Middle East CEOs most optimistic on company growth and economy

16 January 2024 Consultancy-me.com 5 min. read
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Eight in ten CEOs in the Middle East are optimistic on the economic prospects for their companies in 2024 and an even larger group is optimistic about the overall economy. That is according to the Disruption Index 2024, an annual survey of more than 3,000 global executives from AlixPartners.

CEOs in the Middle East also said that they were not afraid of disruption, with 90% saying that their leadership styles thrive in a disrupted environment. That is far higher than the 75% of CEOs globally that said the same.

Priority for regional leaders has been put in defensive actions in the face of persistent disruption. For example, 80% have worked to develop action plans and scenario analyses, while 70% have shifted towards prioritizing revenue and their core businesses over other things like new ventures.

Middle East CEOs most optimistic on company growth and economy

Source: AlixPartners Disruption Index

The study by AlixPartners – a leading management consulting firm – shows that only 20% of executives believed that the next 12 months would bring negative growth to their companies or industries, and only 15% expected the economy to see negative growth. The remaining majority of respondents foresee slight or significant positive growth.

“It is difficult to imagine a region of the world where both the threats and opportunities of our disruptive age are more on display than the Middle East,” commented Gabriel Chahine, Middle East leader at AlixPartners.

“While there are climate pressures across the region, and global geopolitical tensions, governments and businesses in the region are among the most forward-looking in the world – accelerating investments into education, infrastructure, the green transition, and digital technologies.”

Middle East CEOs most optimistic on company growth and economy

Source: AlixPartners Disruption Index

Disrupt or be disrupted

Business executives in the Middle East were the second most disrupted after China, according to the survey. A total of 68% in the Middle East said that their business was disrupted in some form in the past year, and a majority said that they worry their company is not adapting fast enough. Six in ten regional CEOs said that they were actively changing their business models now, or would be within the next year.

Notably, in a previous edition of the same study, AlixPartners suggested that the current levels of business disruption are at their highest point since World War II.

Middle East CEOs most optimistic on company growth and economy

Source: AlixPartners Disruption Index

The role of technology

The 2024 edition further found that executives believe AI and automation are the most significant disruptive forces currently impacting their companies. A total of 87% of Middle East CEOs said that AI and automation were among the top disruptions in their business, compared to only 46% globally. Half of Middle Eastern respondents said they are looking to implement process automation imminently.

A mere 8% of respondents said that they would be investing less in digital tools and technologies this year, with 45% saying they expect, in fact, to invest more than the previous year.

“The rise of generative AI is both exciting and daunting for many leaders in the world, but from what we’re observing here in the region, companies are embracing this adoption as priority, following in the footsteps of the government’s visions,” noted Chahine.

“The prospects for businesses making this adoption are significant and often result in massive productivity gains, as well as new vectors for revenue growth, value protection, and job opportunities, and those organizations who embrace it will be the ultimate winners,” he continued.

Optimism in the region

There is much reason for optimism among Middle East CEOs. Economic growth in the Middle East has, in general, been quite strong in recent years and there has been some really impressive investment. In particular, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) economies, generally seen as highly competitive and robust, are expected to grow faster in 2024 than they did last year.

This growth comes despite some contraction in the oil sector. Much of the promising economic activity in the GCC and elsewhere in the Middle East has been in non-oil sectors, as countries there continue to make impressive progress in diversifying their economies away from a reliance on fossil fuels – and if the promises made at the COP28 summit in Dubai last month are actually brought to life, that trend is likely to continue.