Trading As: UN Supply & UN Training
Australian Company Number: 109 146 205
Australian Business Number: 44 109 146  205
P.O Box: 549 St Ives NSW 2075 AUSTRALIA
Telephone: +61 424 497 636 ― +61 422 494 763
  Australian Agricultural Resources
  Group Pty Limited
In the spirit of reconciliation Australian Agricultural Resources Group Pty Ltd acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of country throughout Australia and their connections to land, sea and community. We pay our respect to their elders past and present and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples today.

Middle East Economic Statistics & Market Assessment


The development of the internet, in particular in Australia, has proven to be significant for the delivery of information about Australia to the global community. There still exists however a big information gap between Australia and Middle East. This document will hopefully provide information to all parties on developments in the agriculture sector and related issues that could prove of interest. 

Australian Agricultural Resources Group Pty Ltd is an Australian owned agricultural company that has enormous experience in the field commodity trading and maximising investment returns to both agricultural producers and purchasers. It is our intention to create an source of information for Australian and Middle Eastern businessman from which interested parties can pursue detailed information from accredited sources.


Here we provide an overview of Australia’s trade and investment relationships with the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region and how these countries’ fast-growing and young populations are driving demand for Australian food, education, and services, including the important role of airlines to deliver this fresh produce to the Middle East.

 It outlines the exports and imports of merchandise goods, and also the growing trade in services, the interest in Australia’s education sector, and the areas of interest in business opportunities.

According to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), Australia’s trade with MENA region is diverse and growing rapidly, in particular with the Gulf state countries of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

In 2015, two-way merchandise trade with the region was worth $14.7 billion, a slight increase on $14.5 billion from the previous year. More than $12.3 billion of that trade in 2015 was with the Gulf state countries.


Australia exports red meat and livestock to more than 100 countries, representing over 60% of the industry's production, making it critical to protect and expand our access to overseas markets.

The outlook for global beef consumption is positive, largely underpinned by growth in population and household wealth in developing markets, particularly Asia. Australia produces only 3% of global beef production, but accounts for around 17% of world trade and has remained one of the top-three largest exporters for over seven decades. While Australian beef faces a number of headwinds, particularly around remaining price competitive, there are many opportunities for targeted growth.

Australian beef globally is facing a range of opportunities and challenges:

  • Growing household incomes are providing many consumers the ability to increase protein consumption, with those shifting into the middle-upper income brackets often seeking to improve the quality of meat they consume.

  • In developed markets, consumers are seeking differentiated segments within the beef category – such as grass-fed and grain fed product or certified breeds and raising claims. Australia’s diverse production system allows the industry to target a broad range of differentiated opportunities across markets.

  • In many mature markets, growing consumer interest and awareness of provenance, sustainability, animal welfare, food safety and traceability provide messaging opportunities for Australian beef brands and underpin ambitious industry-wide programs for Australia to differentiate itself.

  • The high price of beef, compared to competitor proteins such as chicken and pork, will continue to test growth and keep the category sensitive to economic conditions and consumer purchasing power. Furthermore, relative to major competitors, the high price of Australian cattle, compounded by additional costs along the supply chain, reinforces the need for Australia to focus on differentiating itself from competitors and providing a value proposition to consumers.

  • Growing production and exports from key competitors, particularly the US and Brazil, will intensify competition in coming years, especially in Asian markets. For now, strong global demand, led by import growth in China, has soaked up additional beef on the global market but a slowdown would negatively affect farm gate cattle prices in Australia.


AARG’s Grain Trading is an innovative new trading tool that offers buyers and sellers an alternative to traditional marketing platform. It has been developed through extensive consultation with buyers and producers to offer the most beneficial features for both parties.

  • Access to the largest number of buyers and sellers in Australia and Overseas
  • Fast and safe contracts (Drafts available within 24 hours)
  • Provides price information on recent sales
  • Provides a safe trading environment with national commodity standards and equitable terms and conditions.

AARG’s Grain Trading provides a proprietary platform linking those with grain and those wishing to purchase both in Australia or Overseas. The objective is having users listing the products they wish to buy or sell made available to be searched by other users of the platform to facilitate contracts to be entered into between the parties.


The target market over the next five years is the core agribusiness and export market, on a global basis. The initial focus regions will be Australia and the Middle East, working extensively with governments and individual stakeholders to develop and constantly improve the wide range of products and services we offer. The agricultural industry market is the key entry factor to the lucrative world of commodity trading.

The company will explore the potential to develop agricultural production in a number of countries throughout the Middle East. With the introduction of new agricultural technologies into the lucrative Middle Eastern and Gulf market, creating an export industry worth in excess of seven billion US dollars per annum. To meet this demand will require a major upgrade of farming practices and technologies currently employed. 


Although each country has its own specific business environment, the following common issues significantly affect regional development and potential trade:

a.    Security issues and political instability in the region are affecting the development of long-term businesses. This problem has spread from the North African region, including Algeria, Libya, Egypt and Sudan, through to Turkey, Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Pakistan and, of course, the long-term Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Significant political changes, peace processes, and diplomatic efforts are always encouraging development in the regional economy and international business arena.

b.    The political developments in Iraq and the War against Terrorism have significantly affected international trade and the costs of logistics and insurance.

c.    Some countries in the region are extremely rich in natural resources, with oil and gas being major sources of income. A number of countries in the region are diversifying their economies in order to strengthen prospects for sustainable economic growth and to reduce vulnerability to adverse oil price movements. Tremendous investments in the manufacturing sector, tourism and services have been recorded in recent years. However, some countries in the Middle East have relatively low purchasing power.

d.    The fast growing population of more than 580 million people (2003 estimate) represents a tremendous market for food and agricultural commodities. According to FAO population projections for the Middle East, the increasing rate of 130 million people per decade will result in a population of more than 800 million people by 2020.

e.    The Middle East accounts for about 8 per cent of the world’s net imports of agricultural products. Average annual imports of agricultural products have grown to nearly US$39 billion over the past 10 years, 70 per cent of which have been food.

f.    Climate, lack of water and environmental issues are limiting factors for agricultural development in the Middle East. Therefore, there is a strong belief that the region will have to rely on agriculture and food imports in the future.

g.    Trade policies related to market groupings, similar to the European Union (for example, the Gulf Cooperation Council, or GCC), and subsidies to the    agriculture industries in the US and EU.

h.    Almost all countries in the Middle East would view Iran positively. The Iranian agricultural industry could develop a reputation for meeting the specific requirements of customers. Proximity to the market and the potential to develop excellent resources in some agricultural sectors are also significant advantages for Iran's export trade with the Middle East.


a.    The war in Afghanistan, Iraq and the War against Terrorism.

b.    The impact of the War against Terrorism, particularly on the tourism and hospitality industries.

c.    A slowdown in the global economies as a result of the global Covid19 pandemic.

d.    Animal health and welfare issues.

e.    Some trade issues (Halal issues, the livestock trade in Saudi Arabia) which require more precise regulations.

f.     Labor and labor costs.

g.     Strong competition (incl. new competitors from China and India).


With a large and growing requirement from the Middle East for agricultural commodities and services major opportunities for growth in agricultural trade to the Middle East include:

a.    Traditional products (bulk exports) such as wheat, barley, livestock, and pulses – mainly to the growing food processing market segment.

b.    Perishable products – including fresh produce, dairy, and meat – mainly distributed through retail trading and partly through the hospitality industry (fast food outlets) distribution chains.

c.    Highly processed products, prepared foods, and convenience foods.

d.    Developing services, expertise, training, and implementation of agriculture developing projects.

e.    Better logistics services to the Middle East, including sea and air transport, provide an additional boost for new exports such as fresh meat, fish, and horticulture and dairy products. Air access is the key to developing international trade and tourism opportunities. The Middle East has been identified as a key market for perishables that require airfreight to achieve optimum market penetration and prices.

f.     Hospitality sector in the region.


Countries and populations in the Middle East


Population 2003 (Million)

Estimated Population 2020 (Million)













Saudi Arabia



United Arab Emirates

















































Major imports by the Middle East ($USD  million)






































































































































































Saudi A.

































































1 5








0 6




The development of agriculture in many areas of the Middle East is limited by factors such as climate, lack of water, and environmental issues. Such factors strengthen the belief that the region will rely on agriculture and food imports in the future. Currently, major food suppliers are European countries, the USA, India, and Australia. The dynamic and competitive Middle East food markets are generally very open, with minimum restrictions and impediments. The general trend is liberalization of tariffs according to requirements of World Trade Organisation (WTO) membership, although the import policies and regulations vary from country to country.


