Africa and Middle East

Markets of the Middle East and Africa offer significant export opportunities, and Wisconsin companies should not be deterred by challenges of the markets, as long as they do their research and approach key markets in a systematic and strategic manner. The region is home to some of the world’s poorest countries along with some of the wealthiest. The region has strong demand for infrastructure supplies and equipment; both basic and cutting-edge health care devices; energy generation and distribution equipment; information technology; manufacturing equipment; and mining, agriculture and food processing machinery.

Although no African countries rank among Wisconsin’s top 20 export destinations, the potential exists for significant growth as Africa’s economies and population continue to grow. The office of Wisconsin’s trade representative, based in South Africa, serves 12 countries in southern and eastern Africa, and has regional sub-offices in Tanzania and Mauritius, offering vast geographic coverage to Wisconsin exporters.

In the Middle East, Wisconsin has trade representation in the six countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC): Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman. These countries are working to diversify their economies away from petroleum and natural gas extraction. Public infrastructure megaprojects, especially in Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, are expected to spur strong expansions in the tourism, transportation, construction and wholesale/retail sectors.

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Saudi Arabia possesses about 16 percent of the world’s proven petroleum reserves and ranks as the largest exporter of petroleum. Saudi Arabia is encouraging the growth of the private sector in order to diversify its economy. Historically, the Saudi government has focused diversification efforts on power generation, telecommunications, natural gas exploration and petrochemical sectors. In April 2016, in a notable policy shift, the kingdom unveiled a significant economic reform plan, Saudi Vision 2030, which seeks to increase foreign investment and enhance the overall competitiveness of the Saudi Arabian economy and economic diversification through development of the private sector.



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South Africa is a middle-income emerging market with an abundant supply of natural resources; well-developed financial, legal, communications, energy, and transport sectors; and a stock exchange that is Africa’s largest and among the top 20 in the world. The country has a large agricultural and food/beverage processing sector, an advanced aerospace and defense industry, and strong manufacturing capacity. Trade is important to South Africa’s economy, and the country serves as a gateway to much of the rest of sub-Saharan Africa; the value of exports and imports taken together equals 63 percent of GDP.


See Global Market Updates for South Africa


The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has long been recognized as the commercial and business hub of the Middle East, and can be one of the easiest markets in the region for U.S. exporters to enter. It is a strategic hub, with business-friendly free zones. The UAE has developed a leading role in business services, including finance, and has effectively created a logistics hub between East and West. It is home to the busiest man-made port and two of the fastest-growing airlines in the world. Fueled by oil wealth and ambition to become a diversified regional economic hub, the UAE is undertaking a carefully planned expansion, including noteworthy projects in tourism, urban development, alternative energy, aerospace and composites manufacturing. UAE is scheduled to host Expo 2020, more commonly known as the World’s Fair. With a theme of “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future,” the Expo will focus on sustainability, mobility and opportunity.


See Global Market Updates for United Arab Emirates

The views or opinions expressed here are solely those of the author(s) and do not reflect those of WEDC. WEDC is not responsible for the contents nor does WEDC guarantee the accuracy, completeness, timeliness or reliability of this information.