Consulting industry of Qatar forges on in lead-up to 2022 FIFA World Cup

29 May 2018 6 min. read

The management consulting market of Qatar continued to grow over the past year despite embargos from a number of neighboring states, with the fast-approaching 2022 FIFA World Cup set to keep the consulting sector ticking along in the lead-up and beyond.

A year on from the economic sanctions imposed on Qatar by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt, and the gas-rich Gulf nation is pushing forward with business as usual. Signaling that its economy had absorbed the initial shocks of the economic and diplomatic boycott, the state has outstripped most of the region in economic growth over the past year, and looks set to march on this year according to IMF projections.

Qatar’s economic deflection of the trade prohibitions was in part supported by significant sovereign wealth investment in response, and in its last budget the treasury pegged government spending to increase by 2.4 percent, offset by a forecasted revenue increase of 2.9 percent courtesy of rising non-energy income – with Qatar, like the other states of the GCC, in the process of radically transforming its national economy in response to the steep fall in oil prices.

Such conditions are fertile ground for the management consulting sector; especially so, when considering the nation’s ambition toward establishing itself as a premier international hub for innovation. The global strategy firm A.T. Kearney, which opened an office in Doha in 2014 in response to what it termed the nation’s ‘hyper speed evolution’, has been moved by the series of bold economic transformation agendas underway in the region to establish a dedicated National Transformations Institute earlier this year. Meanwhile, Qatar’s Science and Technology Park continues to attract the giants of the tech R&D realm.

A diplomatic regional outcast, the management consulting market of the country also stands alone in the GCC in a proportional sense, well shy of the towering markets of Saudi Arabia and the regional consulting epicenter of the UAE, but of a much greater size and maturity than the smaller GCC economies of Oman, Bahrain and Kuwait. Pushing out past a worth of $340 million for 2017, the Qatar management consulting sector holds a more than 12% share of the total GCC market, which last year grew 7% to $2.8 billion – led by Saudi Arabia at a near $1.3 billion for an over 45 percent slice of the pie.Size of the management consulting industry of Qatar

Following Saudi Arabia and ahead of Qatar is the UAE, still going strong at growth rate of 7.6% last year to surpass the $790 million mark, while Kuwait (~$185 million), Oman (~$100 million) and Bahrain (~$80 million) all trail some way behind, although Oman is benefitting economically as a back-door around the blockade, with increased trade and business activities between Oman and Qatar reported last year to have risen 2000 percent. As an example, the high-profile Qatari project management firm ASTAD recently signed a strategic cooperation agreement with Muscat-based design consultancy F&M Middle East Engineering.

Despite the strength of the reported figures, garnered through industry analysis and interviews conducted by Source Global Research, the Source report brief suggests that the Qatari management consulting market continues to disappoint, with Senior Managing Partner for Roland Berger in the Middle East, stating; “The uptick in consulting spend in the UAE and Saudi Arabia has helped mitigate any losses in Qatar.” Meanwhile, PwC Partner and Middle East Consumer & Industrial Products Leader, Anil Khurana, notes that the firm’s focus still remains on “the three main markets in the region: Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Qatar.”

Then there is of course the upcoming 2022 FIFA World Cup, with Qatar selected as the host nation back in 2010, when oil prices were rocketing and the management consulting sector of the GCC was recording growth rates in excess of 20 percent. The government is determined to parlay its World Cup investment and international exposure – with more than 3 billion people across the planet likely to tune in – into sustainable benefits through focused legacy planning. Just recently, KPMG in Qatar signed an agreement with the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy to help build a future world-class sport and event sector in the country.

While Saudi Arabia’s management consulting market may be tipped to re-enter double-digit growth territory for the coming year, Qatar has generally held steady throughout the flat-spots, recording rates of 6.6 percent growth in 2015 against 4.3 percent in the UAE. Indeed, some of the expressed disappointment in the Qatari market may be simply down to the aviation blockade, and the added nuisance in accessing Doha by air for the armies of regional consultants based out of Dubai. Still, a number of the big strategy consultancies have established a permanent presence in Qatar over the years, including Accenture, American firms Bain & Company and McKinsey, and PwC’s Strategy&.

In addition, the Big Four professional services firms Deloitte, KPMG and EY all have a presence in the country, the latter having established its first office in the country as far back as 1950, and have all been busy growing their consultancy offerings. Late last year, KPMG bolstered its consultancy line with the addition of two experienced Partners, the firm’s Country Senior Partner Ahmed Abu-Sharkh stating at the time; “Qatar has tremendous opportunities for growth and we are delighted to be able to help the country’s business and organisations to thrive by bringing top flight talent.”