The UAE announced plans to build a mock Martian city to develop tech for future colonies ©mediaoffice.ae
The UAE announced plans to build a mock Martian city to develop tech for future colonies ©mediaoffice.ae

Top 10 MENA stories of 2017

19 December 2017

As the year draws to an end, we’ve listed SM's 10 most read stories from the MENA region, to give you a snapshot of the issues that mattered most. 

1. Sabic’s new procurement boss set out vision

SABIC's procurement leader Nawaf Al-Zahrani outlined a two-pronged plan to make cost savings at the petrochemical manufacturer, by outsourcing business functions and increasing the number of automated processes. Speaking at the CIPS Middle East conference in May, Al-Zaharni also said the firm needed to become more agile and relax its stringent procurement procedures. 

2. Qatar supply chains ‘instantly disrupted’ by blockade 

Qatar was cut off from its Gulf neighbours in June when a coalition of states, lead by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, severed all trade and diplomatic ties and shuttered land, sea and air borders. The small peninsular, which is heavily reliant on imports, instantly felt the impact on its supply chains. The blockade also impacted global helium markets, and one analyst predicted the cost of hosting the World Cup could increase by a quarter.

3. The challenge of floating Aramco

Saudi Arabia begun the long process to float 5% of Saudi Aramco, the world's largest oil company. The move is part of a strategy to reduce the country's economic reliance on oil. The float is expected to raise $100bn, with the entire company valued at $2tn. But as Aramco is a large part of the Saudi state – 90% of its revenues go to the government and royal family – the process of going public is far from straightforward.

4. Etihad flies high at CIPS Middle East Supply Management Awards

The airline won three awards at the CIPS Middle East Supply Management Awards, including overall winner, for a range of innovative procurement initiatives, including workshops for SMEs and a successful graduate programme.

5. Dubai announces robot police 

Robot police began patrolling the streets in Dubai – one of several smart services the police force has in the pipeline. Members of the public can use the multilingual machines to report crimes and pay fines through a touchscreen on its chest. The UAE has embraced several other innovations this year, including the procurement of a fleet of Tesla electric cars by the Dubai Taxi Corporation and the testing of flying cars. In October the UAE also announced plans to build a mock Martian city in the desert to develop technologies for future colonies. 

6. MENA has the world’s highest procurement salaries

The CIPS/Hays Salary Guide revealed in May that MENA has the highest salaries for procurement professionals, and that CIPS qualified employees earn on average 60% more than those without qualifications. The average salary in the region was equivalent to $75,000, compared to $60,140 in the UK.

7. Amazon buys Souq.com

The online retail giant made a foray into the Middle East by buying the region’s largest e-commerce site, Souq.com. Amazon reportedly paid between $650-$750m for the firm, entering a notoriously difficult e-commerce market – fewer than half of top Gulf retailers currently have online offerings.

8. Nestlé opens Dubai factory

Nestlé opened a $144m factory in Dubai as part of its expansion plans for the region. The new factory, its third in the UAE, produces culinary and coffee products. It was opened at the end of May to coincide with the five-fold Ramadan spike in demand for Nestle products, particularly Maggi soup.

9. MENA needs to spend $302bn on power 

GCC governments have coped well so far with rising electricity demand, but $179bn is needed to add 138GW of generating capacity. The rest of the investment is required to improve transmission and distribution, a report by Apicorp said in April. 

10. Saudi plans new $500bn high-tech city

Dubbed 'Neom', the new city promises to be both technologically advanced and more liberal than other cities in Saudi Arabia. Transport will be provided by self-driving cars and the city may be home to more robots than people. The city, which will sit in the north west of the kingdom near Jordan, will cover more than twice the area of New York City. It is part of crown prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Vision 2030 and will be funded in part by the sovereign wealth fund. 

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