  • Jordan Market for sheep, cattle, stock feed meat and dairy products.  Potential Export Market: $US 90 million per annum
  • Oman, Qatar, Bahrain Export markets for sheep, some cattle, meat and fresh produce, mainly via Dubai. Oman, Qatar and Bahrain are relatively small but rich countries that could be good potential investors. Potential Export Market: $US 60 million per annum
  • Turkey Market for wool and hides and skins, with opportunities existing for lupin and ingredients for stock feed.  Potential Export Market: $US 4 million per annum
  • Pakistan Wheat importer with significant potential for canola, meat and processed foods. Potential Export Market: $US 125 million per annum
  • Algeria A potential market for mutton, lamb and dairy products (cheese). In 2004/2005, Algeria imported A$8 million of lamb and mutton. The opportunity exists for exports of cheese and broad beans. Potential Export Market: No figures currently available to support the potential value of this market.
  • Lebanon A relatively small market for sheep, and a potential market for meat, pulses and processed foods. Lebanon is also a very interesting re-export country. Potential Export Market: No figures currently available to support the potential value of this market.
  • Palestine A market for cattle and sheep, and a potential market for a range of processed products.Potential Export Market: No figures currently available to support the potential value of this market.
  • Libya Imports meat, grain, processed foods and expertise. The services required include land management, Potential Export Market: No figures currently available to support the potential value of this market.
  • Sudan Significant importer of wheat, valued at A$38 million in 2004/2005. Sudan needs expertise in livestock and desertification projects. Potential Export Market: $US 45 million per annum
  • Morocco Morocco bought A$3 million of meat including 1.5 million offal in 2004/05. Potential Export Market: No figures currently available to support the potential value of this market.


Meat and livestock The Middle East will remain the major market for livestock – particularly sheep, cattle and (to a certain degree) goats, as well as a relatively small market for camels. Competition, political issues, cost of products and services, and the balance between supply and demand could impact on export trends. However, with a comprehensive approach to marketing and production, the Middle East region could become the major export market for the livestock industry given that significant advances in livestock production technologies where to be adopted and implement throughout the industry. Improvements in the quality of products, sustainable supply, logistics facilities, and a proactive marketing system will increase exports of meat in the medium to long term and could become a major revenue source.

Fresh produce The Middle East has been a traditional market for fresh produce. The market is very open, and competition from America and African countries (including Egypt) is growing – although demand for fresh produce is also growing. A strong hospitality industry, development of tourism (particularly during the European winter), a growing population and limited local production offer good opportunities for fresh produce in certain countries and segments of the market. Development of logistics services, such as direct flights to the region, cool chain management and alliances provide excellent prospects for high-value produce. Of course, quality products, comprehensive post-harvesting technologies, sustainable supply and a market-oriented industry offer a good future in the Middle East, particularly in some rich Gulf countries.


Grain Cereals (wheat, barley, oats) could dominate grain export market, especially to the rest of the Middle East. The value of cereal exports if managed correctly could well exceed $US 2 Billion per annum. The grain industry has significant market opportunities in the Middle East. Egypt, Iraq, UAE, Jordan and Kuwait will rely on importing wheat for a long time, as will Pakistan and Yemen, to some extent. Competition is strong from Europe, USA, Canada and in recent years, India, due to subsidies.

Consistent supply, quality, logistics and facilities are major factors that will drive market development. New varieties, access to new non-traditional markets (Jordan), and market segments in the processing industry (e.g. pasta) might provide new opportunities for the wheat industry. It is expected that the Middle East region will remain the largest world market for feed barley, with Saudi Arabia, UAE and Kuwait continuing to be key markets.

The stockfeed industry might find opportunities in livestock farming and horse racing. Libya provides significant opportunities for stock feed barley and wheat, subject to competition, particularly from Black Sea countries.


  • Sheep Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Jordan, UAE, Qatar, Oman, Bahrain, Egypt, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria.

  • Cattle Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Iraq, Kuwait, UAE. (Due to the policy driven by welfare issues, objectives to increase processed meat exports, costs of transports and possible competition livestock exports are expected to decline.)

  • Meat Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Jordan, UAE, Qatar, Oman, Bahrain, Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, Iraq, Algeria, Libya. (Exports of meat are expected to increase relevant to market size, development of the Middle East hospitality industry and policy to increase exports of value-added products.)

  • Barley (stock feed) Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Jordan, UAE, Libya, Iraq. (Development of the local livestock industry will demand more stock feed and stock feed barley.)

  • Wheat Egypt, Iraq, Sudan, Yemen, Pakistan, UAE, Jordan, Libya. (The demand for wheat is envisaged to rise, according to market size and demands of the hospitality industry, particularly fast food outlets.)

  • Pulses Egypt, UAE, Libya, Pakistan. (There is permanent demand for check peas, lentils, broad beans and faba beans.

  • Oilseeds (canola) Pakistan, UAE, Saudi Arabia (potentially). (A new canola crushing plant in Dubai, developments in Pakistan, and plants for canola processing in Saudi Arabia will create more demand for canola.)

  • Dairy Saudi Arabia, Egypt, UAE, Algeria, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Jordan, Iraq, Libya, Sudan. (The development of fast food outlets demands more and more processed products including cheese and yoghurt. There is permanent demand for milk powder in the region.)

  • Horticulture Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman. Market size (including a developing hospitality industry) and the improvement of logistics facilities (two direct flights to Dubai) are major factors in the development of exports of fresh produce, flowers.

  • Fisheries UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Jordan, Lebanon. (Premium markets (five star hotels) for crustaceans and the jewellery industry (pearls) are potential segments for the fishery industry.)

  • Wool Turkey, Egypt, Pakistan. (The opportunities for wool exports in the region are limited due to local production and the production of cotton.

However, there is demand for wool in Turkey, Pakistan, and Egypt.)


This guide gives an overview of the region’s must-know economic statistics, country-by-country, for your ease of understanding. Business in the Middle Eastern is a massive economic opportunity, as together the 29 countries we detail in this article add up to a total population of 631,000,000 and a total GDP of 4,416,531,000,000 or 4.4 trillion USD. Wow. If you are involved in a global business, you definitely don’t want to miss out on the economic benefits of this region.

Many people have a limiting narrative about life in the Middle East, and tend to lump the countries all together: assuming they all speak Arabic, are majority Muslim, have economies based on oil, and have non-Democratic governments. When in reality, this is mostly true, but it is much more nuanced. The 29 countries considered part of the Middle East in this guide have vast differences in culture, lifestyle, natural resources, and politics that have led each of these countries to develop their economies differently. In this guide, we give you a breakdown of the key facts, both the region’s total and then country-by-country. We hope you enjoy this thorough guide where we answer your burning questions about Middle Eastern economic statistics.

Total Middle East Economic Statistics for All Countries Combined

Key Facts

Number of countries: 29

Names of Middle Eastern countries (in alphabetical order): Algeria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Djibouti, Cyprus, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Somaliland, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Western Sahara, Yemen

The Middle East’s Seven Seas: the Black Sea, the Mediterranean Sea, the Red Sea, the Arabian Sea, the Dead Sea, the Caspian Sea, and the Atlantic Ocean


The Middle East’s Three Gulfs: the Gulf of Aden, the Gulf of Oman, and the Persian Gulf

Total population: nearly 631,000,000

Total GDP: 4,416,531,000,000 or 4.4 trillion USD

Main industries: oil and gas, mining, tourism, manufacturing

Countries with the highest GDPs: Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Iran 

Countries with the lowest GDPs: Somalia, Yemen, Syria

Algeria (People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria)

Algeria is sandwiched between Tunisia and Morocco on the north coast of Africa on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. Most people don’t know that Algeria is actually the biggest country on the continent, nearly four and a half times larger than France. Despite the mountains and coastal regions in the north, the vast country is more than 80% Saharan Desert. As a result, most people live on arable land close to the sea.

With a mostly state-controlled economy, nearly one-third of the country’s GDP is from the sale of crude oil, natural gas, and coal. Accordingly, Algeria has the world’s 10th largest reserves of natural gas, and the third-largest reserves of shale gas. This lesser-known Middle Eastern country is also the 6th largest gas exporter. With these large economic statistics, Algeria is one of Africa’s largest economies. The government-controlled resources have meant a large investment into social services. Algeria has the highest Human Development Index (HDI) on the African continent, which means it performs exceptionally well in the following categories: life expectancy for health, expected years of schooling, mean of years of schooling for education, and Gross National Income per capita for the standard of living. Though Algeria is rapidly developing and proving itself to be a major economic player in the region, the unfortunate presence of ISIS has put a damper on its international reputation. We remain confident, however, that Algeria will be a major economic player soon. 

