Emerging trends in MENA and around the globe
Castlereagh’s Market Monitor collection offers top-tier news and analysis of future trends and buried topics in business, geopolitics, energy, finance and more. Utilising on-the-ground sources and including commentary from some of the region’s top analysts and policy experts, gain a fresh perspective on developments in the Gulf, Middle East, North Africa and further afield.
Once a premium destination for overseas investors, Turkey’s power sector has recently been struggling with the impact of lower-than-expected growth rates, partial market liberalisation and fixed, long-term natural gas contracts. Power generation firms face further stress as the economic impact of the pandemic bites. Efforts to arrange a new debt restructuring deal have been delayed by the virus and wider economic woes, casting uncertainty over future demand. However, the sector retains some high-grade assets, however, which may attract future investor interest.
The level of disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic has revealed how ill-prepared governments and international institutions are for anything beyond their routine activities. When normality is once again restored, the world must learn the lessons from today’s events in order to prepare for, and mitigate, the worst effects of an even bigger challenge: climate change and global warming. For the MENA region, one of the most pressing questions will be how to handle flows of people displaced by climate change.
Perhaps more than anywhere else in the world, rapid urbanisation in the MENA region will create significant investment opportunities for a variety of domestic and foreign firms. North Africa will see high-volume, low-tech developments, while capital-intensive projects such as rail and smart cities will be concentrated in higher-income nations in the Gulf. Elsewhere, a widening urban infrastructure deficit will stoke social instability.
After the re-imposition of US sanctions in 2018 sparked a crash in its oil industry, Iran accelerated production of natural gas and gas condensates and expanded gas exports to neighbouring countries less vulnerable to sanctions. However, domestic obstacles and continued limits on its energy exports have prevented Iran from securing its place as a major gas provider to the region, and it now has another priority for its rising gas output: its downstream sector.
As the fallout from the COVID-19 continues, Morocco has sought to manage the effects on its economy through a series of stimulus measures designed to support businesses and workers. Heavily reliant on tourism and industrial exports, the country’s recovery will depend on the resumption of demand in key European markets.
Local and international responses to COVID-19 have impacted key sectors of Turkey’s economy, such as manufacturing, retail and tourism. While the global fall in oil prices will ameliorate some of the country’s current account stress, overall the economy is likely to shrink this year for the first time since 2009. Currency and financial sector weaknesses increase the risk of a protracted downturn.
The twin economic shocks triggered by low oil prices and COVID-19 containment measures will have a disruptive impact on renewable energy in 2020 and 2021. Further down the line, however, it will galvanise sector growth, as investors increasingly seek to diversify away from risky portfolios. Prospects will improve further if governments maintain their commitments to sustainable energy and improve their investment climates.
Turkey’s banks entered the pandemic with some concerning underlying conditions and may need some significant financial ventilation if they are to come through it in good health. Foreign currency debt, depletion of foreign exchange reserves and political interference has added risk, with lenders likely to see increasing stress on their balance sheets in the months ahead. The picture darkens further the longer the health crisis continues.
Electric vehicle (EV) uptake will gain momentum in the MENA region over the coming years, particularly in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan and Morocco, as governments continue to push for technology adoption and green energy initiatives. While there is limited potential for the region’s main automotive manufacturing countries to capitalise, increased EV demand will spur investment opportunities in charging infrastructure and vehicle-to-grid (V2G) services. The lower oil price environment and ongoing uncertainty with regard to the COVID-19 pandemic present the largest risk to uptake.
Leveraging location, low costs, and strong legacy companies with a skilled labour pool, the pharmaceutical industry is a quiet success story in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE). The sector is a major contributor to exports and R&D spending in several countries, and has become a magnet for M&A deals in recent years.
Attracting investment into its domestic renewable energy sector will remain a priority of the Tunisian government over the coming years in line with its efforts to boost energy security and increase foreign direct investment inflows. The strong growth potential of the market and increasing competition in the global renewable energy sector will ensure the country remains an investment bright spot. Risks remain pertinent, however, given elevated levels of political uncertainty and concerns over the financial stability of the off-taker, STEG.
Egypt’s rapidly growing youth population offers significant opportunities for economic development over the long term. However, a persistent skills shortage and misalignment of education and job market needs may prevent the country from successfully taking advantage of this potential demographic dividend. A failure to achieve the human capital and education plans outlined under Egypt Vision 2030 will jeopardise economic diversification plans and leave the country vulnerable to social and political instability.