For over 4,000 years, Bahrain has been a hub of trade and commerce, and thanks to a progressive government now has one of the most diverse economies in the Gulf. The launch of Vision 2030, which continues the development of Bahrain’s economy and society, means the Kingdom will very much remain a hub in the global trade of skills and knowledge.
Considered the natural gateway to the Gulf, Bahrain has positioned itself as a dynamic global business destination. Major corporations are choosing Bahrain as their preferred base for regional operations, taking advantage of its accommodative investment climate and increasingly digitalised economy, accelerating its reputation as a significant player in the region and beyond.
Bahrain is more than just business friendly; it is known for being amongst the most welcoming countries in the region. In 2019 it ranked number one in the Middle East for work-life balance for the third year running, and is often cited as being one of the top countries in the world to live, work and raise a family. High living standards, a multi-cultural environment and a vibrant culture are just some of the reasons Bahrain is such a highly regarded destination.
Thanks to a forward-thinking government, Bahrain began an economic diversification programme over 40 years ago as it shifted from a reliance on the oil industry. By carefully cultivating a flourishing commercial ecosystem, the Kingdom now has a diverse and technologically sophisticated market. It is particularly strong in finance and ICT and increasingly so in its manufacturing, logistics and tourism sectors, primed to grow exponentially over the next few years as investors take advantage of Bahrain’s access to the $1.5 trillion Gulf market.
According to the 2019 Global Competitiveness Index, Bahrain ranked 45th out of 138 economies, using such key enablers as: infrastructure, ICT adoption, macroeconomic stability, human capital, market size and business dynamism. This is in part due to liberal economic policies, world-class infrastructure, openness to foreign investment and excellent development opportunities, where businesses of all sizes can flourish – from startups to established multi-national firms.
Sectors in Bahrain
Bahrain is an emerging industry leader within the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and the wider MENA region. For a more detailed look at business sectors in Bahrain, as well as the opportunities to invest, visit the Bahrain Economic Development Board website.
Well established in the GCC and beyond, Bahrain is home to over 200 financial institutions, as well as the International Islamic Financial Market and the International Islamic Ratings Agency. It attracts numerous multinational companies in the banking and insurance sectors, and more recently in FinTech as it stakes its claim as pioneers of new finance and blockchain technologies.
Ranked number one in MENA for its ICT readiness, Bahrain was the first country regionally to deregulate its telecommunications market, and the first economy in the GCC to adopt a cloud-first policy. Attracted by its competitive advantages, global IT firms from cloud computing to cyber security are choosing Bahrain as their preferred base within the region.
“Demonstrating a commitment to innovation to fuel the digital economy, a collaboration between the public and private sectors in Bahrain have been nurturing an impressive startup ecosystem. Bahrain can now be considered the home of innovative and rapidly scalable startups in the region and the scene continues to expand at a rapid pace, being the perfect launchpad for startups looking to test, launch and scale to the wider market.”
Bahrain offers a commercially friendly environment, where manufacturing businesses can easily expand their operations. It also enjoys unrivalled proximity to key locations, providing the fastest access to Saudi Arabia – 75% of the Gulf’s largest market – and the rest of the GCC is easily accessible by road, sea or air.
Bahrain is the most efficient logistics business gateway into the region. It has the lowest set up and operating costs in the GCC, low port charges and an advanced logistics infrastructure. It also has the shortest transit time between seaport, airport and industrial zones within the GCC, allowing for rapid accessibility to surrounding markets.
Every year, millions of tourists from across the GCC and beyond experience the best Bahrain has to offer. With an already well-established tourism infrastructure, the country is primed for exciting investment opportunities within all areas of tourism, including investors and operators of all sizes. Bahrain’s commitment to grow the number of tourists each year will also ensure these businesses continue to prosper.
Living in Bahrain
A Top Destination
Bahrain may be small in size but it has a big reputation as a great place to live and work – around 52% of its 1.5 million population are expats. When combined with its history as a commercial crossroad, which saw nationalities from across the globe trading, settling and influencing, this makes the Kingdom a great melting pot of cultures and interests; no wonder it is consistently within the top 10 best expat destinations globally.
A High Quality Lifestyle
Bahrainis are rightfully proud of their reputation as the friendliest country in the region. This welcoming attitude makes Bahrain a home away from home for many; just one of the reasons the Kingdom was voted first in MENA for overall work and life satisfaction. A low cost of living, excellent family and childcare options, ease of making friends and personal happiness add to the impressive ranking.
A Rich Heritage and Culture
As one would expect with a country made up of so many influences, there is much to see and do in Bahrain. It has an intriguing history dating back to the Bronze Age. The Dilmun Burial Mounds that dot the island are a UNESCO World Heritage site, as are the Bahrain Fort and the Pearling Trail. The country also hosts an annual Formula 1 Grand Prix, the Spring of Culture – a season of activities that cater to all tastes and interests, has a growing foodie and art scene, and plenty of sports, social events and shopping experiences.
Vision 2030 is the government’s bold commitment to the future of Bahrain. It outlines the direction for the continued development of the Kingdom, shaping the economy – and society – around three principles: sustainability, fairness and competitiveness.
Central to Vision 2030 is the redefining of the role of the public sector, from the engine of growth to regulator of a stronger and more supported private sector. Bahrain’s economic prosperity will thus be built on firmer foundations, creating quality opportunities for both citizens and investors and ensuring the sustainability of a vibrant private sector able to drive growth in Bahrain independently.
A competitive environment drives economic growth, productivity, innovation and profitability – and increased employees’ wages. Vision 2030 will focus on education, attracting and retaining a skilled workforce, and improving its already high quality infrastructure and living environment to build a country that is a great place to do business.
At its heart, Vision 2030’s goal is that Bahrain’s economic success will impact society more widely. By creating a broad base of prosperity, every Bahraini should have the means to live a secure and fulfilled life, able to reach his or her potential. Free and fair competition should prevail, and all will be treated fairly under the law, in accordance to international human rights.