Capital: Algiers

Population: 43,851,044 people

Government: Constitutional presidential republic

Official languages: Modern Standard Arabic and Tamazight (Berber)

Secondary languages: French and Spanish

Borders: northeast by Tunisia; east by Libya; southeast by Niger; southwest by Mali, Mauritania, and Western Sahara; west by Morocco; and north by the Mediterranean Sea

Currency: Algerian dinar (DZD, Arabic is دينار‎, the sign is DA

Religion: Muslim (official; Sunni) 99%, other (includes Christian and Jewish) <1%

Primary Industries: Hydrocarbons

Agricultural products: wheat, barley, oats, grapes, olives, citrus, fruits; sheep, cattle

Gross domestic product: 173.8 billion USD (2018)

GDP per capita: 4,114.72 USD (2018)

GNI per capita: 14,970 dollars (2017)


Export Partners: Italy 17.4%, Spain 13%, France 11.9%, US 9.4%, Brazil 6.2%, Netherlands 5.5%

Gross national income: 619.7 billion PPP dollars (2017)

GDP growth rate: 1.4% annual change (2018)

Major trading partner countries for exports: Italy, France, Spain, the United States, and Brazil

Major trading partner countries for imports: China, France, Italy, Germany, and Spain


Armenia is a small country in the Caucasus Region, to the east of Turkey. The landlocked country is still developing and falls in the median for development statistics. As a founding member of the USSR, a significant amount of early Armenia’s economy was industry and production where they processed and traded food, chemicals, textiles, and machinery within the greater republic. Since gaining independence newly in 1991, the country has done a lot to diversify their industries, and we have seen them rapidly gain traction especially since 2015. One of these sectors has been natural resources, as the mountainous terrain has many deposits of valuable minerals. The country’s rapid growth and change since independence have earned significant international investment, including nearly 1 billion USD from international aid organizations. The government is also attempting to make tourism a top priority, given the massive monasteries, azure lakes, and grand mountains.

Interestingly, a large amount of money is sent annually from diaspora remittances. As ethnic Armenians have found a relatively high amount of success since emigrating, they always make sure to send money to the homeland. The country’s current issue is the border skirmishes in the Nagorno–Karabakh region. Both Azerbaijan and Armenia claim this land.

 Capital: Yerevan

Population: 3,000,000

Government: Parliamentary representative democracy

Official language: Armenian

Secondary languages: English, Russian, Assyrian, Greek, Kurdish‎

Borders: North by Georgia, east by Azerbaijan, southeast by Artsakh (disputed territory), the south by Iran, and the west by Turkey

Currency: Armenian dram (AMD) written դրամ in Armenian; the sign is ֏

Religion: Christianity 95%, Yazidism 0.8%, Paganism 0.2%, Other 4%

Primary sectors: Agriculture, mining, hydroelectricity, telecommunications, jewelry, and tourism

Agricultural products: cereal crops (primarily wheat and barley), potatoes, vegetables, and grapes (both eating and for wine)

Gross domestic product (GDP): 12.43 billion USD (2018)

GDP per capita: 4,212.07 USD (2018)

GDP growth rate: 5.2% annual change (2018)

GNI per capita: 10,480 PPP dollars (2018)

Gross national income: 30.93 billion PPP dollars (2018)

Major trading partner countries for exports: Russia ($661 million), Switzerland ($506 million), Bulgaria ($215 million), Germany ($195 million), and Iraq ($151 million)

Major trading partner countries for imports: Russia ($1.2 billion), China ($482 million), Georgia ($267 million), Iran ($253 million), and Germany ($250 million)


Similar to Armenia, Azerbaijan is also a Caucus country that gained its independence from the USSR in 1991. The country stumbled into wealth through massive oil deposits and has since managed to significantly develop the rest of the country’s infrastructure. Nothing is more evident of this than the lavish city of Baku and the ritzy buildings that make up the downtown and the seafront promenade. In 2016, the president declared his intention to move the country away from oil and gas production to other sectors of the economy especially through agriculture, logistics, IT, and tourism. Azerbaijan’s closest ally is Turkey and that is reflected in the similarity of language, religion, and culture. They are often called “one nation with two states” and that is reflected strongly in economic patterns and trade habits.

Capital: Baku

Population: 10,139,177

Government: Unitary semi-presidential republic

Official languages: Azerbaijani (Similar to Turkish)

Secondary languages: Russian, English, and several endangered languages spoken by less than 10,000 people

Borders: the Caspian Sea to the east, Georgia and Russia to the north, Iran to the south, and Armenia to the south-west and west

Currency: Azerbaijani manat, the symbol is ₼, the currency code is AZN

Religion: Islam 96.9% (predominantly Shia), Christian 3%, Other <0.1. However, Azerbaijan is the most secular government in the Muslim world so the number of practicing Muslims is much lower

Primary sectors: oil and gas

Agricultural exports: grains (barley), maize, wine grapes, potatoes, cotton, tea, silk, and tobacco. This sector employs more than a third of the population though it only equals 5% of the total GDP

Gross Domestic Product (GDP): 46.94 billion USD

GDP per capita: 4,721.18 USD (2018)

GNI per capita: 17,100 PPP dollars (2018)

GDP growth rate: 1.4% annual change (2018)

Gross national income: 170 billion PPP dollars (2018)

Major trading partner countries for exports: Italy ($5.99 billion), Turkey ($1.85 billion), Israel ($1.31 billion), the Czech Republic ($954 million), and Germany ($820 million)

Major trading partner countries for imports: Russia ($1.88 billion), Turkey ($1.55 billion), United Kingdom ($1.3 billion), China ($674 million), and Germany ($603 million)


Considered the most international business-friendly country in the region, this smallest Middle Eastern island nation has emerged as an economic player, packing a massive punch despite its small size. Similar to many neighboring countries, the country primarily relies on oil and gas for its economy. However lacking many deposits, they mostly process crude oil imported from other countries. Notably, the government decided early on to invest heavily in other sectors especially tourism, financial institutions, and communications networks which has earned the country status as the Gulf’s first post-oil economy. It is a fascinating case study, because with such little amount of land, they have had to turn most of it into urban areas. It thus has a very low amount of agriculture compared to most other countries in the region.

The tourism industry has gained a lot of traction due to the country’s positioning as one of the most liberal in the region. Due to its strategic geographic location, weekends in Bahrain are filled with an influx of Kuwaitis, Saudi Arabians, and Qataris (more conservative countries) to relax here. The other note with its strategic location has been the use of ports. As an island, Bahrain has several high-capacity ports along its shores which usher in significant foreign investment, including the establishment of military bases. Even the United States has a base in Bahrain. In the next decade, as countries move towards more renewable energy sources, Bahrain’s economy will emerge as a clear standout.

Capital: Manama

Population: 1,723,734 people

Government: Constitutional monarchy

Official languages: Arabic

Secondary languages: English, Farsi, Urdu

Borders: an island that shares maritime borders with Iran, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia

Currency: Bahraini Dinar; the English symbol for the Dinar is BD; the Arabic symbol is . د. ; the currency code is BHD

Religion: 70.2% Muslim, 29.8% other

Primary Sectors: oil, gas, banking, insurance, tourism, aluminium, and plastics

Agricultural products: alfalfa, dates, figs, and pomegranates. Only an estimated 3000 work in agriculture.

Gross domestic product: 37.75 billion USD (2018)

GDP per capita: 24,050.76 USD (2018)

GNI per capita: 22,110 USD (2018)

GDP growth rate: 1.8% annual change (2018)

Gross national income: 70.16 billion PPP dollars (2018)

Major trading partner countries for exports: Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, United States, and Oman

Major trading partner countries for imports: Saudi Arabia, China, United Arab Emirates, United States, and Australia.


This Horn of Africa country sits less than 500 miles away from Yemen across the Red Sea. As the country is predominantly desert with a brutal climate, they are unable to live in a majority of their country or grow crops through much of the land. Luckily, the one natural resource they do have is the water and coastline, and this little known country has reaped tremendous benefits from its strategic positioning on the shores of the Red Sea. All four of the main industries connect directly with the existence of the sea: fishing, port services, salt, and tourism. Fishing is done mostly on a small scale, which allows the industry a high number of fishermen to participate in it. Similarly, with so many coastlines, Djibouti is home to more than 6 million tons of salt. This “white gold” is caravanned via camel to Ethiopia. Next, Port services are especially lucrative considering the proximity of many landlocked countries, such as Ethiopia. Though Ethiopia shares borders with other countries with a Red Sea coast (Eritrea and Somalia) Djibouti is by far the closest and the most stable. Djibouti is also home to many fascinating tourist attractions that are starting to pique the interest of the international tourism industry. With fantastic diving, other-worldly geologic formations, and white sand beaches, we can certainly see why.

