As legitimate actors in the tobacco industry clamp down on the illicit cigarette trade, under regulated enclaves such as the Jebel Ali Free Trade Zone in Dubai continue to award space for contraband and counterfeits. This may be fuelling international terrorist groups and presents a severe business risk to investors.
As GCC countries lock horns over the direction that regional policy should take, a geopolitical realignment could feasibly crystallize in the Persian Gulf in the period ahead. Should Saudi and Emirati divestment across certain sectors occur, Qatar’s elite will invariably turn towards a cadre of new partners to plug the gaps in its economy. Enter Iran.
With Youssef Chahed ramping up the fight against corruption in Tunisia, many questions are left unasnwered. Chief among them is the Prime Minister’s intentions behind the crackdown and to what end it will be pursued going forward. The fate of the country’s businessmen exposed to the previous regime will also be determined.
Historically, Syria has represented a safe space for armed groups that follow the regime’s line with regards to domestic and international policies. These groups are somewhat of a double-edged sword that have spread terrorism and instability in the region, to the detriment of even the Syrian regime.
Depending on which stance is adopted, Egypt and Sudan are simultaneously the best of friends and the worst of enemies. It is no secret that these countries have their differences, with notable issues playing out publically. However, there is much that binds these two African nations and the recent friction must be understood in context, to gain a deeper understanding of the impact this may have on investments.
In Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, the tribal Bedouin are more influential than the state. This has a bearing on both the types of businesses flourishing in the region as well as the overall security dynamics.
The Kurdish energy sector faces important security threats from Sunni militant groups, namely ISIS and the PKK. As such, investors should monitor their operations closely.
Saudi and UAE are two of the most lucrative MENA markets, but must simultaneously ward off extremist elements from tainting their reputations. Violent extremism should be viewed as a central tenant of any Middle Eastern investment strategy. This is to say that investors would do well to concern themselves with the overtly political developments in addition to building a strong commercial understanding of the region – given that actors and institutions from both spectrums are sufficiently intertwined.
Focusing solely on reaching a political agreement in Libya to restore a national authority and stabilise the country would only fix some of the problems the region suffers from. While Algeria and Egypt project their diplomatic powers in the region and lock horns on achieving the best outcome in Libya - in their respective eyes – one key player, Rached Ghannouchi, preaches compromise and stability both in his native Tunisia, but also in Algeria and in Libya; both contexts where he has become heavily involved as a key power player.
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Clerics form the broadest societal network in Iran; and although their influence is believed to be waning, they still exert significant political and commercial influence. Understanding the proclivities of this group of Iranian power players is as important for investors interested in gaining exposure to the Iranian economy, as it is for political observers seeking to understand the levers of change.
Both moderate and reformist supporters voted en masse in Iran’s Presidential elections. Turnout reached 70%, with Rouhani convincingly winning a second mandate. Rouhani faces an uphill battle against unelected conservative institutions if he is to continue to open Iran to the world – most pressing for foreign business interests will be how successful he is in bringing banking reforms.
Much has changed in Iran since the 2013 elections and the outcome of elections on the 19th of May 2017 will empower iran’s leadership for the foreseeable future. The two leading candidates stand for opposed strategies - depending on who wins will define whether Iran continues to open itself to the world, or whether it turns back time.
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