Research consulting firm OBG releases annual economic report on Bahrain

23 March 2018

The global research and consulting firm Oxford Business Group has released its latest economic country report on Bahrain, noting 2017 as a record year for inward investment. The publication release follows recent news that Bahrain has been removed from the EU’s tax-haven blacklist, which curtails certain financial activities by EU institutions with the countries listed.

The Bahrain 2018 report by Oxford Business Group (OBG), one of 40 such comprehensive study reports the research and consulting firm releases annually on some of the fastest growing economies across the globe, including each of the GCC member-states, takes an in-depth look at trends and developments across Bahrain’s economic spectrum, with analysis and insight on the banking, capital markets, tourism, energy, ICT and construction sectors among the many examined.

The report charts the country’s focus on targeted growth areas, as Bahrain, in line with the sweeping national economic transformations underway in the GCC, seeks to diversify away from a reliance on resources. Such areas include Bahrain’s push to develop itself as a centre for digital technology – given a boon last year with Amazon Web Services announcing its plans to establish a cloud computing and data base in the Kingdom by 2019 – along with other fiscal reforms and infrastructure measures designed to attract greater investment, with $81.9 billion worth of projects in pipeline at the mid-point of last year.

Oxford Business Group economic report Bahrain

The research firm expects such upgrades to infrastructure to play a key role in driving growth and help to meet the increasing demand. More broadly, Oliver Cornock, OBG’s managing editor for the Middle East, said, “Bahrain’s expanding telecoms and tourism industries, together with its well-established financial services sector and dynamic manufacturing base, serve as a reminder that the kingdom has already made significant headway in diversifying its economy, even though lower global oil prices have brought challenges.”

One longer-term effort to diversify has been in the development of the country’s financial services sector, which the report says that as one of the leading centres in the region was a major component of the country’s non-oil economy last year, contributing over 17% to the GPD – with an earlier annual country review by OBG noting that “continued fiscal consolidation and reform, combined with steady growth, were the hallmarks of Bahrain’s year.”


The local financial sector however was under pressure at the end of the year by way of the country’s European Union black-listing alongside the UAE for non-cooperation on transnational tax avoidance initiatives, with EU legislative measures set to block non-aid-development investment in blacklisted nations and bring greater scrutiny to financial transactions.

Both nations vowed to address concerns at the time, with the Bahraini government saying that it would initiate dialogue with the EU on the matter “to ensure understanding and recognition of the Kingdom’s efforts to ensure financial transparency, international cooperation and a robust regulatory environment.” After securing specific commitments from officials in Manama, the EU last week announced that Bahrain would be removed from the list, following the UAE's removal at the start of the year.

The OBG 2018 Bahrain report was produced in collaboration with local financial consulting firm KSI Financial Consultants and Public Accountants, with the firm’s head of its Board of Management Ahmed Alsulaiman contributing his views to the report on the implementation of VAT in the GCC, along with other contributors including King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa and the CEOs of Bahrain Bourse and sovereign wealth fund Mumtalakat.

ACCA hosts conference on technology in the Middle East finance sector

29 March 2019

The ACCA has hosted a regional conference on technology and innovation in the Middle East finance sector, with the inaugural event featuring leaders from Grant Thornton, Accenture, and Deloitte among a range of speakers.

Following its recent women in finance forum in Dubai, the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) has hosted its inaugural Techovate Regional Conference, bringing together senior ACCA members and key stakeholders to discuss the impact of technology and innovation on the finance sector in the Middle East – with some of the region’s leading consultants among the speakers.

“In a bid to eradicate the myth and preconception of technology, we have been working on distilling the impact which technology will have for our members and wider commercial society, alongside aligning our approach to the regional innovation strategy which will see the UAE become the smartest in the world by 2030,” said ACCA Middle East director Lindsay Degouve de Nuncques.

Degouve de Nuncques’ opening address was followed by a keynote presentation from Accenture’s MENA digital lead Xavi Anglada (who also appeared at the recent World Mobile Conference as well as last year’s Artificial Intelligence Week in the Middle East) – who prior to joining Accenture served as the CEO of Cash Credit, a Delta Partners-backed fintech start-up providing micro-finance services.ACCA hosts conference on technology in the Middle East finance sectorOther speakers from the consulting realm included Deloitte Middle East senior Audit & Assurance partner Cynthia Corby (last year named by Forbes as one of the 100 most influential women in the Middle East), and Grant Thornton Transformation Advisory Partner George Stoyanov, who spoke on unlocking value through tech transformation and big data, AI and analytical benchmarking.

A near twenty-year consulting veteran in the region, with extensive experience in corporate governance, risk management and internal audit serving the financial services industry, Stoyanov prior to joining Grant Thornton in 2017 was a director in EY’s financial services advisory division out of Abu Dhabi, before which he served as a director with PwC’s Risk Assurance Services practice in Kuwait.

Attendees also heard from Joy Ajlouny, who together with BCG alumnus Idriss Al Rifai co-founded Fetchr, as well as Pierre Arman, Market Development Lead for Tax and Accounting with Thomson Reuters, Mansoor Sarwar, a director with enterprise software firm Sage, and Sayd Farook, a doctor in behavioural economics and adviser to the office of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.

“Great discussions on how technology and digital are disrupting the financial services industry at ACCA Techovate Conference in Dubai,” wrote Anglada in a follow-up post on LinkedIn. “From an inspiring and personal view from Joy Ajlouny throughout her entrepreneurship journey, to the visionary PoV on innovation from Sayd Farook, helping shape Dubai's future, to many other key leaders in the banking space.”