The Business and Economy of MENA

Key information

Start date
End date
Year of study
10 weeks
Module code
Centre for Financial and Management Studies

Module overview

For many years, the Middle East and North African (MENA) region has continued to attract the attention of academics and the public alike. Apart from its social upheavals and headline-grabbing political and military events, the region also combines attractive economic opportunities in sectors such as energy, logistics, finance and construction, with a significant political risk profile that affects domestic and international actors alike.

These perceived risks have increased since the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, and increasingly since the onset of the Arab Spring in 2011. As ever larger parts of the region have experienced a deterioration of their security situation, their problems have come to be viewed increasingly in military, rather than economic and administrative terms, as Libya, Syria, northern Iraq, and Yemen turned into battlefields at different points in time.

Nevertheless, there are a limited number of economic, political and cultural factors that have combined to determine the shape of the economic environment in the Middle East and North Africa for the foreseeable future. Engaging with these, and integrating them into policies, administrative solutions and business plans early on, will give people within the region, as well as people working with the region, the best prospect for success in their endeavours.

With this in mind, this regionally oriented module aims to achieve the following goals.

  • First, it will help you develop a system of coordinates to capture regional economies and their problems.
  • Second, the module will familiarise you with the most relevant theoretical approaches in thinking about the region. Many of these, such as the concept of the rentier state, may have originated in political science, but they continue to have relevance for economic analysis and planning as well.
  • Finally, you should become familiar with the main data sources to be tapped in researching the MENA region, and you should learn through practical engagement with the data, to produce well-reasoned and reflected arguments that apply to this part of the world.

Learning outcomes

When you have completed this module, you should feel confident of your ability to understand the economic developments in the MENA region, including their context and historical background. You will have acquired a general frame of reference that will help you assess developments in the region in the spheres of economics, public policy and business. In particular, you will be able to:

  • explain what sets the MENA region apart, and what fundamental factors and underlying conditions have an influence on major economic and political developments in the business sphere
  • relate current events and economic developments in the region to their historical, political and economic context
  • discuss the administrative and political traditions of the MENA states, and the way they play out in individual countries within the region
  • assess the potential for FDI into the region, and analyse investment streams into, within and from this part of the world
  • explain the nature and performance of trade relations within the region, and the outcomes they have had for individual MENA states
  • outline the nature of HR developments and labour market outcomes in a particular setting within the region on the basis of a larger frame of reference taking in regional developments
  • assess the role of finance and capital markets in different regional settings
  • analyse the role of religion for MENA businesses and the economic environment in different MENA settings
  • access, analyse and present qualitative or quantitative data on regional developments
  • interpret and use information you receive on regional developments in your own research, professional and business needs in a professional manner.

Tuition and assessment

Students are individually assigned an academic tutor for the duration of the module, with whom you can discuss academic queries at regular intervals during the study session.

You are required to complete two Assignments for this module, which will be marked by your tutor. Assignments are each worth 15% of your total mark. You will be expected to submit your first assignment by the Tuesday of Week 6, and the second assignment at the end of the module, on the Tuesday after Week 10. Assignments are submitted and feedback given online. In addition, queries and problems can be answered through the Virtual Learning Environment.

You will also sit a three-hour examination on a specified date in September/October, worth 70% of your total mark. An up-to-date timetable of examinations is published on the website in July each year.

Study resources

  • Study guide: The module study guide is carefully structured to provide the main teaching, defining and exploring the main concepts and issues, locating these within current debate and introducing and linking the assigned readings.
  • Key texts: Melani Cammett, Ishac Diwan, Alan Richards & John Waterbury (2015) A Political Economy of the Middle East. 4th Edition. Boulder CO: Westview Press.
  • Readings: Throughout the module you will be directed to study a selection of readings, including journal articles, book extracts and case studies that are of particular relevance and interest to the topics covered in the module.
  • Virtual learning environment: You will have access to the VLE, a web-accessed study centre. Via the VLE, you can communicate with your assigned academic tutor, administrators and other students on the module using discussion forums. The VLE also provides access to the module Study Guide and assignments, as well as a selection of electronic journals available on the University of London Online Library.

Study calendar 2022/23

Elective module S1
The Business and Economy of MENA (M489)  Not running Running Not running Not running

Study calendars are subject to change.

Module overview

Unit 1 Common Features of MENA Economies

  • 1.1 The Institutions and Economic Environment of the MENA Region
  • 1.2 Localising the MENA Region
  • 1.3 Geographic Characteristics of the Region
  • 1.4 Some Stylised Facts about History
  • 1.5 Some Stylised Facts about Religion and Economy
  • 1.6 Conclusion

Unit 2 The Macroeconomic and Institutional Environment

  • 2.1 Economic Growth, GDP, and GDP per Capita in the MENA Region
  • 2.2 The Resource Curse and the Rentier State as Analytical Prisms
  • 2.3 The Quality of Governance in the MENA Region
  • 2.4 Conclusion

Unit 3 The Business–State Relationship in the MENA Region

  • 3.1 General Remarks about the State–Business Relationship
  • 3.2 The State–Business Relationship in MENA Countries: A Typology of Political Settlements
  • 3.3 MENA States as Providers of Public Goods
  • 3.4 MENA States as Producers and Market Participants
  • 3.5 MENA States as Regulators
  • 3.6 MENA States as Investors
  • 3.7 Conclusion on the Role of the State–Business Relationship

Unit 4 FDI in the MENA Region

  • 4.1 Why FDI Matters: Perspectives for the Arab World
  • 4.2 Types of FDI and Theories of Internationalisation and Political Risk
  • 4.3 The Historical Development of FDI in the MENA Region
  • 4.4 Investment Regimes, Agency Agreements and Free Zone Companies
  • 4.5 Outward FDI from the MENA Region
  • 4.6 Conclusion

Unit 5 Trade in the MENA Region

  • 5.1 Trade in the MENA Region
  • 5.2 Theories, Trends and Institutions in Global Trade
  • 5.3 Interregional and Intraregional Trade in the MENA Region
  • 5.4 Trade Logistics
  • 5.5 The Political Economy of Trade
  • 5.6 Conclusion

Unit 6 Labour Markets in the MENA Region

  • 6.1 General Features of Global and MENA Labour Markets
  • 6.2 Regional Overview
  • 6.3 Labour Market Governance and Industrial Relations in the MENA Region
  • 6.4 Conclusion on the Role of Labour Markets in the Gulf

Unit 7 Banking and Capital Markets in the MENA Region

  • 7.1 Some Stylised Facts about Banking and Capital Markets
  • 7.2 Currencies, Monetary Systems and Regulation in the MENA Region
  • 7.3 Banking Systems in the MENA Region
  • 7.4 Some Remarks on Market Finance in the MENA Region
  • 7.5 Conclusion

Unit 8 The Role of Islam in MENA Economies

  • 8.1 Islam and its Provisions on Economic Life
  • 8.2 Economic Features of Pre-Modern MENA Societies
  • 8.3 The Concept of Islamic Economics
  • 8.4 Practical Relevance of Islamic Institutions in the Economic Sphere Today
  • 8.5 Conclusion

Module samples


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules