Procurement in the United Arab Emirates – Guy Allen reports (part 2)

Yesterday we started featuring Guy Allen’s experiences presenting the Real World Procurement series in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, supported by Tejari, the BravoSolution jv in the Emirates (see here for booking). 

Our audience in Dubai and now Abu Dhabi  splits roughly into 3 equal but slightly overlapping groups. The first of these are the western expats; when I say western, this includes South Africa and Australia. These tend to be quite experienced individuals, male and female, who generally are in CPO or similar senior roles in their UAE companies.

The next group are the Asian expats, who tend to be either somewhat less experienced or have had perhaps less exposure to leading edge procurement thinking than the previous group,  but clearly have a hunger to learn. Next come the local Emiratis, who attend the sessions in traditional Arab white robes. This group are investing their time for the future of the UAE, accumulating knowledge so the time will come when the dependence on the western expats will be markedly less.

The most surprising factor is that the gender of the audience has been very balanced, I would say 30-40% female, which is probably as high if not higher than you would expect to see in the UK. The women tend to come not just from the Western Expat group, but surprisingly (to me based on my pre-conceptions) also from the Arab group.

What all our delegates show is a real hunger for knowledge; once we finish the presentations we generally have a queue of people wanting to ask more questions or understand some item in more detail. As a presenter of course this is very rewarding and is more pronounced than you would generally expect from a UK audience.

What are the learnings for Procurement practitioners in the UK?  Well, firstly, sometimes (usually) you have a big role to play as part of an audience. You will get more from your presenter if you engage and interact with them, as our friends in the UAE show.

Then we have the career opportunities. For now, at least, the UAE represents a valid and interesting (not to say potentially lucrative) career choice for UK Procurement professionals, as the indigenous population continues to augment and grow their own knowledge. This may only be for another 5-10 years however, as the very open local profession consumes the knowledge and experience that is being provided to them.

It’s easy to see Dubai and the UAE as an anomaly, a fantasy land if you like, where the rewards are high, the environment is pleasant and living conditions are good. But the investment they are making in the country, both financial and educational, leads me to believe over time the Emiratis  will become far less dependent on foreign knowledge and much more self sustainable, and will be a real challenge to more established western business centres. Oh yes and the weather isn’t bad either!

And I hope to see some of you at the London BravoSolution RWS briefing next week (you can still book here). By  an anomaly of scheduling I have already run this particular session (Risk in Procurement)  in the UAE, so it will be interesting to see if we get as much interaction in London as we did in Dubai!

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