The Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), the financial and business hub connecting the region’s emerging markets with the developed markets of Europe, Asia and the Americas, today hosted “Global Turbulence and MENA Transformations – Political Risk and Investment Trends and Opportunities”, a forum in collaboration with the Islamic Corporation for Insurance of Investments and Export Credits (ICIEC), and the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA). The forum, which took place in DIFC’s Conference Centre explored how today’s uncertain world affects prospects for regional growth.
Political volatility in the Middle East and North Africa (“MENA”) region, as well as the financial crisis in the Euro zone, have been highlights of the past year. The forum discussed prospects for regional growth and the impact those events had on investment, particularly on infrastructure projects. The forum also explored effective risk mitigants and the role of development financial institutions in the context of the challenges facing regional markets.
Opening the conference, Abdulla Mohammed Al Awar, CEO of DIFC Authority, said: “The MENA region has experienced tremendous transformation and rapid change amidst global uncertainty. In 2011 two developments affected the outlook of the region: the political and social unrest following the surge in global oil and food prices. Although the long-term benefits of the Arab Spring are indisputable, since the beginning of this year the region has witnessed economic pressures driven by internal and external sources. Hence, a broad reform agenda needs to be identified to rebuild those affected countries and to rekindle organic economic growth.”
He added: “Infrastructure development is particularly important, as it is the foundation of overall economic growth. There is a lot to be done to identify opportunities and manage investment risks in the region. DIFC actively supports the growth and development of local and regional economies as evidenced by this forum.”
Michel Wormser, Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of MIGA, noted: “Foreign direct investment creates jobs—and job creation is the lynchpin to development in the region. This conference helped bring key economic players together to discuss how to allay investors’ concerns so that they feel comfortable maintaining their plans and expanding further.”
Dr Abdel-Rahman Taha, the Chief Executive Officer of ICIEC observed: “Events in the region show clearly the role Political Risk Insurance can play in attracting foreign investment into countries which need it the most. I am sure this event went a long way in educating stakeholders in the role multilaterals like MIGA & ICIEC can play in supporting their investments. PRI, which serves to bridge the gap between the ability and willingness of foreign investors to invest their capital, will only grow in importance given the macro-economic and political climate.”
The forum brought together more than one hundred economic development and investment experts from leading regional and international companies, who discussed the impact of the global turbulence on investment in the region and the future development of MENA.
The highlights of the forum included discussion regarding investment trends, changes in capital flows and FDI in MENA, and the role regional economies play in the global investment landscape. Experts also evaluated the current situation one year after the start of the Arab Spring, and the impact of political risk on investment as government changes begin to take effect.
The forum considered the acute need for infrastructure development projects given the current environment as a means of stimulating long term economic development. Panellists discussed opportunities for infrastructure investment in MENA, the major investors, developers, and other key players, as well as the main sources of finance and support for the rebuilding of countries such as Libya and Iraq, including the role of development finance institutions. The progress of infrastructure projects already underway was also reviewed. In addition, discussion focused on how investors can protect themselves in markets facing heightened political uncertainty.
The forum concluded with an interactive discussion between the panellists and the audience to address all their inquiries and remarks, which was followed by closing remarks by MIGA’s Wormser.
Speakers at the event included Dr Walid Abdelwahab, Director of Infrastructure, Islamic Development Bank; Abdulla Al Awar, CEO, DIFC Authority; Khemeis El-Gazzah, Director of Operations, Islamic Corporation for Insurance of Investment and Export Credit; Dr. Yasar Jarrar, Partner, PricewaterhouseCoopers; Dr. Ilham Kadri, General Manager, Dow Chemical; Mouayed Makhlouf, Director, International Finance Corporation; Edith Quintrell, Director of Operations, MIGA; Narayanan Rajagopalan, Partner and Chief Risk and Compliance Officer, Abraaj Capital; Dr. Nasser Saidi, Chief Economist, DIFC; Dr. Fabio Scacciavillani, Chief Economist, Oman Investment Fund; Ravi Suri, Managing Director, Standard Chartered; Ravi Vish, Chief Economist and Director of Economics and Policy, MIGA; Simon Williams, Chief Gulf Economist, HSBC; Michel Wormser, Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, MIGA.
Abdulla Al Awar, CEO, DIFC Authority
Dr. Nasser Saidi, Chief Economist, DIFC
Ravi Vish, Chief Economist and Director of Economics and Policy, MIGA
Khemeis El-Gazzah, Director of Operations, Islamic Corporation for Insurance of Investment and Export Credit