The Middle East: Not Only War and Misery

Posted on the 2nd December 2015 by Sumeeta, Communications Coordinator

Middle_east

Civil wars, terrorist groups, extremism, poverty, misery, and death have long been the most escalated topics and the most illustrative concepts, used whenever the region of the Middle-East was brought up. Although an empathic human nature is what always draws our attention to an existing brutality, this should be a misguided way for making broad generalisations about the economic, political, and civil conditions of the area that comprises as many as 17 countries.

Instead of calling the Middle-East the region of hardship, a more accurate description should be “the region of contrast”. Of course, it is hardly possible to ignore the fact that the political turmoil in the war-torn countries of Syria or Iraq left the respective economies in ruins due to immense destruction, death rates, and displacement. However, in the presence of these counter-developments, a significant part of the Middle-East seems to enjoy a rapid progress and something that could be referred to as an exemplary story of economic success.

Just for the sake of the argument, consider several rather striking facts. Based on per capita GDP, Qatar is the richest country in the world by far with another prosperous Middle-East economy of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) ranking 18th. The cities of Dubai, Doha, or Abu Dhabi are also mentioned among the richest cosmopolitan metropolis in the world with their actively-diversifying economies and ambitious investment-attracting infrastructure and construction projects fuelling these views.
The latest trends are even more awe-inspiring because a region, that has long been undeservedly associated with economic backwardness, is moving towards becoming a global renewable-energy hub. The water, solar, green building and energy technologies are among the ones bearing the most market potential for the region. These technologies may rise in importance over the coming years, given their highest return on investment and fastest payoff as well as the high levels of energy consumption in several Middle-East countries.

Take solar power as an illustration of where the markets in the region are heading. Historically, oil-rich countries deployed limited renewable energy resources. However, dramatically falling solar photovoltaic costs, and commitments by regional governments, are changing the economic patterns. For oil-producing nations that use a substantial share for power generation, solar is increasingly the quickest, least-risk investment to add export capacity and revenue while satisfying rapid demand growth for electricity.

This shift is causing huge development and investment across the region. The UAE is currently building what could eventually become one of the world’s largest solar plants. Additional projects are under development in Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia. Many giant global institutions are planning to expand their renewable energy footprint in the region by investing in further infrastructure development.For example, The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has recently announced $250 million funding for renewable energy projects in the Middle-East.

Therefore, the implications are clear. Rapidly growing and innovating renewable energy sector in the Middle-East is a distinctive opportunity which can easily be translated to economic growth and prosperity. Various renewable energy technologies are estimated to decrease fossil fuel consumption by 25 per cent annually in the water and power sectors of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and UAE combined. What is more, heavy investment attraction and construction funding are the ways to spur job creation, accelerate urban advancement, and improve livelihoods. Yet, most hopefully, these steps will help to shift our immutable mind-set from viewing the Middle-East as pitiful region to thinking of it as an example to the rest of the world.

Written by Ieva Zvinakyte, Communications Team Member

Sources:
1. http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/nov/19/renewables-are-changing-the-climate-narrative-from-sacrifice-to-opportunity
2. http://cleantechnica.com/2015/11/06/ebrd-announces-250-million-funding-renewable-energy-projects-mena-region/
3. http://www.ey.com/Publication/vwLUAssets/EY-middle-east-and-north-africa-cleantech-survey/$FILE/EY-middle-east-and-north-africa-cleantech-survey.pdf

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