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.
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The recent political appointments in Saudi Arabia cap a period of over two years defined by change. King Salman will go down in history as ‘the reformer’ due to the volume, and audacity, of the political reshuffling he has overseen – ostensibly to force through political and economic change befitting of Saudi Arabia in the 21st century.
Sitting at the intersection of arguably the world’s busiest sea route, Egypt’s maritime sector is a flow with investment possibilities. However, opportunities must not be considered without first understanding the lay of the land. Given that the maritime sector in particular is notoriously opaque in most EMEA markets, the need to understand its governance model in Egypt is paramount.
The Mayor of Tehran is an influential position in Iranian politics; but it is a seat that has been held by the conservatives for decades. This may change with the rise of moderate Mohsen Rafsanjani, but will he give up his council seat to take the risk?
Iran’s bazaari’s represent a long-standing way in which commerce is organised. Given their enduring influence, it is important to understand the societal and political caveats that make bazaari’s more than market traders. Although not initially obvious to the foreign investor, these should firmly be on the political risk radar.
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.
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In a jurisdiction where transparency is largely absent, Egypt’s military is perhaps the biggest beneficiary of opaque dealings. In fact, the military’s private-sector interests muddy Egypt’s investment waters to such an extent that it is thought to have a hand in almost every economic sector. The lay of the land is thus intertwined with the armed forces’ business exploits.
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.