Mohammed bin Zayed has spent years manoeuvring loyalists into the key posts around him, which will truly bear fruit once he formally inherits the throne. Commercial actors must endeavour to understand the significance of this, as the country's open-door economic policy is largely dependent upon the Crown Prince's own longevity.
The private security industry's most famous name is plying his trade for leaders in emerging and frontier markets. The influence of the former founder of infamous Blackwater Worldwide is almost certainly higher than that of any other mainstream international businessman, with evidence to suggest he maintains informal networks with the world's most controversial political elites.
Institutional manipulation is fast becoming Salman’s hallmark in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The latest restructuring of the Ministry of Interior’s senior leadership team, combined with the creation of the Presidency of State Security, shows that no stone will be left unturned in the King’s advancement of his son.
MENA’s commercial elite share one thing in common – most of them face a corporate succession dilemma within the next five to ten years. As blood kinship networks dominate businesses in the region, determining where the next generation of influence and decision-making powers lie is fast becoming the top priority for foreign investors.
Over seven years have passed since Tunisia bore witness to popular revolt, yet corruption still remains one of the country’s most polemic issues. A reconciliation bill was passed in September 2017 leading to renewed questions about the integrity and modus operandi of the ruling elite.
Power players in Saudi Arabia are tweaking their networks and staffing their ranks with loyalists. As a result, 2018 will involve elite readjustment to these new dynamics as well as a continued level of unpredictability. Shadow Governance will be closely monitoring MbS and those orbiting him.
Elite networks in Egypt are gearing up for a big year in 2018. The presidential election will capture headlines; but power plays - that reveal much about Cairo’s incumbent decision makers and their intentions if they win a second official mandate - will continue to fly under the radar.
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With several of the region’s strategic sectors gearing up to ‘welcome’ private actors into the fold, international investors are bracing for renewed levels of access to old economies. As opportunities begin to present themselves, however, a host of hidden domestic dynamics will become more important than they have ever been.
Two and a half years after the nuclear deal between Iran and Western nations was inked, questions linger around its effects and viability. Penetrating Iran’s commercial sphere may ultimately prove more difficult than expected, not least due to the relative ‘free reign’ the country’s IRGC has enjoyed in the domestic economy as well as its role in the armed forces.
Despite such a rapidly developing economy, the UAE’s telecommunications sector is off limits for multinational entities and even indigenous actors. Abu Dhabi’s premier family appear to control much of the telecom sector’s dealings and it has gained notoriety abroad over the past 12 years. Whether this is for political or commercial benefit remains debated.
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Saudi Arabia is on the move and its chief power player, Mohamed bin Salman, is wasting no time in rustling influential feathers. In light of November 2017’s mass arrests, questions are being asked with regards to the Kingdom’s outlook and, crucially, whether this move benefits the Crown Prince or the state.
Rouhani’s second term may yet throw up major power plays between the President and Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. Although united under a mantra of “Iran first”, Rouhani is arguably limiting the IRGC’s access to economic prestige at home and fails in propagating their networks in line with his more hard-line predecessors.