Insights: UAE and Saudi Arabia: Collaboration or Competition?

The Capital Club held a roundtable discussion, under Chatham House Rule, to discuss the pros and cons of the Saudi government’s 2024 proposition and gave some recommendations from the private sector. Here are a few highlights from the discussion.


  • The whole region could benefit from this proposition, with higher levels of services, products and policies emerging. It has the potential to change from being competition to collaboration and the entire GCC can thrive in the long-term.
  • Saudi Arabia is looking to find alternative sustainable economic models for its large population, attract better talent and create new jobs.
  • If MNCs decide not to go, it could unlock opportunities for the next level of companies to create different types of businesses.


  • The MNCs for the larger MENA market are headquartered in the UAE because they feel this is a safer market for IP and their capital, and they perceive reputational risks in moving to Saudi Arabia.
  • For many large international firms, Saudi Arabia is a relatively smaller market in terms of global turnovers, so it is more trouble than its worth.
  • Due to Covid 19, there is a real slow down in global talent mobility and people do not want to ‘get stuck’.

Recommendations for UAE

  • Review all the indices that show the UAE’s competitive advantage – communicate and develop these and others further.
  • The UAE needs to be fully committed to sustainability and renewable energy; explore other untapped markets; strategise on developing new business advantages; and raise the level of talent in the country.
  • The different Emirates need to unite and truly become one federal country. The Saudi proposition can be considered as catalyst in the UAE to shift mindsets strategically and decrease internal competition.