Capital: Djibouti City

Population: 988,000

Government: semi-presidential republic

Official languages: Arabic and French

Indigenous languages: Afar and Somali

Secondary languages: English, Italian, Mandarin

Borders: Eritrea in the north, Ethiopia in the west and south, and Somaliland in the southeast

Currency: Djiboutian franc; the symbol is Fdj; the currency code is DJF

Religion: Muslim 94%, Christian 6%

Primary sectors: fishing, port services, salt, tourism

Agricultural products: Due to the rough terrain and climate, agriculture only makes up 3% of the country’s GDP. Even then, most of the profits are from animal products instead of things that are grown. Djibouti’s main agricultural products are goats, animal hides, camels, and sheep

Gross domestic product: 2.956 billion USD (2018)

GDP per capita: 3,082.54 USD (2018)

GDP growth rate: 5.5% annual change (2018)

Gross national income per capita: 3,540 USD (2019)

Major trading partner countries for exports: Saudi Arabia ($48.3 million), India ($11.1 million), Nigeria ($6.45 million), United Kingdom ($6.13 million), and Netherlands ($3.05 million)

Major trading partner countries for imports: China ($1.87 billion), United Arab Emirates ($1.07 billion), India ($859 million), Indonesia ($212 million), and Malaysia ($205 million)


The sunny island nation of Cyprus lies within the Eastern Mediterranean, close to the shores of the continental Middle East. Its geopolitical classifications are a bit of a conundrum, as the Northern part of the country is claimed by Turkey, the Southern part belonging to the EU, and it being equidistantly to the shores of Northern Africa, the Levant, and Turkey. Based on geography alone, it certainly belongs in the Middle East, though its culture and religion align more with Greece and Europe. We have decided to include it on this list.

Cyprus is considered a “high-income country” by the World Bank and consistently ranks highly for economic freedoms. Besides Israel, it is the most wealthy of its neighbors. Its status as a prosperous country has roots in ancient times for its rich mineral deposits, prolific agriculture, and excellent human capital. More than solely economic, Cypriots live a good life. The country has been ranked 23rd globally for quality of life. Drawing upon this success, in the last few decades Cyprus has seen tremendous growth as a desirable tourism destination, given its immense natural beauty with pristine beaches, forests, and mountains. Millions of tourists, especially from Europe, arrive annually to enjoy the sun and breathtaking sites. Additional factors that have boosted its tourism success include its positioning between East and West, affordable prices, and a well-educated English speaking population. Accordingly, the service-based sector consists of nearly 80% of the country’s GDP while employing upwards of 70% of total citizens. As such, they rely heavily on trade for many resources. Its unique geography encourages trade from both Europe and the Middle East, and many foreign investors use it as their gateway into both the regions due to low barriers to entry.

Capital: Nicosia/ Lefkosa

Population: 1,210,756

Government: a republic with a presidential system

Official languages: Greek and Turkish

Secondary languages: English

Minority languages: Armenian and Cypriot Arabic

Borders: Cyprus is an island, so has no land borders but has a United Nations Buffer Zone across the middle of the country that separates Northern Cyprus (claimed by Turkey) from Cyprus, an independently recognized country. This 134 square mile wall that goes directly through the capital makes Nicosia/ Lefkosa the planet’s only divided capital.

Currency: in Cyprus, they use the Euro (EUR) with the symbol € as the country is a member of the European Union; in Northern Cyprus, they use the Turkish Lira

Religion: Cyprus is 98.2% Christian, 0.6% Muslim, 1.3% other; Northern Cyprus is 99% Sunni Muslim (99%) are Sunni Muslims

Primary Sectors: Tourism, real estate, banking, manufacturing, shipping, food processing

Agricultural products: Despite the arable land, only 3% of the economy is from agriculture. The main agricultural products are citrus fruits, potatoes, and beverages.

Gross domestic product (GDP): 24.96 billion USD (2018)

GDP per capita: 28,159.30 USD (2018)

GDP growth rate: 4.1% annual change (2018)

GNI per capita: 35,170 PPP dollars (2017)

Major trading countries for exports: Cayman Islands ($753 million), Greece ($461 million), Libya ($457 million), Norway ($288 million), and United Kingdom ($230 million)

Major trading countries for imports: Greece ($2.01 billion), South Korea ($1.25 billion), Italy ($1.05 billion), Turkey ($989 million), and Russia ($760 million)


With nearly 100 million people, Egypt is the most populous country in the Middle East. Its capital, Cairo, has been a city of commerce for centuries with traders coming from all around Africa to the mouth of the Nile. Cairo is a megacity and its metro population consists of more than 20 million, the largest city in both Africa and the Middle East. The country’s strong propensity toward commerce and trade has continued until today where it stands it remains one of both Africa and the Middle East’s biggest economies.

Its main sector is energy and has developed significant infrastructure in oil, natural gas, hydropower, and solar, and wind power. Until now, oil has been the leader by far in this sector due to massive oil fields, but Egypt has been learning how to optimize its other natural resources for maximum energy output. This has included solar panels in the wide expanse of desert, dams on the Nile River, and coastal wind farms. Cairo’s economy also receives a significant boost from tourists who want to see the Pyramids of Giza, the only ancient World Wonder still standing, with their own eyes. The stunning pyramids are directly in the capital city and tourist infrastructure has been well developed to meet the needs of 9 million tourists who come annually.

Capital: Cairo

Population: 102,334,404

Government: Semi-presidential

Main language: Literary Arabic, Egyptian Arabic

Foreign Languages: English, French, Italian

Minority languages: Sa’idi Arabic, Bedouin Arabic, Sudanese Arabic, Domari, Nobiin

Borders: Libya to the west, Gaza Strip to the northeast, Israel to the east, and Sudan to the south; water borders with Mediterranean Sea, Nile River, and the Red Sea

Currency: the Egyptian Pound (EGP), the symbol is E£ or ج. م in Arabic

Religion: Muslim 90%, Christianity 10%, Baháʼí: (< 0.003%)

Primary Industries: energy, tourism, clothing and textiles, media, and agriculture

Agricultural products: citrus fruits, onions, grapes, pomegranates, garlic, mango, and strawberries

Gross domestic product: 290.9 billion USD (2018)

GDP per capita: 2,549.13 USD (2018)

GNI per capita: 12,100 PPP dollars (2018)

GDP growth rate: 5.3% annual change (2018)

Gross national income: 1.191 trillion PPP dollars (2018)

Major trading countries for exports: Italy ($2.67 billion), United States ($2.48 billion), Turkey ($2.41 billion), United Arab Emirates ($2 billion), and Saudi Arabia ($1.6 billion)

Major trading countries for imports: China ($12.3 billion), Russia ($7.75 billion), United States ($4.93 billion), Germany ($3.83 billion), and Saudi Arabia ($3.53 billion)

Islamic Republic of Iran (Iran)

Before the 1979 revolution, Iran had one of nationalizing all industries and sectors, the most profitable of which was oil and gas due to massive deposits. In the last several years, Iran’s economy has been negatively impacted by the United States’ sanctions in a spat over nuclear disarmament. In late 2020, further hydrocarbon sanctions were enacted, causing the country’s heavily oil-based economy to falter even further. Iran’s future economic prosperity in this country is tied to these nuclear deals.

Capital: Tehran

Population: 84 million

Government: Islamic theocracy republic

Main languages: Persian and Azeri

Secondary languages: Kurdish, Gilaki, Mazandarani, Luri, Arabic, Balochi, and Turkmen

Minority languages: Qashqai, Taleshi, Tati, Baadi

Borders: north by Azerbaijan, Armenia, Turkmenistan, and the Caspian Sea; east by Pakistan and Afghanistan; south by the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman; west by Turkey and Iraq

Currency: the Iranian rial (IRR) or ریال ایران‎ in Persian; sign is: ﷼

Religion: Approximately 99% Muslim (90% Shi’a branch and 9% Sunni branch), <1% Christian, Zoroastrian, Jewish, Baháʼí, Mandeans, and Yarsan

Primary Industries: oil and gas, textiles, food processing, and agriculture

Agricultural products: pistachios (world’s largest producer), cotton, tea, and citrus

Gross domestic product: 454 billion USD (2017)

GDP per capita: 5,627.75 USD (2017)

GDP growth rate: 3.8% annual change (2017)

GNI per capita: 21,050 PPP dollars (2017)

Gross national income: 1.698 trillion PPP dollars (2017)

Major trading partner countries for exports: China ($18.9 billion), India ($13.4), United Arab Emirates ($4.73 billion), South Korea ($3.64 billion), and Italy ($3.14 billion)

Major trading partner countries for imports: China ($14 billion), United Arab Emirates ($9.11 billion), Germany ($3 billion), India ($2.84 billion), and South Korea ($2.29 billion)


Similar to other countries, oil is king in Iraq. More than 98% of foreign earnings come from oil and gas and the government heavily benefits from the sector. Though agriculture is a small part of the total GDP (2%), it plays a large role in Iraqi’s lives as approximately 20% of the total jobs are in this sector. Unfortunately, the 2003-2011 war and the ensuing conflicts with ISIS have destroyed a lot of the arable land and created other problems such as corruption. The future of the country is on shaky ground with instability in the government, poor health care, and the continued presence of the Islamic State.

