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The state of consulting in the Middle East

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The state of consulting in the Middle East

In recent years, many countries in the Middle East have undergone rapid economic development. Today, sovereign wealth funds of several Gulf states are eyeing fresh opportunities on the back of petrodollar success, with oil prices having spiked at the highest since the 2008 financial crisis.

The sovereign wealth funds of today are bigger and more experienced than those of 2008, though. The $450 billion (£363 billion) Qatar Investment Authority was only three years old then, but Mansoor bin Ebrahmin al-Mahmoud, QIA chief executive, recently said: “Nowadays, it’s different. We’re mature, well established, with specialised teams and a robust asset-allocation strategy.”

It’s clear that there is a significant opportunity and a growing need for management consulting in the Gulf. The introduction of digital consulting and rapid globalisation are both expected to contribute to the market’s growth and to facilitate this, consultancies are looking to improve upon current operational and business processes.

Management consulting in the Middle East

The Middle East management consulting market is a competitive one, although as of yet no single firm has acceded to the throne. Some of the biggest names, like Ernst & Young, Deloitte and McKinsey are consistently using partnerships and acquisitions as key strategies to achieve a competitive edge over the others.

Additionally, new firms are emerging, utilising state-of-the-art technology to help achieve more with less time and manpower required. Corporate clients, as these new tools are realised, are more often trying to solve complex issues in-house, prompting global firms to scratch their heads as the need for outsourcing is lessened.

A market study, conducted by Mordor Intelligence, forecasts a CAGR of 4.29 per cent over the next five years. For management consulting firms, the news is good. Rapid economic development, public investments and changes in the financial sector are all increasing the need for talented management consulting services.

Saudi Arabia key for consulting firms

Saudi Arabia is one of the most significant areas for the management consulting market. Rapid business, financial and technological developments all mean that firms compete for their share of the pie.

In fact, there are already a significant number of global firms active in the region. Bain, Tata, KPMG, Accenture, Boston and more are all looking to further the potential of Saudi Arabia as the market continues to grow there and in the wider Middle East region. One of the most important reasons for this is development projects - like the Saudi government’s Vision 2030 - which are significant investments and, as such, require talented management consulting to maximise efficiency and overall performance.

On top of a large number of firms already operating in Saudi Arabia, several are preparing to expand into the region. A prominent example of this can be seen with Alvarez & Marshal, which has revealed plans for new offices in Abu Dhabi and Riyadh to strengthen its position in the market.

Similarly, Roland Berger announced a competitive recruitment campaign in Saudi Arabia as it looks to support the Vision 2030 initiative. The global consulting firm wants to significantly develop its talent in the area and, in line with this, has invested significantly in support infrastructure and plans to move into new offices in the financial district of Riyadh.

Life sciences and healthcare on the rise

Many large healthcare organisations have a consulting firm on retainer to provide evaluation services, improving performance and efficiency. Market opportunities are very positive with artificial intelligence, machine learning, cloud computing and big data analytics. Data from Statista has shown that the adoption rate of predictive analytics in Saudi healthcare was 48 per cent for 2022.

According to the International Trade Administration, Saudi Arabia accounts for 60 per cent of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries’ healthcare expenditure, with the sector being a key priority for the Saudi government. In 2022, 14.4 per cent of the annual budget was set to be spent on the industry, placing it third, only behind education and the military.

A competitive landscape

The need for management consulting services in the region is high and many firms are currently rising to the occasion. Deloitte has moved into Egypt and Jordan as part of Deloitte Middle East, whilst PwC signed an agreement with Investment Promotion Agency Qatar to help attract international investors and strengthen its own place in the area.

As organisations in the Middle East continue to expand, industry participants continue to recognise the value management consultants bring to their businesses. With oil-rich countries like Saudi Arabia pledging to reduce their reliance on the export, large and complex initiatives like Vision 2030 are positive news for the management consulting market.

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