In terms of growing markets, the Middle East presents a unique opportunity as its economy continues to grow at approximately 1.5% to 3.5% per year rather consistently. (MENA) Keeping this in mind, there are elements and challenges that any firm from the West need to consider before diving in head-first into an unknown market.
The Middle East is a complex area of the world. The culture is somewhat foreign to many of us here in the West. In the Muslim world, religion not only impacts the personal faith of each individual but in many cases it is the basis for the laws of the land. (Moran et al., pg. 298) Being Muslim is more of a way of life than many of us can understand here in our western culture. There is more unity and collectivism within the Muslim faith than we are accustomed to here in our individualistic lifestyle and this is where we may struggle in our dealings or even understanding of organizations based in the Middle East as well as their mindset. Keeping this in mind, we need to understand that the region seems to be in a constant state of flux.
During recent years there have been uprisings against the tribal and patriarchal regimes that have existed since the 1920s with increased demands for democracy, however, it should be noted that these uprisings have been towards the leadership and not the Muslim faith. (Chtatou, 2017)
This being said, it is important to be aware of the local religious beliefs when traveling or attempting to conduct business. Knowing that the Muslim faith is a major part of everyday life in this part of the world, simple political disarray will not change the core beliefs of the area, but rather serves as a mechanism in which leaderships are displaced and replaced. There are traditions and values that the local populace expect and adhere to. Theirs is a culture which values conformity over independence, little co-operation exists between manager and subordinates and criticism is usually perceived as negative. (Moran et al., pg. 315) Also, Muslims don’t take to strangers very lightly and value more of a relationship with the people that they do business with. So, it is important to understand that a period of time will be required in order to establish a relationship with other local business people and potential customers before expecting a return on any type of investment. These are elements that need to be considered by anyone going into the region with aspirations of establishing and growing their business.
It is also important to understand the diversification of the different religious sects that exist within the Muslim faith. They don’t all see eye to eye, and some are more traditional than others. The map below helps to identify the concentration of the different sects within the region for reference.
(Map reference: Chtatou, 2017)
Chtatou, M., (July 30, 2017) Aspects of Religious and Cultural Diversity In Middle East and North Africa-Analysis. Eurasiareview News & Analysis. Web. Posted February 29, 2020. Retrieved. Link: https://www.eurasiareview.com/30072017-aspects-of-religious-and-cultural-diversity-in-middle-east-and-north-africa-analysis/
Moran, R. T., Abramson, N. R., & Moran, S. V. (2014). Managing Cultural Differences (9th ed.). Oxford: Routledge.
Publication: MENA Economic Update (n.d.). The World Bank. Web. Retrieved February 29, 2020. Link: https://www.worldbank.org/en/region/mena/publication/mena-economic-monitor