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Sun 9 Feb 2020 12:50 PM

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Majority of CEOs in Middle East upbeat in 2020, despite geopolitical uncertainty

PwC's 23rd annual CEO Survey reveals 75 percent of CEOs in the region expect headcount to remain the same or increase this year

Majority of CEOs in Middle East upbeat in 2020, despite geopolitical uncertainty

According to the survey, 77 percent of Middle East CEOs plan to make operational efficiencies over the next 12 months to improve performance. 

Nine out of ten CEOs in the region are worried about geopolitical uncertainty this year, according to results from PwC’s 23rd annual CEO Survey.

The new decade began with heightened tensions between the US and Iran, and while America and China called a truce in their trade war, the global spread of the coronavirus has placed further pressure on markets.

Yet despite this uncertainty, 66 percent of CEOs in the region are confident about their company’s revenue growth in the next year, with 74 percent more confident about the next three years.

Hani Ashkar, PwC Middle East territory senior partner, said: “CEOs in the Middle East are surrounded by uncertainty. Whether it’s geopolitical, economic or technological; business leaders are navigating this instability and overcoming obstacles through efficiency, talent and technology, making way for new opportunities for growth.”

According to the survey, 77 percent of Middle East CEOs plan to make operational efficiencies over the next 12 months to improve performance. But this will not come at the expense of jobs, with 75 percent interviewed expecting headcount to remain the same or increase this year.

Ashkar added: “Uncertainty can be a segue for reduced headcount, decreased investment and overall timidness when it comes to growth opportunities. But CEOs in the Middle East do not shy away, looking instead to adapt to create sustainability and growth for the future.”

Despite the uncertainty, 47 percent expect their companies to enter new markets in 2020 with Saudi Arabia and Egypt the most cited markets for growth.

However, 80 percent of respondents this year said a shortage of skills in the workforce was a potential threat to their organisation’s growth prospects, up from 70 percent last year.

At the same time, 70 percent of CEOs see upskilling as a means to improve their employees’ knowledge of technology and its potential implications.

Stephen Anderson, Middle East strategy and markets leader, said: “It is pleasing to note that there is a region-wide focus on upskilling to drive digital transformation, which in turn will enable better products and services and improve job prospects for the local workforce, including young people and women.”