Capital: Baghdad

Population: 40 million

Government: the 2005 constitution classified it as an Islamic, democratic, federal parliamentary republic

Official languages: Arabic, Kurdish

Secondary languages: the Iraqi dialect of Turkish, Chaldean, Assyrian

Borders: Turkey to the north, Iran to the east, Kuwait to the southeast, Saudi Arabia to the south, Jordan to the southwest, and Syria to the west.

Currency: Iraqi dinar (IQD), the symbol is ع.د

Religion: 98% Muslim (58% Shia, 37% Sunni, and 5% other), 1.5% Christian, <.05% Yazidism, Mandaeism, and other

Primary Industries: oil and gas, gold, financial institutions, telecommunications

Agricultural products: grain (wheat and barley), citrus fruits, tobacco, melons, grapes, rice, cotton, sugarcane

Gross domestic product: 224.2 billion USD (2018)

GDP per capita: 5,834.17 USD (2018)

GDP growth rate: -0.6% annual change (2018)

GNI per capita: 17,210 PPP dollars (2018)

Internet users: 49.4% of the population (2017)

Gross national income: 661.5 billion PPP dollars (2018)

Major trading partner countries for exports: India ($20.8 billion), China ($20 billion), United States ($10.6 billion), South Korea ($8.47 billion), and Greece ($4.92 billion)

Major trading partner countries for imports: United Arab Emirates ($11.3 billion), Turkey ($8.3 billion), China ($7.92 billion), South Korea ($1.91 billion), and India ($1.85 billion).


Israel is known for being an outlier in the region, a Jewish state amidst Muslim countries. Its economic patterns also differ heavily from surrounding states. Israel has the highest HDI in the region and is even ranked higher than South Korea, Slovenia, Spain, and France. There have been a couple of reasons for this success, but one of them is the technological sector. Israel has been at the forefront of innovative science and technology that has attracted significant foreign investment and positioned the country for success. It is one of the country’s top startup hotspots, with citizens thinking about ways to improve the quality of life for the rest of the world. Besides tech, they are known for their cut diamonds and consist of nearly 15% of the world’s production. Finally, tourism has attracted significant earnings, facilitated by the quality transportation infrastructure that accommodates visitors by land, sea, and road. Israel has significant cultural and religious sites, beaches, and mountains that attract millions annually.

Capital: Tel Aviv

Population: 8.5 million people

Government: parliamentary democracy

Official languages: Hebrew and Arabic

Secondary languages: Russian, English, Yiddish

Borders: Lebanon to the north, the Golan Heights and Syria to the northeast, the West Bank and Jordan to the east, the Gaza Strip and Egypt to the southwest

Currency: New Israel Shekel (NIS) colloquially Shekel, symbol ₪

Religion: 74.2% Jewish, 17.8% Muslim, 2.0% Christian, 1.6% Druze, 4.4% other including Samaritanism and Baháʼí

Primary Industries: technology, diamonds, industrial manufacturing, tourism, agriculture

Agricultural products: potato, carrots, bell pepper, dates, avocados, and mangos

Gross domestic product: 370.6 billion USD (2018)

GDP per capita: 41,715.03 USD (2018)

GDP growth rate: 3.5% annual change (2018)

GNI per capita: 39,940 PPP dollars (2018)

Gross national income: 354.8 billion PPP dollars (2018)

Major trading partner countries for exports: United States ($19B), China ($5.15B), Palestine ($3.03B), United Kingdom ($2.19B), and Germany ($2.17B)

Major trading partner countries for imports: United States ($10.3B), China ($9.92B), Turkey ($6.35B), Germany ($5.35B), and Russia ($4.21B).


Unlike many of its neighbours, Jordan does not have any oil and gas resources in the country. As a result, the government and royals have had to be very strategic to build up other industries. They have been very successful as the quality of life in Jordan ranks among the highest in the region and the greater world. Early on in statehood, the government decided to encourage private enterprise instead of public, given the lack of natural resources. As a result, Jordanian companies have built up financial, communication, manufacturing, and tourism sectors that have brought prosperity to the nation. Tourism remains a key factor as Jordan is home to one of the wonders of the world, the ancient city of Petra. It is also home to the Dead Sea, the lowest point on earth, and a bucket list destination.

Capital: Amman

Population: 10.2 million

Government: a parliamentary monarchy

Official languages: Arabic

Secondary languages: English, French

Minority languages: Armenian, Chechen, and Circassian

Borders: North is Syria, East is Iraq, southeast is Saudi Arabia, and west is Israel and the West Bank

Currency: Jordanian dinar (JOD), the symbol is د.ا

Religion: 95% Muslim, 4% Christian, .4% Buddhist, .1% Hindu, .5% other

Primary Sectors: tourism, communication, manufacturing, phosphates, textiles, mining, finance

Agricultural products: citrus fruits, cereals, tomatoes, cucumbers, chickpeas, and olives

Gross domestic product: 42.23 billion USD (2018)

GDP per capita: 4,241.79 USD (2018)

GNI per capita: 9,430 PPP dollars (2018)

GDP growth rate: 1.9% annual change (2018)

Gross national income: 93.93 billion PPP dollars (2018)

Major trading partner countries for exports: United States ($1.6B), Saudi Arabia ($999M), India ($813M), Iraq ($706M), and United Arab Emirates ($416M)

Major trading partner countries for imports: Saudi Arabia ($3.73B), China ($3B), United Arab Emirates ($1.54B), United States ($1.46B), and Germany ($994M).


Kuwait owes where they are today to oil. As most of the country is desert, there is no drinking water, scorching heat, and dry land, where the people were unable to grow agriculture much less survive without drinking water. However, oil changed the country’s luck and enabled it to develop quality infrastructure rapidly. A little known fact is that the Kuwaiti Dinar is the strongest currency in the world, where one Dinar is worth more than 3 USD. This is due to the generally high stability of global oil prices. According to the World Bank, Kuwait is the fourth richest country in the world per capita. Despite their extreme wealth, they cannot change the reality of agriculture. Today only .3% of the land in Kuwait is used for agriculture meaning Kuwait must source more than 95% of its food from other countries. They must also import or desalinate upwards of 75% of drinkable water. They hope to attract more international investment away from solely hydrocarbons.

Capital: Kuwait City

Population: 4.2 million

Government: constitutional monarchy (emirate) with a semi-democratic framework

Official language: Arabic

Secondary languages: English, Farsi, Urdu

Borders: the Persian Gulf to the east, Iraq to the west and north, and Saudi Arabia to the south

Currency: Kuwaiti Dinar (KD), the symbol is د.ك

Religion: 99% Muslim, 1% Christian

Primary Industries: oil and gas, other hydrocarbons, finance, real estate, and business services. desalination, food processing, construction

Agricultural products: tomatoes, onions, melons, and cucumbers

Gross domestic product: 140.6 billion USD (2018)

GDP per capita: 33,994.41 USD (2018)

GNI per capita: 84,250 PPP dollars (2018)

GDP growth rate: 1.2% annual change (2018)

Major trading partner countries for exports: China ($13.6B), South Korea ($11.4B), India ($7.44B), Japan ($6.11B), and Chinese Taipei ($4.6B)

Major trading partner countries for imports: China ($4.36B), United Arab Emirates ($4.07B), United States ($3.09B), Saudi Arabia ($2.21B), and Japan ($1.88B)


Lebanon is the most religiously diverse country in the region with high populations of both Christians and Druze. Despite many positive stories of triumph, the country is best known for its 15-year civil war that decimated the economy and the value of the Lebanese pound. In the wake of the war, the government aimed to make the country once again a regional powerhouse of economic and social stability making radically different policies. While some surrounding countries have their economies and industries entirely managed by the state, Lebanon’s private sector has no interference from the government. It also is income tax-free, a huge incentive, especially for foreigners who must pay high taxes in their own countries. Though positive in theory, these policies created a large wealth divide with almost no social services available to people in need. This has created significant civil unrest worsened by the 2020 explosion in a main industrial area, killing 204, leaving 300,000 homeless, and doing upwards of 15 billion USD in damages

Capital: Beirut

Population: 6.8 million

Government: Parliamentary democratic republic

Official language: Arabic

Secondary languages: French and English (both commonly spoken)

Borders: the Mediterranean Sea to the west, Israel to the south, and Syria to the east and north

Currency: Lebanese pound (LBP), symbol ل. ل.

