Saudi Arabia has often attracted widespread controversy regarding the way its society operates, especially in the Western world – sometimes fuelled by spectators who do not know much about the country itself. Dig a little deeper and one will find that doing business in Saudi Arabia can be, for those that do their research into the country’s customs, a worthwhile pursuit.
As the revered birthplace of Islam and home to the religion’s holiest shrines, Saudi Arabia is the de facto leader of the Sunni branch of Islam. One of the world’s largest producers of oil (exports of the commodity account for 85% of the government’s revenues), the Kingdom’s influence on the Gulf cannot be underestimated. The country’s status as the largest exporter of petroleum has secured its position as a leader of OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries). In short, the nation is an economically and religiously powerful one.
Being one of the most conservative countries in the world may make Saudi Arabia a novel place to do business in and entering the Saudi market is not without its challenges. Corruption is still rife; the government is not very transparent about state budgets and political and financial practices and the administration’s willingness to embrace foreign investment is deemed below average. As a result, doing business in Saudi Arabia secures a low score on The World Bank’s system for measuring business ease and is classed as “mostly unfree” on the Index of Economic Freedom. On the flip side, business regulations are moderately streamlined and the time required for business incorporation has been reduced. Reasonable social and economic liberalism has also been outlined in the nation’s “Vision 2030” plan.
The key to doing business in Saudi Arabia successfully is to understand that the Islamic religion is closely intertwined with all areas of life and therefore intrinsically integrated with business life. Religion’s prominence has led to business structures being hierarchical and extremely male-dominated with nepotism commonplace and relationship building paramount.
Customs and the way business meetings are held vary dramatically to the style of other countries. You will find a wealth of insight and actionable advice on the World Business Culture website to assist you in successfully doing business in Saudi Arabia – an often-misunderstood nation.
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This World Business Culture profile is designed as an introduction to business culture in Saudi Arabia only and a more detailed understanding needs a more in-depth exploration which we can provide through our training and consultancy services.