Unlocking Sustainable Growth in the Middle East: Key Priorities for CEOs   

As the region witnesses remarkable strides in its non-oil economy, we outline four priorities CEOs must adopt now to balance challenges with potential.   

In the fast-changing landscape of the Middle East, strategic investments for sustainable growth and resilience are paramount. With notable advancements in the non-oil economy, diverse sectors are opening up new opportunities for development. The region’s robust economic diversification efforts are positioning it as a leading hub for growth. Organizations need to think holistically as they balance challenges against potential. Those who make the right bets now, navigating those complexities, will yield results that mitigate risks, lead to progress in efficiency and sustainability and improve their employer reputation. 

CEOs should make sure these four priorities are high on their lists:  

1. Navigating EU Green Deal to Unlock Expansion Opportunities   

Many organizations in the MEA are eying market expansion into Europe, which means they must comply with the EU Green Deal that passed in May last year. Some of these issues, of course, are about regulatory mandates. Businesses must invest in sustainability measures to avoid market access challenges. From a compliance standpoint, organizations entering the European market must adhere to the stringent environmental regulations outlined in the deal. Many of these focus on carbon emissions and energy efficiency, which are crucial for market entry.   

But expansion requires thinking beyond regulations. European institutions favor businesses aligned with Green Deal goals. Consumers also prefer businesses that highlight sustainable practices. So do potential employees. Tapping into that environmentally conscious consumer segment means companies should emphasize the many ways they are transitioning to a green economy. Take every opportunity to expand and highlight ways the enterprise focuses on renewable energy, clean technologies and sustainable practices.   

Forward-thinking companies will recognize the EU Green Deal as a two-way street, offering abundant possibilities for transferring technology and innovation. Look for ways to collaborate with European counterparts to foster new solutions. Middle Eastern businesses that can leverage partnerships to enhance their competitiveness in the European market will have a smoother entry into European markets than those that go it alone.   

2. Embracing Sustainability as a Catalyst for Growth  

With international, national and local mandates growing more explicit, it’s easy to continue to view sustainability efforts as a costly drag on profits. That’s short-sighted. For businesses to grow, they need to replace that thinking, enhancing business ecosystems by aligning growth strategies with sustainability.  

Sustainable practices nurture growth. They create a level playing field with companies around the globe and enhance brand reputation. They help attract and retain talent. Middle East businesses can contribute to a greener future and strengthen their resilience and competitiveness by combining growth and sustainability planning.  

In seeking a holistic blend of these initiatives, businesses can look at the bigger universe they operate in, promoting partnerships and interconnectedness. Planning for a future dependent on and interacting with other companies, governments, and community groups makes aligning growth goals with sustainability in clear and measurable ways easier. Goals should encompass carbon reduction and eco-friendly product development.   

3. Fostering Local Growth Amidst Saudi Arabia’s Megaproject Surge  

So many changes are underway in the largest economy in the Arab world that it’s hard to keep up. In keeping with its sweeping Vision 2030, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has stepped up public relations, marketing and communications efforts and is emerging as a top global destination. Last year, the country welcomed more than 100 million tourists, a milestone it had hoped to reach by 2030. That’s a jump of 56% from 2019 and 12% from 2022.  

It has also won plenty of global attention for megaprojects, like NEOM, a $500 billion megacity under development.  

That’s all crucial for the growth of KSA. Yet there seems to be a growing gap in providing sustainable projects that benefit the local population against massive megaprojects. This gap leaves plenty of room for businesses to launch initiatives, better positioning them in this important market, including:   

  • Prioritize local hiring of talent in both skilled and unskilled positions, contributing to job creation and economic empowerment.   
  • Support skill development initiatives and training programs that enhance the capabilities of the local workforce.   
  • Start infrastructure development projects throughout the value chain, which will connect to the vast business needs of megaprojects.  

4. Use Influencers and AI for Human-Centred Marketing  

Using artificial intelligence to power personalization and content creation is a trend that is as big in the Middle East as it is everywhere else. So is the importance of influencer marketing, particularly among larger corporations, and AI makes it possible to dramatically increase its reach.   

We are all for efficiency gains from thoughtfully deployed machine thinking. Yet as companies invest more in technologies, like GenAI for marketing and advertising, a crucial consideration for the Middle East emerges: How can companies maintain a human-centric focus? While consumers in the region are increasingly open to digital options, they’re wary of impersonal bots. They crave a human touch. That means companies need to find a delicate balance that preserves the creativity inherent in human behavior and the next generation of marketing. Even as companies step up investments in AI, they need to run all marketing solutions through customer-centric frameworks. Efficiency can’t come at the expense of genuine human connection.  


The MEA region’s business and investment landscape faces a pivotal moment, demanding strategic investments and holistic approaches to overcome challenges and seize opportunities. Embracing diversification, sustainability, and innovation, enables businesses to flourish in this dynamic environment, fostering a sustainable and more resilient future for the region. 

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