Religion: 67.4% Muslim, 30.1% Christian, 5.2% Druze

Primary Industries: Mining (gold, iron, copper, diamonds), banking, tourism, jewelry

Agricultural products: olives, citrus fruits, and cereals

Gross domestic product: 56.64 billion USD (2018)

GDP per capita: 8,269.79 USD (2018)

GNI per capita: 13,010 PPP dollars (2018)

GDP growth rate: 0.2% annual change (2018)

Gross national income: 89.09 billion PPP dollars (2018)

Major trading partner countries for exports:  United Arab Emirates ($486M), Saudi Arabia ($240M), Syria ($205M), South Africa ($175M), and Switzerland ($172M)

Major trading partner countries for imports: China ($2.05B), Greece ($1.73B), Italy ($1.63B), United States ($1.41B), and United Arab Emirates ($1.17B).


Although Libya has significant potential, its growth has been stunted due to political instability and terrorism. More than half, and 85% of export income, is through oil and gas. This hydrocarbon-rich economy has translated into one of the highest GDPs per capita in Africa. However, this wealth in reality has not seen its way to all the Libyan people, meaning many still live in poverty. For example, though agriculture is the second-largest sector, approximately 80% of all food is still imported meaning goods can be expensive and hard to come by. Hopefully its tourism potential can be realized soon. Libya is gorgeous with its translucent water beaches, 13 major archaeological sites, and vast sand dunes.

Capital: Tripoli

Population: 6.8 million

Government: interim government in 2020

Official languages: Modern Standard Arabic

Secondary languages: Italian, English, Egyptian Arabic, and Tunisian Arabic

Borders: the Mediterranean Sea to the north, Egypt to the east, Sudan to the southeast, Niger and Chad to the south, and Tunisia and Algeria to the west. There are also maritime borders with Greece, Italy, and Malta.

Currency: Libyan dinar (LYD), the symbols are L and ل.د

Religion: 96.6% Muslim, 3% Christian, .4% other

Primary Industries: oil and gas, agriculture, mining (especially iron and steel), construction

Agricultural products: tobacco, olives, grains, dates, and almonds

Gross domestic product: 48.36 billion USD (2018)

GDP per capita: 7,241.70 USD (2018)

GDP growth rate: 7.9% annual change (2018)

GNI per capita: 21,340 PPP dollars (2018)

Gross national income: 142.5 billion PPP dollars

Major trading partner countries for exports: Italy ($4.57B), China ($4.17B), Germany ($3.71B), Spain ($3.65B), and France ($2.48B)

Major trading partner countries for imports: Turkey ($1.5B), United Arab Emirates ($1.44B), China ($1.43B), Italy ($1.42B), and Spain ($712M)


Lesser-known Mauritania has mostly a subsistence-based economy rooted in livestock, farming, and fishing. A country of contrasts, Mauritania is learning to best utilize the two natural resources it has in abundance, water, and sand. From the predominantly untouched water, industrial fishing has yielded the country’s most profitable products. In 2019, non-fillet frozen fish earned 450 million USD and processed crustaceans 443 million. From sand deposits, they have been able to mine. Up to 75% of the population still practices traditional economic activity related to herding goats, camels, cattle, and sheep. Though it is starting to wean itself, international aid and investment are still crucial to Mauritania, meaning that it is easily impacted by the trends of the global market.

Capital: Nouakchott

Population: 4.6 million

Government: unitary, semi-presidential republic and an Islamic republic

Official language: Modern Standard Arabic

Secondary languages: French, Wolof, Tamasheq, Zenaga

Borders: Algeria to the north, Mali to the East, Senegal to the South, Western Sahara to the North West

Currency: Mauritanian ouguiy (MRU)

Religion: 100% Muslim

Primary Industries: mining (iron ore, gold, copper, gypsum), industrial fishing, pastoralism

Agricultural products: tea, millet, sorghum, rice, and corn

Gross domestic product: 5.235 billion USD (2018)

GDP per capita: 1,188.83 USD (2018)

GNI per capita: 4,120 PPP dollars (2018)

GDP growth rate: 3.6% annual change (2018)

Gross national income: 18.14 billion PPP dollars (2018)

Major trading partner countries for exports: China ($735M), Spain ($370M), Switzerland ($319M), Côte d’Ivoire ($159M), and Japan ($139M)

Major trading partner countries for imports: China ($1.04B), France ($200M), Morocco ($188M), Spain ($175M), and Belgium-Luxembourg ($133M).

Morocco (the Kingdom of Morocco)

Morocco is known as one of the most stable countries in the region, and one of the world’s most desirable places to travel. To get it to where it is today, the government in the ‘80s decided to enact massive policies to transfer sectors from the government to the hands of private people and businesses. Agriculture was significantly developed, considerable considering it has some of the most farmable land in the region. It is one of the only countries in the region that is self-sufficient in growing food for its population (minus grains, sugar, coffee, and tea). More than 40% of its citizens work in this sector. Additionally, tourism is strong as Morocco has excellent physical and cultural resources: sand dunes, snowy mountains, beautiful old medinas, historic mosques, and even surfing! The corona virus pandemic has created a lag in the national economy for the first time since 1995.

Capital: Rabat

Population: 36.9 million

Government: Parliamentary constitutional monarchy

Official languages: Arabic and Tamazight

Secondary languages: French, Spanish, English

Borders: Algeria to the east and southeast, Western Sahara to the south, the Atlantic Ocean to the west, and the Mediterranean Sea to the north.

Currency: Moroccan dirham (MAD)

Religion: 99% Muslim, 1% other

Primary Industries: agriculture, tourism, mining, textiles, and construction

Agricultural products: fish, grains, oranges, tomatoes, spices

Gross domestic product: 117.9 billion USD (2018)

GDP per capita: 3,237.88 USD (2018)

GNI per capita: 8,410 PPP dollars (2018)

GDP growth rate: 3.0% annual change (2018)

Gross national income: 308.5 billion PPP dollars (2018)

Major trading partner countries for exports: Spain ($7.45B), France ($6.94B), United States ($1.47B), Italy ($1.39B), and India ($1.3B)

Major trading partner countries for imports: Spain ($9.45B), France ($5.05B), China ($4.13B), United States ($3.62B), and Italy ($2.52B)

Oman (the Sultanate of Oman)

Ranked the world’s safest place for expatriates, Oman has a lot to offer. Like most of the Arabian Peninsula, Oman got a massive economic boost through oil and gas in the region. Although enjoying considerable success, the government knew eventually this oil would run out so they started developing a plan for a post-oil economy in 1996. In just four years, the country was seeing more investment and stabilized plans than any other Gulf country. Nearly half the country’s GDP is service-based. Notably, Oman only experienced minor protests during the 2011 Arab Spring, suggesting that most people were relatively happy with the quality of life. In response to the protests, the government has invested greatly in social welfare programs and services that have provided more economic opportunities and freedom to the bottom half of Omanis.

Capital: Muscat

Population: 5.1 million

Government: absolute monarchy (sultanate)

Official languages: Arabic

Secondary languages: Baluchi, English, Urdu

Other prominent languages: Somali, Gujarati, Sindhi, and Portuguese

Borders: Oman borders Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen to the east and shares maritime borders with Iran and Pakistan with the Strait of Hormuz and the Persian Gulf

Currency: Omani Rial (OMR), the symbol is ر.ع.

Religion: 85.9% Muslims (majority Ibadhi), 6.5% Christian, 5.5% Hindu, 0.8% Buddhist, 0.2% other

Primary Industries: oil and gas, trading, construction, tourism, agriculture

Agricultural products: date palms, limes, wheat, barley, and chickpeas

Gross domestic product: 79.28 billion USD (2018)

GDP per capita: 16,415.16 USD (2018)

GNI per capita: 41,680 PPP dollars (2018)

GDP growth rate: 1.8% annual change (2018)

Gross national income: 201.3 billion PPP dollars (2018)

Major trading partner countries for exports: China ($16.7B), India ($3.31B), United Arab Emirates ($2.84B), South Korea ($2.49B), and Saudi Arabia ($2.14B)

Major trading partner countries for imports: United Arab Emirates ($11.7B), China ($2.42B), India ($1.88B), Japan ($1.54B), and the United States ($1.38B).


Palestine, the land consisting of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, is only recognized by 138 of 193 United Nations members. As a result, they have had some difficulty establishing a strong economic presence as many things need to go through Israel first. This has led to restrictions on trade and movement of people. Agriculture is the largest sector of the economy where it has roots in the cultural and social fabric of the country, written into cultural songs, poems, and literature. The sector makes up nearly one-fourth of the country’s GDP. However, generally, unemployment rates soar, and development levels are low beyond the rates of their neighboring countries. One of the main sources of the country’s income is foreign donors and remittances.

