COVID-19 has proven to be a relentlessly disruptive force that brought about major changes in how we conduct business, learn, travel, and communicate.
But the GCC has also proven to be a worthy adversary in combating and limiting the negative effects of the virus on both businesses and human lives.
COVID-19 and business as unusual
We take a look at economic sectors and healthcare data that reflect the fight back against the virus.
The latest data from Source Global Research, a top provider of research about the global professional services market, shows that the GCC consulting market is set to contract by up to 11%, compared to a 13% revenue contraction globally in 2020.
Consulting revenues in Saudi Arabia are forecast to contract by 10% in 2020, and in the UAE by 13%.
Digitization and transformation, mainstays of the GCC consulting market in 2020, were impacted by the pandemic with many projects paused as COVID-19 hit the region.
Ashok Patel, Content and Strategy Lead, Market Trends at Source Global Research, said: “As the immediate impact of the virus subsided, consultants saw work pick back up as governments weighed the need to progress with their economic and social transformation with the double hit of the pandemic and low oil prices.”
Source Global Research data shows that consulting revenues will contract 18% in the energy and resources sector this year.
Countries’ push for greater tourism was met with lockdowns and quarantines which have dramatically cut into the finances and consulting budgets of transportation and leisure industries, with consulting revenues there forecasted to fall by 27%.
Technology consulting has been the most resilient for consultants globally. Revenues are forecast to rise by around 7% in the GCC compared to a 4% contraction globally.
Also, healthcare consultants have had a good year: “The need to boost critical care availability and manage supplies chains, as well as plan for further waves of the virus, have ensured consulting revenues in the healthcare sector are forecasted to rise more than 13% this year over last,” Patel added.
GCC’s winning fight against COVID-19
John Hopkins University released COVID death rates placing Bahrain ninth-best in the world with 0.39%. The UAE and Kuwait scored 0.37% and 0.62% respectively in the rankings of 168 global countries, placing them 8th and 16th.
GCC nations took a series of precautionary measures against the outbreak, including mass population testing and the construction of field hospitals.
In the past month, Bahrain’s efforts to reduce the spread of the virus have resulted in increased recovery rates and a 45% decrease in active COVID-19 cases.
All confirmed cases are quarantined and treated, with those unable to maintain social distancing at home accommodated in quarantine centers.
In the UAE, police have deployed smart helmets capable of scanning temperatures of hundreds of people every minute.
Healthcare and cybersecurity
The UAE government continues to increase its healthcare spend, set to top $21 billion by 2021, according to the US- UAE Business Council, especially in supporting healthcare technology innovations that can help to manage lifestyle diseases and coronavirus.
“Healthcare technology innovations are the foundation of the UAE’s record-high healthcare spend,” said Andrew Calthorpe, CEO, at Condo Protego, a leading UAE-based IT infrastructure and information management consultancy, and solutions provider.
Healthcare providers should take a 4-step process in their digital transformation: Modernizing IT infrastructure, maintaining 24/7 cloud access, launching mobile apps, and enhancing cybersecurity, argues Condo Protego.
As a result, the UAE is also at the forefront of the Middle East and Africa’s smart hospitals market, which Kenneth Research predicts will top $2 bn by 2023.
COVID-19 CEO survey
A new COVID-19 CEO Survey carried out by the Oxford Business Group (OBG) titled “Crisis management: How are CEOs responding to the pandemic?” found 50% believing the pandemic will significantly change communication and interaction with their clients and customers.
67% of CEOs believe oil prices will impact recovery in their sector.
90% of business leaders said they had implemented remote working and meeting protocols.
61% of executives were satisfied with their government’s economic response to the pandemic.
The pandemic has wreaked havoc on supply chains worldwide, causing delays for businesses operating across the economic sectors, including those in the Gulf. 83% said that COVID-19 had disrupted their supply chains and 31% said they were likely to relocate their supply chains more locally.
Yet, 73% expected their company to be operating above 60% capacity by September 2020.
Car rental safety
Udrive, UAE’s homegrown brand providing a dedicated pay-per-minute car rental service for UAE residents and tourists continues its growth by surpassing 1million trips in September 2020 achieved through the next-generation IoT technology that enables contactless and safe on-demand self-drive.
Udrive’s safe travel initiative was done in partnership with the Roads and Transport Authority Dubai, Department of Transport Abu Dhabi, and Sharjah Municipality.
Each Udrive is equipped with the latest IoT technologies that digitize any car on their fleet and massively improve safety by removing all one to one human interaction when booking a vehicle, starting/ending a trip, and entering/exiting the vehicle.
Udrive also upgraded its approach to sanitization by using fogging machines and is currently beta testing additional virus killing technology.