Camel in front of nomad tent in Jordan
I made my first trip to Jordan in May 2009 for the World Economic Forum on the Middle East and the Young Global Leader Summit. Despite the suicide bomb attacks in 2005 (for which Al-Qaeda in Iraq claimed responsibility), Jordan is one of the most peaceful countries in the region. Since I was attending the Forum with world leaders from around the globe, the security was very high so I felt safe. The land itself is incredibly beautiful and is part of a region considered to be “the cradle of civilization.” I arrived a day early so I could visit the ancient city of Petra, which is one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Although I have traveled to more than 30 countries around the world and have seen many incredible sights, Petra is by far one of the most awe-striking. View pictures of Petra.
The actual World Economic Forum on the Middle East was impressive. It hosted many of the world’s top policy and decision makers to discuss that region and global challenges. I attended the Young Global Leader sessions and the main Forum events – including “Meet the Leader” sessions with King Abdullah II and Queen Rania of Jordan, President Shimon Peres of Israel, Prime Minister Salam Fayyad of the Palestinian National Authority, and Valerie Jarett, Advisor to U.S. President Obama.
Since it was my birthday weekend, I stayed an extra day and spent most of the time floating in the Dead Sea. That was also a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I couldn’t believe I was actually floating! If you come to the region, you must spend time in the Dead Sea. It is the deepest hypersaline lake in the world – 8.6 times as salty as the ocean. Its shores are also the lowest point on the surface of the Earth. The mineral content of the water, high oxygen content of the atmosphere and weakened ultraviolet radiation make it a natural therapeutic spa. It is said that Herod the Great used it as the world’s first health resort. View album from this trip.
The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is a small country with a population of approximately 6.3 million (UN, 2009). It shares borders with Syria to the north, Iraq to the northeast, Saudi Arabia to the east and south, the Gulf of Aqaba to the southwest, and Israel and the West Bank to the west. It also shares control of the Dead Sea with Israel. A constitutional monarchy, it is ruled by H.M. Abdullah II Ibn Al Hussein and H.M. Queen Rania Al Abdullah. Built on seven hills, Jordan’s capital Amman is one of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited cities with a population of 1.3 million. Not oil-rich like its neighbors, Jordan has very few natural resources – limited primarily to phosphates and agricultural produce. The economy depends largely on services, tourism and foreign aid, for which the U.S. is the main provider. Its health service is one of the best in the region. Despite its size, Jordan is significant in the region given its strategic location at the crossroads of what most Christians, Jews and Muslims call the Holy Land. It is also one of two Arab nations to have made peace with Israel and is a key ally of the U.S.
Full name: The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan
Population: 6.3 million (UN, 2009); 70% under the age of 30.
Major language: Arabic
Major religion: Islam
Life expectancy: 71 years (men), 74 years (women) (UN)
ON THE FUTURE OF THE REGION:
“Powerful solutions are driven by powerful goals,” stressed H.M. Abdullah II Ibn Al Hussein, King of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, in his opening address to the World Economic Forum on the Middle East. “With the right choices, with courage and will, we can create the future our people deserve.” A negotiated settlement to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the basis of a two-state solution and comprehensive peace was one of the solutions cited by His Majesty the King that is needed for the region to fulfill its potential.
H.M. King Abdullah II Ibn Al Hussein
“These goals are in reach but the time to act is not indefinite,” he warned. “There must be no more missed opportunities, no more process without progress… Inaction is not an option.” Regional peace is just one aspect of the region’s determination to shape its future. The same sense of purpose, His Majesty said, needs to be applied to the economy and other sectors such as education, water and environmental resources, and urban and community development.
In a panel on “Sustainability in the Middle East,” H.M. Queen Rania Al Abdullah of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan urged the adoption of sustainable practices in business. Not only will this improve performance, she said, but it will also give employees a greater sense of personal fulfillment. “Sustainability frames your life in a different context, as it extends your boundaries to include the environment and society,” Her Majesty the Queen siad. “As a result, people working in sustainable companies become part of something larger, which gives them a sense of fulfillment that we all seek.”
H.M. Queen Rania Al Abdullah
People working in sustainable companies become part of something larger, which gives them a sense of fulfillment that we all seek.
H.M. Queen Rania pointed out that the world is at a crossroads and is reassessing its value system. Arabs, too, should reflect on what has worked and what has not. As the Arab world faces a chronic water shortage, high unemployment rate (particularly among women), a brain-drain, an explording youth population and a high illiteracy rate, it needs to move towards more sustainable practices. Although there is gender parity in schools and the workplace, there is stark inequality; that is why incentives and criteria that will encourage companies to hire more women should be factored in. Companies which practice sustainable development outperform others by 15% are are well regarded for their positive impact on society, H.M. Queen Rania pointed out.
GROWING BUSINESS SECTORS:
With a reputation for secure, reliable, and competitive business practices, a modern and well-connected infrastructure, and a young, educated workforce, Jordan is positioning itself as the gateway for foreign investors seeking to do business in the Middle East. The industries cited for investments are:
Mining and Processing – Jordan has among the largest deposits of uranium in the world, as well as the highest world concentration of phosphate and potash. It also holds 40 billion tons of oil shale reserves, the third largest in the world. Other valuable deposits include silica, granite, copper, tin, zircon, travertine, mineral ores, basalt, bentonite, zeolite, diatomite, feldspar, kaolin, gypsum, pure limestone, zeolitic tuff, among others.
