The 2010s has been a whirlwind of a decade, both marked by major advancements in the ways we do things as well as the economic uncertainties of an increasingly competitive globalised landscape. While many maturised markets felt the heat of oversaturated industries, emerging markets like Bahrain’s have opened up new pathways to doing business on an international scale.
Looking back at Bahrain’s evolution during the past 10 years, the Kingdom is fast heading towards a new era of digital transformation. With the rise of the growing startup ecosystem, innovators, and digital experts, Bahrain has developed into a hub of talent, innovation, and transformative technology.
Here are the best accomplishments that have landed in Bahrain’s market the past decade:
Launch of Amazon Web Services (AWS) Middle East region in Bahrain
In 2019, Amazon Web Services (AWS) launched their first Middle East region in the Kingdom. The infrastructure provides opportunities by offering easier access to advanced cloud technologies, with AWS by far the largest cloud provider in the world – outshining rivals like Google and Microsoft.
The launch of AWS as a cloud provider is not only for the Kingdom’s private companies and startups – it can be utilised for government agencies as well. The Bahraini government is in the process of switching all its operations to the cloud, to enhance productivity and efficiency within all sectors and services.
Largest oilfield in more than 20 years
In mid-2018, Bahrain announced groundbreaking news: the massive discovery of 80 billion barrels of oil found off the Kingdom’s west coast. The discovery was the largest since the first oil was found in 1932. It was discovered in Khaleej Al Bahrain Basin and in shallow waters, close to existing oil facilities. The oil discovery offered support towards Bahrain’s fiscal accounts at a time of great economic change and helped to improve the Kingdom’s balance of trade.
Business in Formula 1
Organised by the Bahrain Economic Development Board and Formula One, the inaugural Business in Formula 1 was held in 2013, bringing together leaders from the world of business and sports. The event combined a unique team of high-profile leaders from both sectors and ties in closely with the Kingdom’s support of automotive manufacturer McLaren, now owned by Bahrain’s sovereign wealth fund Mumtalakat. The event brought together major international speakers such as Formula One racing legend Sir Jackie Stewart, Susie Wolff – the only woman in Formula 1 as the development driver for the William Formula One team –and many others. The event was seen by some as a launch to Bahrain’s new era of championing sport as a business model, furthered now by MMA, the acquisition of Bell Racing Helmets, and the sponsorship of Team X-Raid.
MENA’s best expat destination
According to 2018’s highly regarded InterNations Expat Survey, Bahrain was ranked as number one expat destination across the globe. The Kingdom was given a strong position because expats noted that they were easily able to settle in, make friends, and communicate without major language barriers. Respondents also said they quickly felt at home – ranking job security, working hours, and work/life balance as more than exceptional.
The rise in retail
Bahrain’s retail industry is on the rise and is one of the Kingdom’s most dynamic sectors. In the past decade, the thriving industry has grown at an average pace of 13% annually, and is expected to continue to grow by 13% each year within the coming 2-3 years. Luxury brands are increasingly entering the Bahraini market as a hub to expand throughout the GCC. For example, in 2013, luxury brand Gucci announced its direct entry to the Bahraini market through a joint venture with local partner Taleela Co. W.L.L. Consumer payment systems are also being streamlined to accompany this rise in retail, with Mastercard opening its first Bahrain office in 2017 with plans of expanding across the region.
Manama named Top Global City of the Future
According to FDI Intelligent Magazine’s 2014 annual report, Manama was among 10 top Global Cities of the Future. The data was compiled from 130 countries in five categories: economic potential, business friendliness, human capital and lifestyle, cost effectiveness and connectivity. Manama was the leading city from the MENA region, ranking 6th overall, 3rd for human capital and lifestyle, 4th for cost effectiveness, 7th for connectivity and 8th for business friendliness.
Opening of Bahrain FinTech Bay
As a testament to Bahrain’s rapid expansion into the FinTech world, Bahrain FinTech Bay opened its doors in 2018. Part of the global FinTech Consortium, with offices in the United States, Singapore, and now in Bahrain, the Bay plays a vital role in the digital transformation of Bahrain’s financial services industry. The launch also comes as part of a continued push in Bahrain to create the region’s leading startup ecosysytem, aided by the creation of a regulatory sandbox that solidifies Bahrain’s status as a regional testbed for innovators and entrepreneurs, and culminating in Bahrain being crowned Digital Startup Hub of the Year in 2019 by Entrepreneur Magazine Middle East.
Nationwide Open Banking and Cloud First
In 2019, Bahrain became the first country in the Middle East to adopt Open Banking, a direct response to consumer demand for greater access to their own financial data. The move towards consumer autonomy and independence comes in part to the country’s expanding efforts to make FinTech accessible to the everyday consumer, breaking ground in peer-to-peer payment spaces like Venmo and its Bahraini counterpart Benefit.
Bahrain also became the first in the region to implement a nation-wide Cloud First policy across all governmental entities, harnessing the power of Amazon Web Services to fully migrate its systems onto the Cloud for better optimisation in aiding client services and maximising efficiencies.
100+ MoU’s signed globally
Throughout the 2010s, Bahrain expanded its global footprint by establishing or expanding on relationships with entities across the globe with a strategic focus on informational exchange and bilateral relations through the signings of more than a hundred Memorandum of Understandings (MoUs) across the globe. The MoUs encompassed all sectors, from FinTech to ICT to startups and beyond.
Non-oil growth makes Bahrain fastest growing GCC economy
Bahrain’s GDP grew by 3.9% in 2017, with the non-oil economy expanding by 5%, according to the Bahrain Economic Quarterly (BEQ). The data showed that Bahrain was the fastest growing economy in the GCC, attributing growth in non-oil sectors. This was based on advancements in diversifying private sectors such as tourism, infrastructure projects, and a record year for foreign direct investment (FDI).
Bahrain’s growth over the past 10 years has been outstanding, and we expect to see further expansion within the coming years. With a forward-thinking government, and a host of agile regulation, we are moving at pace with the world’s advancements as we integrate technology to stay ahead of the curve. We look forward to seeing what the next decade brings.