Capital: Ramallah

Population: 5.1 million

Government: semi-presidential republic

Official languages: Arabic

Secondary languages: English, French, Hebrew

Currency: no official currency, use Israeli new shekel and Jordanian dinar

Religion: 80–85% Muslim, 12–14% Jewish, 1.0–2.5% Christian

Primary Industries: agriculture, stone/ marble, food processing, handicrafts, leather, pharmaceuticals, tourism

Agricultural products: citrus fruits, olives, almonds, grains

Gross domestic product: 14.62 billion USD (2018)

GDP per capita: 3,198.87 USD (2018)

GNI per capita: 6,000 PPP dollars (2018)

GDP growth rate: 0.9% annual change (2018)

Gross national income: 27.43 billion PPP dollars (2018

Major trading partner countries for exports: Israel ($958M), Jordan ($106M), United Arab Emirates ($26.6M), Saudi Arabia ($22.6M), and United States ($14.1M),

Major trading partner countries for imports: Israel ($3.03B), Turkey ($381M), Jordan ($213M), China ($179M), and Egypt ($139M)


This small Gulf country holds a remarkable title! It is the country with the largest GDP per capita in the whole world. That’s right, not a Scandinavian country or the United States, but Qatar. This is due in large part to the large oil reserves on land and offshore. In fact, despite consisting of a small area, Qatar is home to the 3rd biggest oil reserves. Look no further than the modern skyscrapers that grace downtown Doha to understand the impact that oil has had on developing the country. Interestingly, before the discovery of oil, Qatar was an impoverished economy based on pearl diving.

Qatar has been in the news the last few years as it will be the first Middle Eastern or Muslim majority country to ever host a major international sporting event. In 2022, Doha is slated to host the World Cup and the preparation for this massive occurrence has seen more than 500 million USD in investments to build/ improve hotels, stadiums, sewer lines, and transportation.

Capital: Doha

Population: 2.9 million

Government: absolute monarchy

Official languages: Arabic

Secondary languages: English

Borders: Saudi Arabia to the South

Currency: Qatari riyal, the symbol is either QR or ر.ق

Religion: 67.7% Muslim, 13.8% Hindu, 13.8% Christian, 3.1% Buddhist

Primary Industries: oil, gas, manufacturing, finance, real estate, and hospitality

Agricultural products: cereals, dates, poultry, dairy

Gross domestic product: 191.4 billion USD (2018)

GDP per capita: 68,793.78 USD (2018)

GNI per capita: 124,410 PPP dollars (2018)

Gross national income: 346.1 billion PPP dollars (2018)

GDP growth rate: 1.5% annual change (2018)

Major trading partner countries for exports: South Korea ($12.5B), India ($9.65B), Japan ($8.68B), China ($8.65B), and Singapore ($5.84B)

Major trading partner countries for imports: United States ($5.09B), France ($3.61B), United Kingdom ($3.06B), China ($2.98B), and India ($1.83B)

Saudi Arabia (the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia)

The birthplace of Islam is one of the two Middle Eastern countries to rank in the top 20 for the world’s largest GDPs. Saudi Arabia has the second-largest oil reserves and is the second-largest producer. The Kingdom is estimated to have about 25% of the planet’s total reserves. In addition to these hydrocarbon resources, Saudi Arabia also has the second most valuable natural resources, most of which are mined and exported. These industries are majority state-owned, which has enabled them to provide quality services for their inhabitants making it a tax haven and a very economically attractive place to live. As a result, nearly 6.5 million foreigners live and work in the Kingdom, mostly in the private sector, directly contributing to the GDP. Additionally, Saudi Arabia receives billions of dollars each year from Hajj (pilgrimage) tourism to the holy cities of Mecca and Medina.

Capital: Riyadh

Population: 34.8 million

Government: Islamic absolute monarchy

Official languages: Arabic

Secondary languages: English, Urdu, Farsi, Turkish, Hindi, Indonesian

Borders: countries with borders to Saudi Arabia are Bahrain, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, the UAE, and Yemen.

Currency: Saudi riyal (SAR), symbols are SR, ر.س, ﷼‎

Religion: Not recorded but near majority of Muslims

Primary Industries: oil and gas, real estate, agriculture, automotive, halal meat

Agricultural products: dairy, halal meat, dates

Gross domestic product: 786.5 billion USD (2018)

GDP per capita: 23,338.96 USD (2018)

GNI per capita: 55,840 PPP dollars (2018)

GDP growth rate: 2.4% annual change (2018)

Gross national income: 1.882 trillion PPP dollars (2018)

Major trading partner countries for exports: China ($37.5B), Japan ($29.4B), India ($26.3B), South Korea ($23.5B), and United States ($22B)

Major trading partner countries for imports: China ($19.1B), United Arab Emirates ($17.2B), United States ($13.1B), Germany ($7.58B), and India ($5.84B)


Considered the world’s second most fragile nation, this country has endured many struggles in the last few decades with famines, civil war, droughts, locusts, and flooding. Due to the incapacitation of the government due to fighting, Somalia currently operates an entirely informal economy leaving most of the country’s population to survive on subsistence agriculture and livestock production. The other two main sources of income are telecommunications and remittances from the large Somali diaspora that has fled due to humanitarian crises. Additionally due to instability and continued lack of government and law, foreign investment and trade have all but dwindled. Fingers crossed the fighting stops soon, as Somalia has the largest coastline in continental Africa and many prehistoric sites of interest.

Capital: Mogadishu

Population: 15.8 million

Government: federal parliamentary representative democratic republic

Official languages: Somali

Secondary languages: English, Italian

Borders: the Indian Ocean to the east, Kenya and Ethiopia to the west

Currency: Somali shilling

Religion: no official record but nearly entirely Muslim

Primary Industries: animal husbandry, agriculture, pastoral nomadism

Agricultural products: sheep, goats, cattle, sugarcane, rice, milk


Though most of the international community still recognizes Somaliland as part of greater Somalia, they have declared themselves an independent country and with a significant population of 4.5 million. Being at war with their southern neighbor from the ‘80s to the early 2000s, Somaliland has taken concrete steps towards building up key infrastructure and systems for hope at stability. Against all odds, they have managed to succeed with a democratic government, trade partners, almost universal cell service, and multiple developing industries. They also have managed excellent schools and hospitals to support the nation’s growth. Most prominently, this state has been in the news recently for the construction of a DP World port in Berbera, the closest port to economic giant Ethiopia. This port is estimated to eventually be the leading port in the entire Horn of Africa, something to definitely keep an eye on.

Capital: Hargeisa

Population: 4.5 million

Government: federal parliamentary representative democratic republic

Official languages: Somali

Secondary languages: English

Borders: the Gulf of Aden to the north, the Indian Ocean to the east, Ethiopia to the west, and Djibouti to the North

Currency: Somaliland Shilling and USD

Religion: no official record but nearly entirely Muslim

Primary Industries: Remittances from abroad, pastoral nomadism

Agricultural products: fishing, cattle, goats, sheep

Gross Domestic Product (GDP): nearly 2 billion USD (2019)


Before the breakaway of South Sudan, greater Sudan was the largest state in Africa, serving as a link between Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East. Unfortunately, South Sudan’s independence also meant the remaining country losing most of their oil reserves and oil pipelines. These grand losses were catastrophic for Sudan’s economy, resulting in fighting and high inflation that only continued to worsen the economic situation. Unfortunately, the country is still recovering from these shockwaves. The country also is plagued with terrorism, separatist groups, and armed civilian militias.

Capital: Khartoum

Population: 43.8 million

Government: representative democratic consociationalist republic

Official languages: Literary Arabic and English

Secondary languages: there are more than 114 indigenous languages

Borders: north by Egypt, east by the Red Sea, Eritrea, and Ethiopia, the south by South Sudan, the west by the Central African Republic and Chad, and the northwest by Libya

Currency: Sudanese pound

Religion: 90.7% Muslim, 5.4% Christian, 3.9% other

Primary Industries: oil, tannery and leather, weaving mills, and mining

Agricultural products: sheep, goats, insect resins

Gross domestic product: 40.85 billion USD (2018)

GDP per capita: 977.27 USD (2018)

GNI per capita: 4,420 PPP dollars (2018)

GDP growth rate: -2.3% annual change (2018)

Gross national income: 185.1 billion PPP dollars (2018)

Major trading partner countries for exports: United Arab Emirates ($1.1B), India ($705M), China ($670M), Saudi Arabia ($566M), and Indonesia ($242M)

Major trading partner countries for imports: China ($1.88B), United Arab Emirates ($893M), India ($786M), Saudi Arabia ($640M), and Russia ($505M)

Syria (The Syrian Arab Republic)

Though you would not know it based on the status of the country with the incursion and subsequent rise of ISIS in-country, Syria used to be one of the most desired tourist destinations in the Middle East. In 2010, one year before the civil war started, a massive 8.5 million tourists visited the country, constituting 14% of the economy. In the wake of the civil war, the economy has all but collapsed. The World Bank estimates the GDP lost as a result of the conflict is more than 225 billion USD and it will cost more than 400 billion to rebuild the areas that have been impacted and destroyed. As Syria is currently divided into multiple areas, each with very different allies, it will be fascinating to see how this country’s economy develops post-conflict.

