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BAAR, Switzerland: In the past five years Saudi Arabia has risen from ninth position to reach second place on Agility Logistics' latest index of 45 emerging markets, produced in conjunction with Transport Intelligence (TI).

The company says the jump is due to the speed at which Saudi Arabia is building a world-class infrastructure, implementing reforms and attempting to diversify beyond oil, which is still half of the economy.

saudi railWith a US$750 billion GDP and a population of 29 million, the country has an index raking behind only China that has a US$9.3 trillion economy and a population of 1.4 billion.

Agility says among all emerging markets, the UAE, Qatar and Oman have created the best business conditions followed by Uruguay, Saudi Arabia and Morocco. The UAE, Malaysia, China, Oman, Saudi Arabia and Chile have developed the best infrastructure and connectedness.

To investigate the logistics potential of emerging economies, TI surveyed nearly 1,000 logistics industry professionals between August and October last year with the following conclusions:

Russia's growing economic isolation has dramatically diminished its appeal with more than 75 percent of respondents saying they were pessimistic about its prospects. The Russian-backed rebellion in Ukraine has damaged both countries and now have significantly less potential as emerging logistics markets.

In Asia Pacific, the top risks identified were natural disasters and corruption. In Latin America, corruption and government instability were the leading risks. Terrorism and government instability are seen as the leading concerns in the Middle East & North Africa. In Sub-Saharan Africa, poor infrastructure and government instability continue to be seen as the greatest risks.

Despite Ethiopia's emergence as a leading East African exporter, air hub and investment destination, it has yet to gain notice among logistics and supply chain professionals who rate the country with the least potential – behind even Syria, Iraq, Iran and Libya.

Survey respondents showed increased optimism about trade growth within Asia, between Asia and South America, and routes linking Asia and Africa.

According to the survey, logistics professionals also think near-sourcing is reshaping supply chains with 68 percent saying they are seeing manufacturing shift locations closer to end markets.

"A year ago, there was talk of an emerging markets meltdown and of a new 'fragile five' based on concerns about weakness in South Africa, Brazil, India, Turkey and Indonesia," said Essa Al-Saleh, president and CEO of Agility Global Integrated Logistics. "Emerging markets as a group turned out to be far more resilient – even vibrant – than expected despite continued sluggishness in the global economy."

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