Firms were advised to monitor suppliers to ensure business continuity © AFP/Getty Images
Firms were advised to monitor suppliers to ensure business continuity © AFP/Getty Images

Top 10 MENA stories of 2020

5 January 2021

SM looks back at the most popular stories from the MENA region in 2020. 

1. UAE issues business continuity guidelines

The UAE issued business continuity guidelines following the coronavirus outbreak, covering areas including supply chain readiness and monitoring of suppliers.

The National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority’s guidelines recommend coordinating activities with supply chains to ensure business continuity and setting a mechanism to monitor suppliers.

2. Etihad Airways shakes up procurement leadership

Etihad Airways restructured its procurement and supply chain operations in light of the impact of Covid and a downturn in sales.

Chief commercial officer Robin Kamark left the company and the procurement and supply chain department will now operate under CFO Adam Boukadida.

3. Coronavirus hits supply chains and commodity prices

Oil-producing countries could cut production by 1m barrels per day in order to mitigate the impact of coronavirus on revenues. 

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) held an emergency meeting in Vienna on 4 and 5 February to discuss the impact of coronavirus on the oil market. 

4. Unaoil 'paid $6m bribes to secure Iraqi oil contracts'

Energy consultancy Unaoil paid $6m in bribes to help its clients secure contracts to build oil pipelines and terminals in Iraq, a London court heard in January. 

The UK’s Serious Fraud Office alleged bribes were made to Iraqi officials to secure two contracts worth a total of $800m to help rebuild the country’s oil industry following the fall of Saddam Hussein. Two executives were sentenced in July 2020.

5. Iran retaliation poses threat to oil supply

Crude oil prices climbed above $70 per barrel on 6 January amid fears of retaliation by Iran after a US airstrike killed top military official Qassem Suleimani. 

Analysts said oil facilities or shipping through the Strait of Hormuz could be impacted if Iran struck back following the drone attack in Iraq on 3 January that killed Suleimani.

6. Coronavirus could cut oil demand by 700,000 barrels

Saudi Arabia dramatically cut export oil prices in what was seen as retaliation at Russia’s surprise refusal to support a cut in production.

The Brent benchmark global oil price fell by about $11 a barrel, or 25% – the sharpest decline seen since 1991. 

7. Middle East facing 'crisis like no other'

Middle Eastern countries were facing one of the greatest challenges ever seen in addressing the coronavirus-related slowdown, long-term structural problems and low oil prices, the IMF said.

Jihad Azour, director of the IMF Middle East and Central Asia Department, said responses by governments had failed to prevent economies suffering from low oil prices, in both oil and non-oil-producing countries.

8. DP World wins ruling over Djibouti port seizure

A London court ordered the government of Djibouti to restore rights and benefits to DP World following the illegal seizure of the Doraleh Container Terminal (DCT). 

The London Court of International Arbitration said DP World’s rights must be restored to the firm and DCT under the 2006 concession agreement within two months or Djibouti would face paying damages. 

9. Saudi to cut spending to tackle coronavirus

Saudi Arabia’s finance minister Mohammed al-Jadaan pledged to cut state spending to deal with the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

Al-Jadaan said “all options for dealing with the crisis are open” and effects on state finances would become apparent from the second quarter of the year onwards.

“We must reduce budget expenditures sharply,” al-Jadaan said in an interview with Al Arabiya TV.

10. Neom will use solar power to produce drinking water

Saudi Arabia’s planned new megacity Neom will use a new type of solar technology to produce drinking water with less contamination than normal desalination plants.

The city, which is being developed along the country’s northern Red Sea coast, will have the world’s first “solar dome” desalination plants.

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