Economic diversity more vital than ever

24 March 2021
The Middle East and North Africa is rich with project opportunities for investors, developers, contractors, manufacturers and suppliers

With about $4.1tn of projects planned or under way across the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region, every country is investing heavily to diversify and expand their economies, and to meet the needs of fast-growing populations. 

Some $3.3tn-worth of projects – more than three quarters of the total market value – are at the pre-execution planning stage, meaning the pipeline for future opportunities is vast. This is particularly true for the GCC, which accounts for over two thirds of all projects in the region, and Egypt, a country that is enjoying a strong economic renaissance.

Projects by sector

National oil companies are investing in upstream oil and gas projects to find new reserves, increase capacity and improve efficiency in their assets. They are also pushing ahead with downstream plans to produce higher-value refined oil and petrochemicals products.

The power and water sector is also booming as governments seek to meet rising demand for electricity and water, while at the same time increasing energy security and reducing carbon dioxide emissions by investing in clean energy.

Transport and logistics capacity is a key component of the region’s economic plans as it seeks to build high-speed networks, while ambitious city masterplans are shaping a wave of smart city projects.

Some $3.3tn-worth of projects in the Mena region are at the pre-execution planning stage

The construction of building and real estate projects is the biggest segment of all, driven by private property investment and the development of schools, hospitals and other social infrastructure projects.   

But as well as the immense opportunities, major challenges also exist. Covid-19 has delayed planned projects. Weak oil prices have resulted in cuts to project spending, while the collapse in economic activity due to lockdowns has dampened the outlook for non-oil sectors, adding to falling property prices.

Despite the uncertainty, much of the region remains wealthy and committed to their development plans. This will continue to drive huge investments into capital projects. While 2020 saw a sharp contraction in the value of contract awards across the region, project activity is set to rebound in 2021 as the economy and oil prices continue to recover. 

Updated to assess the impact of Covid-19 on the projects market, Mena Projects 2021 provides a comprehensive review of the market at the start of 2021.
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