Management consulting market pushes toward $800 million in the Emirates

22 May 2018 5 min. read

The management consulting industry of the United Arab Emirates has surpassed the $790 million mark for 2017, contributing to the $2.8 billion figure recorded for the GCC.

As the second largest management consulting market in the Middle East, behind only Saudi Arabia, the UAE sector has continued its growth in the past year, registering a rate of 7.6%. While impressive, the figure is still however a far cry short of the halcyon days prior to the crash in global oil prices, when just five years ago the Emirates was considered one of the ‘stars of the global consulting market’ in recording consistent growth rates in excess of 10 percent.

Still, last year the UAE cracked the $790 million barrier for the first time according to Source Global Research data – contributing to the combined GCC take of $2.8 billion – and is tipped to pick up again in the coming year as the international Dubai Expo 2020 showcase draws ever closer. Altogether, the GCC management consulting industry showed signs of a rebound, recording a slight uptick in the growth rate to 7% from the previous year’s drop to 6%.

This return to rising regional growth is being driven in part by an ever-expanding digital landscape, but primarily through increased governmental consultancy spending on the GCC’s series of bold national transformation agendas which seek to diversify local economies away from a reliance on oil – with the public sector accounting for close to a third of the GCC consultancy spend at plus 7.3% over the past year.

While this is especially the case for Saudi Arabia – which rose to $1.3 billion last year at a rate of 8% and is projected to hit double-digit growth this year – the UAE in many ways remains the spiritual home of management consulting in the Middle East, serving as the local national model for economic diversification efforts and the original launch-pad for the contemporary consulting rush in the region. Even as other local markets begin to boom, they are still most often served from the Emirates, which the majority of consultancies call home.Size of the management consulting industry of the UAEThe Emirates’ ongoing status as a hub and regional headquarters for management consulting is well supported, playing host to numerous consultancies including all of the big name – many of which first established their presence in the region by way of the UAE and in particular Dubai. Of the international Big Three in strategy and management consulting, McKinsey & Company opened its first Middle East office in Dubai in 1999 after being active in the region since 1957, while BCG launched in the city in 2007 (followed by an office in Abu Dhabi) and Bain & Company set up its regional base there in 2008.

Other big name global firms with a fixed presence in the Emirates include; Accenture, which is an official digital services partner for Dubai Expo 2020; Arthur D. Little, which has recently joined the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) in strategic cooperation talks with Saudi Aramco; A.T. Kearney, including a newly unveiled National Transformations Institute set up in Dubai to serve the wider Middle East, and; Mercer, which has deployed its Mercer Digital offering specifically in Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Further strategy and support firms such as Roland Berger, Oliver Wyman, Capgemini, and FTI Consulting also have an office in either or both of Abu Dhabi and Dubai, while others, including supply chain consultancy Miebach Consulting, financial advisory Accuracy, and tax and legal network Andersen Global, have launched in the UAE in recent times through acquisitions or organic growth. Possibly the biggest local profile though, and earliest out of the gates with an Abu Dhabi office launched in 1993 and purported Middle Eastern revenues of $1.3 billion in 2015, belongs to Strategy& – the dedicated strategy arm of PwC – the Big Four firm which itself has four offices across the UAE.

Indeed, the Big Four professional services firms – Deloitte, KPMG, and EY in addition to PwC – all have a significant presence in the Emirates, with at least 14 offices and more than 4,000 professionals between them, and, with the growing market for digital support, transformations and implementations along with expanding lines in consulting, have a widening footprint in the local management market. In fact, KPMG ranked the UAE as the third most prepared nation globally on its International Change Readiness Index – which assesses domestic change management capacities.