Textiles and Apparel - In 2007 total textile and apparel exports reached USD 1.3 billion, representing a 20% growth rate over five years. Free Trade Agreements (FTA) with the Arab markets, the European Union, and Singapore, coupled with FTA and Qualifying Industrial Zones (QIZs) agreements with the United States, allow for mutually beneficial partnerships between Jordan and potential international investors. High profile buyers such as GAP, Walmart, Tommy Hilfiger, Liz Claiborne and Calvin Klein have come into the market.
Pharmaceuticals – Jordan boasts four decades of manufacturing and development of pharmaceutical products that are exported to more than 66 countries around the world. The sector offers duty-free and quota-free access to the US and the EU markets where 63% of world consumption is concentrated.
Electrical and Engineering Goods – Foreign Trade Agreements (FTA) have allowed for duty free exports into the US, EU, and Arab markets. Haier, Samsung, and LG are among the electronics companies that use Jordan as their regional headquarters for assembly lines and parts manufacturing. Jordan also boasts among the highest number of engineers per capita in the world.
Building Materials and Construction – Jordan has an abundant labor force with 75,000 registered engineers. It also has a wide availability of natural, raw materials and is positioned to meet the increasing demand for both residential and commercial construction and infrastructural projects in the Middle East region.
Agro-Industries - The Jordan Valley is characterized by fertile soil, long sunshine hours, and relatively high temperatures that can produce high quality cash crops (vegetables, cut flowers and herbs) for the off-season. The dry climate is also well-suited for production of crops such as tomatoes, which are susceptible to fungal diseases in more humid climates. Jordan is also the eighth largest olive exporter in the world. The Jordanian Government has made commitments to further support the agriculture industry.
Automotive – Jordan offers low cost car assembly and car component platforms for the growing demand for vehicles across the Middle East and North African region. As of 2009, there were 17 Jordan-based companies that manufacture vehicles and their parts, exporting 75% of their product offerings.
Chemicals – Jordan’s chemical industry offers a platform for manufacturing, processing, and exporting chemical products, from pharmaceuticals and fertilizers to inorganic/organic chemicals and chemical derivatives.
Dead Sea Cosmetics – The Dead Sea provides an abundance of natural minerals with both cosmetic and therapeutic value, including calcium, magnesium, potassium, and bromine. It has been used for medical purposes (i.e. psoriasis, arthritis, rheumatism, and eczema), health tourism and cosmetics.
Information and Communication Technology (ICT) – Jordan has a strong telecom infrastructure, skilled labor force, intellectural property and copyright laws in force, and strong governmental backing of the ICT sector. As of 2007, there were 4.34 million mobile subscribers with a 78% penetration, and 787,900 Internet users.
Tourism – Jordan hosts six UNESCO World Heritage Sites, one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, and many Biblical and Islamic holy sites. At the crossroads of three continents it boasts a central location, as well as political stability, comfortable climate, and accessibility through a developing transport system.
Health care and Medical services – Jordan’s health care labor pool is considered amongst the most skilled in the region and hospitals are equipped and run in accordance with international standards of excellence. An important demand generator in the Jordanian medical industry is medical tourism.
Education and Training – There are more than 25 public and private universities, and GDP expenditure on education and training exceed 10%. With more than 70% of the population under the age of 30, there will emerge a much greater role for private sector delivery to augment skills as the market matures.
Banking and Financial Services -Jordan’s financial infrastructure is characterized by adequate capitalization and an enhanced regulatory environment. Total assets of the banking sector experienced an average annual growth rate of more than 11% during the past 10 years. It also has an established stock market infrastructure, of which non-Jordanian investors own around 49.2%.
Media and Press - Jordan’s constitution provides for freedom of press, speech, opinion, and media, and there are three specialized media colleges. The advertising sector has witnessed a 30% annual growth since 2000.
Legal, Engineering, and Consultancy Services – Efforts and investments have been geared towards both the standardized back-office outsourcing and the value-added knowledge process outsourcing.
Infrastructure and Utilities:
Water – Efforts to increase the sources of water and combat challenges are directed towards the development of renewable groundwater, developing reliable safe yield from its surface waters, and extraction of fossil groundwater.
Energy – Demand for energy in Jordan is on the rise. To reduce its dependency on imported oil, the Government is looking to enhance renewable energy projects, implement intensive energy efficiency programs, utilize oil shale to generate electricity and produce oil, generate electricity from nuclear energy and develop local sources of natural gas.
Transportation – Queen Alia International Airport (QAIA) is undergoing a USD 550 million re-building to increase its passenger capacity from its current level of 3 million passengers to 9 million by 2011, in addition to increasing its cargo capacity. Jordan has high-speed road connections, is planning a new railway network and an expansion of its maritime gateway, Aqaba.
The new Development Areas Law of 2008 (DAL) established a set of specialized rules to facilitate the creation of economic areas within certain zones. The law provides a number of incentives for investments.
Contributed by Teresa Kay-Aba Kennedy, Ph.D., MBA. Part of the Power Living® Empowerment Series.
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