The Suez Canal transports 10% of global trade © Suez Canal Authority
The Suez Canal transports 10% of global trade © Suez Canal Authority

Top 10 MENA stories in 2021

14 December 2021

SM looks back at the most popular stories from MENA in 2021. 

1. Suez Canal blockage 'could have $40bn supply chain impact'

The 400m container ship Ever Given ran aground and blocked the Suez Canal for six days in March, disrupting billions of dollars of trade.

The ship was reported to have been caught in a gust of wind that swung the stern into the bank.

The Suez Canal Authority had originally sought compensation of $916m from the ship's insurers, but a lower undisclosed figure was finally settled on.


2. BMW sourcing solar aluminium from the UAE

BMW became the first customer for aluminium produced in the UAE using solar energy.

Under the deal Emirates Global Aluminium agreed to supply 43,000 tonnes of CelestiAL aluminium each year, made with power from the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park in the desert outside Dubai.

BMW said sourcing green aluminium would enable it to avoid around 2.5m tonnes of CO2 emissions over the next 10 years, which represents about 3% of the target the company set for its supplier network.


3. Expo 2020 Dubai triumphs in CIPS Middle East SM Awards

Expo 2020 Dubai was named overall winner in the CIPS Middle East Supply Management Awards.

The team behind Expo 2020 – delayed to 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic – swept the board, picking up awards for supplier diversity, supplier relationship management, risk mitigation, ethical procurement, and team of the year.


4. Firms will need Saudi HQ to win public contracts

International firms hoping to win government contracts in Saudi Arabia were told to open a regional headquarters in the kingdom. 

The kingdom wanted to encourage foreign firms to open a permanent, in-country presence in order to secure contracts with agencies, institutions and funds owned by the government.


5. UAE partners with India on global Covid vaccine distribution

The UAE and India joined forces to create a Covid-19 vaccine distribution corridor.

Dubai Airports and Indian counterpart GMR Hyderabad said the route would have the capacity to handle up to 300 tonnes of vaccines per day.

The move followed months of work to create a seamless end-to-end logistics solution to connect Indian vaccine manufacturers with markets around the world.


6. OPEC chief gets 'sobering feeling' from COP26

Secretary general of OPEC Mohammed Barkindo described how the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow left him with a “sobering feeling”.

Barkindo, speaking at the Abu Dhabi International Petroleum Exhibition and Conference, said COP26 was an “alarm bell”.

He said in Glasgow it was “clearly stated that this industry has no place in this concession if the world is to achieve the cut of 1.5[C] within the time frame”. 

“For us, both in OPEC, non-OPEC, international energy companies, the time has come to take stock. We need a holistic post mortem of the outcome because the future of this industry is at stake.”


7. Majid Al Futtaim works to improve supply chain standards

Retail and leisure group Majid Al Futtaim reinforced its environmental, social and governance commitments, including the launch of a responsible procurement policy.

The group, which operates shopping malls, hotels and other retail and leisure premises across the Middle East, said it remained resilient and focused on adapting to customer needs despite the pandemic’s continued impact.

The company said it launched a responsible procurement policy that would help mitigate against business risks and drive positive change in the supply chain.


8. UAE cyber attacks jump 193% due to remote working

Middle Eastern companies faced new cyber attack risks due to large numbers of employees working remotely amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

IT security company Kaspersky said hackers were trying to enter networks via the protocols used by employees to access corporate resources remotely.

When the UAE announced lockdown restrictions in March 2020, the total number of attacks jumped by 193% from 467,115 in February to 1.3m in March.


9. Abu Dhabi launches $1.6bn supply chain finance scheme

Abu Dhabi announced a 6bn dirham ($1.6bn) supply chain financing initiative to help SMEs weather the impact of the pandemic.

The Department of Finance initiative facilitated the quick payment of receivables for small businesses, therefore reducing their cost of working capital. 

Supporting SMEs is a critical element of the emirate’s diversification strategy. In 2019, SMEs in Abu Dhabi accounted for 29% of GDP and 44% of the non-oil economy.


10. UAE non-oil sector grows, but supply chain problems worsen

Growth in the UAE non-oil economy reached its fastest rate in two years in July, as demand continued to rebound from Covid-19.

A sharp rise in new orders put increasing pressure on business capacity and created a marked expansion in output, according to the IHS Markit UAE Purchasing Managers’ Index.

Delays to shipments from Asia led to the worst lengthening of suppliers’ delivery times since April 2020 and contributed to a quicker rise in input costs.

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