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Today, the Middle East is one of the fastest growing and most economically competitive regions in the world. This growth is largely fuelled by oil – although governments across the region are becoming less reliant on the energy sector by implementing structural reforms such as economic diversification and opening to new markets.
Reflecting these economic developments, the region stands at the beginning of an e-commerce boom: internet usage across the Middle East has risen by a staggering 2,639 per cent over the past year and mobile phone ownership is 19 per cent higher than the world average. It is therefore hardly surprising that Arabic, an official language in every Middle Eastern country, is set to be the fourth most prevalent language on the web by 2015 after English, Chinese and Spanish.
The Middle East is also becoming an increasingly popular destination for international tourists. This trend is set to continue with upcoming global events such as the Abu Dhabi and Bahrain Grand Prix, the Expo 2020 in Dubai and the FIFA World Cup in Qatar in 2022.
Britain has strong historical ties to the Middle East and has long recognised the significance of the region. By 2011, the UK had become the second-largest investor in the Middle East in terms of projects, and third largest in terms of amount invested. A growing number of British companies, including consumer brands, are expanding in the region, where ‘Brand Britain’ is held in high esteem: in 2012, Middle Eastern countries were the third-biggest contributors to overseas tax-free shopping in the UK.
While most companies already trading with the Middle East are optimistic about the region’s business prospects, those who are not familiar with the local environment remain discouraged by perceived barriers – including cultural differences and concerns over political volatility.
A range of partners and resources are available to help bridge this knowledge gap, and allow British exporters to discover the Middle East as a lucrative and fast-growing market for their businesses.
Sources: Bloomberg Business Week, DHL, The Economist, Economist Intelligence Unit, Ernst & Young, Gov.uk, UKTI, World Economic Forum
In 1975, DHL became the first international express delivery company to set up a base in the Middle East with its Tehran office. By 1978, DHL’s regional network stretched across Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Kuwait.
In December 2013, DHL opened its newest and largest regional Express ground operations facility in Dubai Meydan City, United Arab Emirates. Further expansion and upgrade projects are underway in every major city in Saudi Arabia, as well as key locations in Oman and Jordan.
The resulting state-of-the-art network, combined with DHL’s commercial expertise and regional understanding, will allow the Middle East to become the centre of global commerce and logistics connecting Asia, the Pacific, Europe and Africa.