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23rd CEO Survey – Middle East findings
In late 2019, we surveyed CEOs from across the Middle East to understand their views on what is driving future growth across the region, where the untapped opportunities lie and the role business leaders will ultimately play in helping to create a sustainable and prosperous economy for all.
It’s fair to say that CEOs in the Middle East continue to be cautious, amid all the economic and geopolitical uncertainty. More than half of our respondents believe that economic growth will slow in 2020, compared to just 38% last year, making them slightly more pessimistic than their global counterparts.
Nine out of ten business leaders in the region are worried about geopolitical uncertainty this year. 77% of Middle East CEOs plan to make operational efficiencies over the next 12 months to improve performance. Despite the uncertainty, however, 47% expect their companies to enter new markets in 2020 with CEOs particularly excited about both Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
80% of our respondents this year said a shortage of skills in the workforce was a potential threat to their organisation’s growth prospects, up from 10% from last year. 70% of CEOs increasingly recognise that they must maximise the potential of their existing staff through upskilling programmes. Our ‘GCC Hopes and Fears’ survey further demonstrates that there is also great demand for upskilling from employees in the region.
The response of our CEOs to technological change reflects both increasing global awareness of the need to manage the privacy and cybersecurity risks of technology and a regional background in which the requirement to cope with geopolitical instability features prominently in business planning. Understandably, therefore, the proportion of Middle East CEOs who identify rising tensions as a key factor shaping their cybersecurity strategy is almost double the global survey average.
Companies throughout the region are steadily adapting to the realities of a lower rate of economic growth. In this context, corporate sustainability in the region is focused on building leaner, more efficient and nimble businesses to withstand a downturn and be ready to exploit any opportunities on the horizon. Yet mention sustainability in the context of climate change and our CEOs appear underprepared.
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Middle East Senior Partner, PwC Middle East
Clients and Markets Leader, PwC Middle East