Capital: Damascus

Population: 17.5 million

Government: unitary republic

Official languages: Arabic

Secondary languages: Turkish, Kurdish

Borders: Turkey to the north, by Iraq to the east and southeast, by Jordan to the south, and by Lebanon and Israel to the southwest

Currency: Syrian pound, symbols are LS, £S

Religion: 87% Muslim, 10% Christian, 3% Druze


The 2011 Arab Spring revolutions started in Tunisia, protesting the government for change. One of their largest grievances was about the economy not serving the citizens: high rates of unemployment coupled with high costs of goods and services. The desired change has been somewhat fulfilled, but the division between classes has widened even further. As agriculture is the largest industry, innovations and technologies have increased efficiency while providing more food for the domestic population. Out of the countries in the region (besides Cyprus), Tunisia is the one with the most direct channels to Europe as 4 out of 5 of their main partners are EU countries.

Capital: Tunis

Population: 11.8 million

Government: semi-presidential republic

Official languages: Arabic

Secondary languages: French, English, Berber

Borders: western is Algeria, south-eastern is Libya

Currency: Tunisian dinar, symbols are DT, د.ت

Religion: no official report but nearly entirely Muslim

Primary Industries: agriculture, textiles, chemicals

Agricultural products: olive oil, dates, citrus fruit

Gross domestic product: 39.87 billion USD (2018)

GDP per capita: 3,447.51 USD (2018)

GNI per capita: 12,070 PPP dollars (2018)

GDP growth rate: 2.5% annual change (2018)

Gross national income: 139.6 billion PPP dollars (2018)

Major trading partner countries for exports: France ($4.62B), Italy ($2.9B), Germany ($2.09B), Spain ($734M), and United States ($616M)

Major trading partner countries for imports: Italy ($4.08B), France ($3.64B), Germany ($1.75B), China ($1.41B), and Spain ($989M)


The only country in the region to make the world’s annual top 10 most visited country list, Turkey is a universally appreciated gem. It has seen significant progress in the last two decades with progressive reforms by the government. Right now, it ranks among the top suppliers of agricultural goods, clothing, motor vehicles, construction equipment, electronics, and kitchen equipment. Traditional agriculture still contributes to around 25% of jobs, but this is expected to change as the younger, tech-savvy generation continues to grow. Experts are expecting a boom in innovation and start-ups.

Capital: Ankara

Population: 84.3 million

Government: Republican Parliamentary Democracy

Official languages: Turkish

Ethnic languages: Turkish, Kurmanji, Arabic, and Zazaki

Secondary languages: English, German, French

Borders: the north by the Black Sea, the northeast by Georgia and Armenia, the east by Azerbaijan and Iran, the southeast by Iraq and Syria, the southwest and west by the Mediterranean Sea and the Aegean Sea, and the northwest by Greece and Bulgaria

Currency: Turkish Lira, the symbol is ₺

Religion: 99.8% Muslim, .2% Christian

Primary sectors: agriculture, tourism, manufacturing, textiles, technology

Agricultural products: world’s top grower of apricots, figs, raisins, and hazelnuts, also produces cotton, tomatoes, and olives

Gross domestic product: 771.4 billion USD (2018)

GDP per capita: 9,370.18 USD (2018)

GDP growth rate: 2.8% annual change (2018)

GNI per capita: 27,640 PPP dollars (2018)

Major trading partner countries for exports: Germany ($16.6B), United Kingdom ($11.9B), Italy ($10.1B), United States ($8.57B), and Iraq ($8.35B)

Major trading partner countries for imports: Germany ($22.1B), China ($19.2B), Russia ($15.9B), United States ($10.6B), and Italy ($10.4B).

The United Arab Emirates (the UAE)

The UAE is home to the gulf’s most internationally recognized city, Dubai. Everywhere you look in Dubai is a testament to economic development and investment: the world’s biggest shopping mall, tallest building, and longest driverless metro are all here along with 219 other World Records. All things big and glamorous reflect the success of the UAE economy. Knowing their oil reserves were smaller than neighboring countries, the UAE took a bold approach focusing on investing in knowledge, technology, and skilled labor. Every year, the percentage of GDP from services gets higher, while attracting more and more foreign talent. Luxury tourism is also a major force, where Dubai hosts the “the world’s first seven-star hotel”. The country’s stability and investment savvy will ensure it stays an economic powerhouse for many years to come.

Capital: Abu Dhabi

Population: 9.89 million

Government: federal presidential elected monarchy

Official languages: Arabic

Secondary languages: English, Pashto, Hindi, Balochi, and Persian

Borders: Saudi Arabia to the west and south and by Oman to the east and northeast.

Currency: United Arab Emirates dirham (AED), the symbol is  د.إ

Religion: 76% Muslim, 12.6% Christian, 13% other

Primary Industries: oil and gas, real estate, repair services, construction, tourism, and manufacturing

Agricultural products: tomatoes, eggplant, citrus fruits, mangoes

Gross domestic product: 414.2 billion USD (2018)

GDP per capita: 43,004.95 USD (2018)

GNI per capita: 75,440 PPP dollars (2018)

GDP growth rate: 1.7% annual change (2018)

Gross national income: 726.5 billion PPP dollars (2018)

Major trading partner countries for exports: India ($23.8B), Japan ($21.7B), China ($17.4B), Saudi Arabia ($17.2B), and Oman ($11.7B)

Major trading partner countries for imports: China ($32.1B), India ($27.1B), United States ($17.3B), United Kingdom ($9.69B), and Germany ($9.68B)

Western Sahara (Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic)

Though Western Sahara has declared their own independence, Morocco considers them part of their territory. Few economic statistics on Western Sahara have been updated since 2007, so although we don’t have current quantitative data, we certainly have qualitative data.

Western Sahara is a small market-based economy focused on fishing, mining (especially phosphates), and nomadic herding. Currently, the unofficial state has diplomatic ties with more than 40 members of the United Nations. It is also a founding member of the African Union.

Capital: Laayoune

Population: Approximately 600,000

Government: approximately 75% falls under Moroccan control

Official languages: Arabic

Secondary languages: Berber, Hassaniya, and Saharan Spanish

Borders: bordered by Morocco, Mauritania, and Algeria

Currency: Sahrawi peseta, symbol Ptas, ₧

Religion: No official record but majority Muslim

Primary Industries: fishing, mining, pastoral nomadism


At the Southeastern tip of the Arabian Gulf, just barely separated from the Horn of Africa, lies the country of Yemen. Unfortunately, due to civil unrest in the country, Yemen has been plagued with atrocities in the decade. A 2019 UN report named Yemen as both the world’s most fragile state and the country with the most people in need of humanitarian aid. Terrorism, bombings, disease outbreaks, drought, and hunger are rife throughout the country. However, this was not always the case. The country once had a thriving agricultural system and a service-based economy. Fragments of that glory are still seen, though they are rare. If Yemen manages to get its act together, it could be a major international player in many sectors, but especially tourism and agriculture.

Capital: Sana’a

Population: 29.8 million

Government: current civil war

Official languages: Arabic

Borders: west by the Red Sea, north by Saudi Arabia, northeast by Oman

Currency: Yemeni rial (YER)

Primary Industries: food processing and oil

Agricultural products: coffee, cotton, fish, sugar

Gross domestic product: 26.91 billion USD (2018)

GDP per capita: 944.41 USD (2018)

GNI per capita: 3,800 PPP dollars (2014)

GDP growth rate: -2.7% annual change (2018)

Gross national income: 98.13 billion PPP dollars (2014)

Major trading partner countries for exports: China ($635M), Saudi Arabia ($150M), Oman ($142M), United Arab Emirates ($126M), and Malaysia ($92.3M)

Major trading partner countries for imports: China ($1.88B), Saudi Arabia ($935M), United Arab Emirates ($756M), Turkey ($729M), and India ($660M)

Copyright © and Trademark ™ Australian Agricultural Resources Group Pty Ltd Australian Company Number: 109 146 205
All rights reserved. Revised: June 12, 2021 .