ABCC holds webinar to tackle Arab region's economic recovery amid COVID-19 vaccine rollout

Virtual conference examines economic impact of vaccination program

ABCC holds webinar to tackle Arab region's economic recovery amid COVID-19 vaccine rollout

The Arab-Brazilian Chamber of Commerce (ABCC) hosted recently a webinar to discuss the steady economic recovery of key Arab countries as a result of their continuous rollout of the COVID-19 vaccines.

The webinar featured experts who tackled the progress of the mass vaccination program of each GCC state, its effects on consumer behavior and its overall market impact. Furthermore, the guest speakers gave their expectations and forecasts throughout 2021 amid solid signs of economic recovery in the region. The virtual conference specifically looked into the case of the UAE, which has been implementing one of the world’s fastest vaccination campaigns, as well as the ongoing economic recoveries of Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. Highlighted as well during the event were the findings of an ABCC-commissioned survey on consumption changes in the Arab region during the pandemic, which was conducted by research firm H2R Pesquisas Avançadas.

The survey showed a surge in online purchases during the pandemic. Approximately 48 per cent of shoppers were already buying online before the pandemic, but from 2018 to 2020 the e-commerce market grew by 100 per cent. Majority of consumers are using social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram to purchase their needs. The e-commerce industry is estimated to grow even further at 36 per cent to reach USD 30 billion in 2021. In the Arab region, according to the same survey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the UAE account for 80 per cent of the total e-commerce market.

The COVID-19 vaccination in Arab countries boosted Brazil’s exports to the region during the first quarter of the year. Sales from Brazil to the Arab countries fetched USD 2.91 billion year-to-date through March, up 18.2 per cent from a year ago. The increase in volume was even higher at 22.5 per cent. The Brazilian agribusiness benefited from the reopening of the region’s economy. After growth of less than 2 per cent in shipments to the Arab League throughout last year, the sales in the first quarter of 2021 surged 8.7 per cent to reach USD 1.78 billion compared to the same period in 2020.

The fast vaccine rollout, coupled with preventive measures and relief policies, has contributed to the Arab region’s steady recovery and resiliency. In the GCC, many of the member states were reportedly recovering faster than expected thanks to the region’s rapid mass vaccination initiative. 

Osmar Chohfi, President, ABCC, said: “Like the rest of the world, the Arab region had imposed lockdowns, travel restrictions and other measures to contain the spread of the virus last year and prevent the healthcare system from being overwhelmed. In the GCC region, we saw during the second half of 2020 the declining COVID-19 cases as a result of these measures. Lockdown orders were also lifted around this time, and the gradual reopening of the economy began.”

“The Gulf countries experienced recovery at varying degrees based on their response to the pandemic. Some of their measures were geared towards helping the private sector and small businesses. Bahrain and the UAE deployed the much-needed stimulus packages worth USD 11.4 billion and USD 27 billion, respectively. Saudi Arabia announced a USD 13 billion package, as well as Qatar (USD 23 billion) and Egypt (USD 6 billion). We are confident that the regional economic upturn during the last six months of 2020 will continue throughout 2021. The webinar served as an ideal platform to look further into the region’s recovery and discuss what this turnaround meant for the global investors,” he added.    

The latest International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates showed that Saudi Arabia’s gross domestic product (GDP) will increase 2.1 per cent in 2021, up 6.2 per cent from last year, and 4.8 per cent in 2022. The same upward trajectory is expected in the UAE amid its continuous implementation of its recovery plans, economic measures, and support packages. Based on the data released by the Central Bank of the UAE, the country will experience a 2.5 per cent increase in real GDP and 3.6 per cent in non-oil real GDP this year. In 2022, the UAE is expected to witness a 3.5 per cent growth in real GDP and 3.9 per cent increase in non-oil real GDP.

Through its series of webinars, the ABCC continues to improve the communication channels between Brazil and Arab countries, as well as promote Brazilian goods made in compliance with the halal food standards and guidelines. It also aims to increase awareness on the Arab region’s culture-oriented work via its online events. Most importantly, the ABCC seeks to use the virtual platforms to help unlock Brazilian-Arab free trade agreement talks.

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