Occasional Paper

Saudi Arabia as an Emerging Market: Commercial Opportunities and Challenges for South Africa

Saudi Arabia is a country on the rise with its sights set on full integration into the global economy. Since the late 1990s, Saudi policymakers have made a concerted effort to reform the country’s economy, and to position it as an investment destination and an important player in the global economy.

Economic reforms have created many opportunities for outsiders seeking new trade and investment avenues. The country offers boundless economic possibilities, and its economic potential has yet to be fully tapped. Saudi Arabia is a pivotal country in the Gulf region and exhibits characteristics of an emerging power.

South Africa should take Saudi Arabia seriously as a commercial partner. South Africa’s evolving South–South strategy, centred on Brazil, Russia, India and China, should also include countries in the Gulf and the broader Middle East. In particular, South Africa should deepen trade and investment ties with Saudi Arabia.

South Africa should take advantage of Saudi Arabia’s desire to foster closer economic ties with Africa. Apart from seeking economic opportunities within the growing and modernising Saudi economy, South Africa should actively promote itself as a natural and attractive destination for investment by Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries. South Africa’s external strategies – both through government’s diplomatic efforts and commercial strategies – ought to give strong priority to Saudi Arabia as a growing market in the Gulf region, and as an important global actor.