CEOs in the Middle East most positive in the world

01 February 2024 4 min. read
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CEOs in the Middle East have a generally positive outlook on the economy, which is reflected in confidence for regional growth and aspirations in the company’s own path. This is according to an annual study from PwC, which surveyed C-suite leaders in 11 MENA countries.

In 2023, the global economy faced some tough challenges like rising inflation, geopolitical shocks, and much of the world was still recovering from the supply chain disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. Despite these obstacles, the Middle East has shown resilience, with CEOs expressing a more positive outlook for global and regional economic growth in 2024 when compared to their global counterparts.

Some of that optimism seems to come from growing confidence in the region’s digital transformation and the strengthening of non-oil sectors, which has led to increased employment opportunities.

How do you believe economic growth (i.e. gross domestic product) will change, if at all, over the next 12 months, both globally and in your territory

Source: PwC

Notably, 73% of Middle East CEOs are optimistic about their countries’ economic growth in 2024, surpassing the global average of 44%, and reaching as high as 81% in the GCC.

But it is not just leaders in the Middle East that think so. The International Monetary Fund has released an unusually rosy projection for the GCC countries, with their rate of growth expected to rise from 1.7% in 2023 to a remarkable 3.7% this year. Compare that with overall global growth, which is projected to slow very slightly to 2.9%.

When asked whether they believe economic growth would improve over the next year in their region, 73% of Middle East CEOs replied in the positive. That is by far the most positive outlook when compared with the other regions included in PwC’s study. Less than half of respondents in Europe and North America believe things are getting better in the next 12 months.

Do you believe economic growth (i.e. gross domestic product) will improve over the next 12 months in your territory

Source: PwC

In the Middle East, the push for digitization, decarbonization, and modernization is gaining momentum. Almost half of CEOs in the Middle East believe their companies will not be economically viable in 10 years if they stay on their current course – that is more than last year.

Further readingHow CEOs can lead their company through disruption.

Over the past five years, Middle East CEOs have demonstrated a dedication to innovation and reinvention, especially as some of the GCC countries make huge moves to shift their economies away from a reliance on oil. A total of 40% of regional business leaders said that they have already developed new products and services, and 53% have embraced new technologies.

For 61% of Middle East CEOs, technological change has been the primary driver for reinvention, compared to 46% globally. Looking ahead, technological change remains crucial for creating, delivering, and capturing value, with 69% considering it a top priority in the next three years.

To what extent will generative AI increase the following in your company in the next 12 months

Source: PwC

Way more CEOs in the Middle East are optimistic about AI than CEOs in other geographies. A majority of Middle East business leaders in the top job expected AI to help their business in all categories.

“This year, an optimistic outlook is driving continued ambition for regional growth, alongside confidence in global economic growth – a step change compared to last year, when CEOs in the Middle East were less positive about the broader worldwide economic situation,” said PwC Middle East Senior Partner Hani Ashkar.

“A major theme of 2023 is the rapid emergence of GenAI, largely unexpected at the time of our previous survey. CEOs are embracing GenAI with enthusiasm, adapting their technology strategies and upskilling their workforces as the demands of GenAI continue to evolve,” he continued.

According to research from Strategy&, the strategy consulting business of PwC, the Middle East’s Gen AI economy could swell to $24 billion per year by 2030.