By Hisham Youssef
How the post recession world is helping design firms.
With the centre of gravity in project development – and therefore
revenue – steadily shifting from the US
and Europe to Asia, the opportunity for international
firms to be truly global is more prevalent than ever before.
In the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), the concentration
of project work is being spread beyond Dubai and
even Abu Dhabi, to countries like Qatar, KSA, Egypt
While further afield, Brazil,
India and China are increasingly
target markets for international consultants.
These emerging regional economic dynamics are providing most
international firms with two great opportunities, firstly increasing their foothold
across the region, and secondly
allowing them to become truly international in how they deliver projects.
Where firms established a large presence in Dubai
while times were good, or chose to establish representative offices in Dubai, and more recently Abu Dhabi, they are now jockeying to increase
their footprint and presence beyond the UAE.
This has been compounded by the economic pressure of generating
revenues in the current climate in the West. From King Abdullah Financial District
in Saudi Arabia, to the barrage
of infrastructure and project opportunities in preparation for the FIFA 2022 World
Cup in Doha, the
prospects are looking up.
Taking the long view, many firms recognise the relevance and
indeed the important role the region is already playing to their balance sheet and
to diversifying their portfolio with project types that are not available in their
respective home countries.
While Dubai was historically the place to be, and that is now
increasingly Abu Dhabi, the increase in cost of living is leading to other cities
such as Cairo emerging as compelling and
viable alternatives to set up an operation. This is both due to the low rates for
office space and a far more cost-effective pool of skilled labour.
But the MENA region is only part of this bigger picture. As firms
expand across the globe they are developing strategies to take advantage of what
each region can offer. They are finding increased project work, more cost effective
labour and attractive real estate rates. They are also able to provide international
design value delivered locally. More than ever before, advances in project sharing
technology platforms, faster communication speeds, and larger bandwidth, have broken
down time and distance barriers, and are affording firms the opportunity to become
A project could be won in Abu Dhabi,
with documents prepared in Vietnam,
and design oversight based in the United States, for example. This provides
clients with best value, taking advantage of multi-disciplinary and multi-national
As we slowly adjust to the new world economic balance, opportunities
abound. These are exciting times and now we must develop strategies for the world
of 2020 and beyond.