US) begins to be educated on the reality of the world's water supply, we will continue to be oblivious to what the situation really looks like!

We need to support these great scientists creating the next-generation water desalination technology and encourage out governments to take the issue of clean water very seriously. Because while it is currently a problem of "someone else", it can very quickly become our problem too.

Construction projects in the Middle East

Posted on March 14, 2013 at 10:19 PM Comments comments (39)
Doing Business in the Middle East
There are currently several large construction projects in the Middle East which could be subcontracted immediately.
These are various common construction projects like hospitals, sea ports, housing complexes, etc. in the range of US $20 million to approx $1.6 billion which we can help in acquiring on a sub-contracting basis immediately.