Does the Middle East really have an appetite beyond oil?
Put simply, yes.
Having lived in the Middle East for a few years now, I have witnessed a lot of positive changes affecting the economic landscape of the region. Things here happen so quickly you have to be abreast and ready to embrace what comes next.
With our line of business, it’s great to know that the focus for continued development is on industries that we can support directly to be hugely productive and sustainable long into the future.
Recently, at the Global Manufacturing and Industrialisation Summit in Abu Dhabi, an event with reach far beyond the region, I was given several reasons to stop and think about what’s happening here.
After some reflection, I’ve boiled the experience down to three main takeaways that I’d like to share.
The Middle East has been set on a course towards diversification for some time, but it is much further along this journey than most people realise – even me.
I was hugely impressed by how the event served to underpin the commitment towards diversification and to show just how hard and quickly the region is driving towards its goal.
The breadth of industries already served gives great confidence in that momentum, with aircraft components, pharma and OEMs taking great strides. The market here has long been on the demand side of the equation, but if anyone thought that the diversification plans were limited to reducing the amount of import necessary to grow economies in the desert, they’d be wrong.
The vision includes becoming part of the supply chain. And there are aircraft parts in use by major airplane manufacturers with a ‘Made in the Middle East’ stamp already soaring over our heads.
The buy in for this goes much further than most people know, and the scope is truly ambitious. It’s regional and global. Some countries here are well known for stating their visions, but the region knows that it must work together to achieve its goals. Delegations from Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Bahrain took their places alongside the UAE.
And it did not stop there. Alongside high-level commissions from China and Japan were African nations such as Lesotho, Ethiopia, and speakers from the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), the WTO and the EC.
With IBM and even a speaker from Elon Musk’s Hyperloop team taking their places amongst a who’s-who of modern industrial giants, the Middle East has certainly used the hosting of GMIS to offer a new interpretation of the region to the world.
By hosting the event in the Paris-Sorbonne University in Abu Dhabi rather than at a purpose-built exhibition centre, there was also a clear indication that the region places skills, research and innovation at the heart of the drive to diversification
This is not just a growth plan – this is a diversification strategy.
The Middle East has no intention of suffering growing pains. The digitisation of industry – The Connected Enterprise approaches that make IIoT a growing reality around the world – are not being retro-fitted in the ME.
Here things will be built IIoT from the ground up using the very latest technologies, and it’s a wonderful time to be leading Rockwell Automation in the region. The growth of our operations in the region reflect the investment happening in the Middle East, and our product offering is certainly well placed to make the enterprises starting, growing or planned here, into some of the most efficient, productive and sustainable on earth.
There’s a great temptation, when writing about the changes happening in the region to liken it to some sort of historical precedent. Is what’s happening in the Middle East something akin to the first industrial revolution? Is it like the more recent rapid growth and industrialisation of China? Or Brazil?
I honestly don’t think we’ve seen anything like this before – the speed of progress and the rate of change is truly Middle Eastern.
Remember, this is the region where some of the greatest, most modern cities on the planet have emerged from the desert faster than anyone else could have imagined.
From what I’ve seen, the focus may have changed, but the drive to diversification may bring rapid global changes on a similar scale inside a generation.