CitationDownload as .RIS
Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2013, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Article Type: Guest editorial From: foresight, Volume 15, Issue 4
To complement previously published foresight special issues on “America the land of the future” (Blackman, 2008); and more recently on “Africa the land of the future” (Adesida and Karuri-Sebina, 2011), this special issue seeks to establish the extent to which the debate may be extended to the Middle East (both Arab and non-Arab speaking countries) context. Taken from a slightly different perspective from the aforementioned special issues, papers in this issue are benchmarked against the eight pillars of the United Nations’ eight Millennium Development Goals (i.e. MDGs): eradication of extreme poverty, universal education, gender equality, child health, maternal health, combating HIV/AIDS, environmental sustainability, and global partnerships for development.
In addition to assessing progress made by the region on the aforementioned themes, the debate papers present a response to the theme of the UN General Assembly annual debate – i.e. “time to turn talk into action.” With the MDG of 2015 fast approaching, it is only appropriate to assess the extent to which the Middle East may be prepared for an evaluation of readiness. The rationale for this assessment is based on the fact that the region has glossed the front pages of international media channels from the Arab Spring to movie premieres and hosting rights for the largest global sporting events such as Formula One racing, and more recently the 2022 FIFA World Cup football.
Although there are eight key goals mentioned in the UN MDGs, the challenge of meeting the 2015 deadline in the Middle East can be guessed by the thrust of papers in this special issue, which seemed to centre more on the gender discourse than on any other goal. Indeed three out of the five papers in this special issue are focused on goal 3 for a variety of reasons – notable amongst which is the increased interest on gender neutrality discourse (see Madichie and Gallant, 2012) in a region once renowned for its high score on Hofstede’s (1991) masculinity index.
In the first paper, Romie Littrell and Andy Bertsch, limited their discussion to this third goal – i.e. to “Promote gender equality and empower women”, with specific reference to women’s participation in business activities. Drawing upon the conclusions reached by Hofstede and Minkow (2010) that Muslim nations such as those in the region were more short-term-oriented, they suggested that economic development of the region was bound to be a slow process with episodes of disaster. These authors also highlighted what they described as the resource sub-optimality enshrined in the “unused female potential” in terms of lower levels of education, employment, remuneration and access to productive resources.
In furtherance of the debate on gender inequality, Linzi Kemp, in the second paper, argued that “the UAE society supports education, and government strategy has led to equal educational access and achievement by women over many years with a projection for a supply of educated females in the future.” She, however, argues that the UAE government policies to enhance female education and employment have made more progress in the former than in the latter. According to her, the female Minister of Economy, Lubna Bint Khalid Al Qassimi not long commented on progress made by the country on the MDGs where she stated that “further efforts are required for encouraging women to enter the labor market in a way that reflects their advancement in education.” Kemp goes a step further to highlight that the value of education is redeemed through intrinsic worth to the family, and less so by employment of females. She concludes that “the progress of the UAE towards achievement of MDG (3) […] has had mixed results which will affect the future.”
In the third paper, Sudipa Majumdar and Damodharan Varadarajan argued that the UAE is now characterized by a generation of young, educated women who are engaged in diverse economic activities using advanced information and communication technologies. According to their over-optimistic estimates, the “UAE is the only Arab nation that gave equal opportunities to males and females to positively interact in the changing social structure […] an open society without any gender bias and discrimination.” The benefits of such policies, according to these authors, have begun to manifest themselves, especially in terms of career goals and future aspirations of males and females in the country.
Jaithen Alharbi and Satwinder Singh, in the fourth paper, sought to examine whether known economic and international business theories available in the literature had any real explanatory powers on the nature, existence and role of Middle East multinationals in general and those in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in particular. These authors explored the control between MNEs headquarters and their subsidiaries in the country and observed that joint ventures seemed to be the dominant form of investments (in both manufacturing and service industries). They also highlighted the difficulty of undertaking any meaningful scholarly research in the region epitomised by difficulties in access to MNEs managers. This is in addition to what they described as a “dearth of literature concerned with the internationalization of firms from and/or into the Middle East,” which translated into “a lack of references that could be used as a basis for [further developing their] argument […]”
In the fifth paper, Alun Epps and Catherine Demangeot delved into an important area – i.e. the futures of multicultural marketing in the UAE where they argued that the difficulties of marketing in a diversified marketplace and “servicescape” required a culture of patience, tolerance and empathy. According to these authors, with such a range of highly non-homogenous consumers, commonalities needed to be embraced through acknowledging and celebrating differences, and a culture of multicultural inclusion practised.
Nnamdi Madichie attempts to sum up, in a final paper, in a last ditched effort to remind readers about the thrust of the special issue – i.e. assessing whether, and to what extent the Middle East could be seen as the land of the future. This is based upon a conceptualisation of efforts made towards achieving the MDGs within the encroaching deadline of 2015. He uses the investments in sports as a plank for this holistic overview of efforts made by Middle East economies in this regard.
Overall, it seems like the Middle East, as Richard Slaughter (2008) once opined about America, “[…] is not the future, but may be part of it.” While there are explicitly eight MDGs, barely two of these were covered in the special issue – notably gender equality and to some extent global partnerships. Neither the first two MDGs (poverty and education) nor MDG 7 (on sustainability) and three others dedicated to health, i.e. MDGs 4, 5 and 6 on child health; maternal health; and combating HIV/AIDS, were captured in the papers for this special issue. This in itself says a lot about the attention given to these MDGs by governments (and consequently picked up by researchers) in the Middle East. This obviously calls for further debate in these areas.
Nnamdi O. MadichieUniversity of Sharjah, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates.
Adesida, O. and Karuri-Sebina, G. (2011), “Is Africa the land of the future?”, foresight, Vol. 13 No. 3, pp. 3–6
Blackman, C. (2008), “Is America the land of the future?”, foresight, Vol. 10 No. 4, pp. 1–3
Hofstede, G. (1991), Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind, McGraw-Hill, London
Hofstede, G. and Minkow, M. (2010), Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind, 3rd ed. , McGraw Hill, New York, NY
Madichie, N. and Gallant, M. (2012), “Broken silence: a commentary on women’s entrepreneurship in the United Arab Emirates”, International Journal of Entrepreneurship & Innovation, Vol. 13 No. 2, pp. 81–92
Slaughter, A. (2008), “Opinion: is America the land of the future?”, foresight, Vol. 10 No. 4, pp. 4–27