Ahmed Al Khatib has made a name for himself after a rapid rise to prominence under King Salman. His access to happenings in Riyadh are unrivalled and there is little this middle-aged executive does not touch; even a series of controversial episodes are no longer enough to remove him from the forefront.
Control the media and you control the masses – a motto applicable to Riyadh’s power players. Although media ownership garners less attention than petrochemicals and construction in Saudi Arabia, its relevance to understanding internal dynamics must not be downplayed.
Emir of Abu Dhabi and UAE President Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan is vastly wealthy; reports indicate assets in the tens of billions of dollars. A closer look at his finances reveals where the money goes and, more importantly, who else signs off on it.
Out with the official institutional parameters of Emirati politics lies the role of the majlis. The UAE’s power brokers are seeking to build reputations as inclusive leaders through popularity in the majlis, but this dynamic is more complex than it appears on the surface. The majlis is an interesting institution, with many sources suggesting this is where many business deals originate.
Although the sons of Zayed unquestionably control politics in Abu Dhabi, distant cousins on their father’s side of the family have amassed considerable political and commercial prestige. In a setting whereby political activity is confined to Nahyan figures, understanding the significance of lesser known princes is of the utmost priority.
Morocco’s growing economic and diplomatic influence across sub-Saharan Africa does not appear to be slowing as the north African country seeks to join ECOWAS and cement its position as a regional leader and economic powerhouse in West Africa.
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Cairo's top brass waxes lyrical about its anti-corruption stance, but actions speak louder than words. Egypt's various supervisory bodies have been increasingly curtailed by the President's manipulation of the country's legal framework; empowering himself at the expense of genuine anti-corruption actors.
As China looks West in search of economic partnerships, it finds a Kingdom uniquely positioned to assist its 'One Belt One Road' strategy. While their bilateral ties are rooted in energy dealings, Saudi's maritime capabilities may be set to catapult its fortunes in line with Beijing's grand plans.
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Irrigation-based challenges may be detrimental to the Iranian state, but for actors with sufficient capital and expertise, it represents an opportunity. Successful navigation of Tehran's political elite could bring access to a profitable and prestigious sector, ultimately bolstering Iran's water security in the process.
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.
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.