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Technology Adoption, Infrastructure Investment, and Diversification Leading Transition Toward an Integrated Regional Supply Chain Ecosystem
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Logistics industry growth in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region is catalyzed by the increasing contribution of the non-oil sector to GDP, infrastructure development, growth of free trade zones and industrial parks, and greater regional trade cooperation. Governments in the region undertake policy measures to bolster economic diversification efforts, tax reforms, attract investment, and encourage private sector participation to reduce dependence on oil exports. Pandemic-induced national and regional lockdowns, travel restrictions, customs clearance delays, port congestion, and restrictions increase last-mile delivery costs, disrupting logistics operations in the region. Despite these challenges, the health crisis also accelerates the adoption of digital technologies. As economies in the region recover from the pandemic, digital transformation initiatives will play a crucial role. Increased government focus on digitalization, the contribution of knowledge economy sectors, and the launch of 5G services to support artificial intelligence and cybersecurity technologies will spur the transformation of the logistics ecosystem. Mega-events such as the EXPO 2020 (postponed to 2021) and investment in digital infrastructure upgrades also cater to demand from the eCommerce sector, driving logistics industry growth.Demand for modern warehouses creates warehouse automation and supply chain digitalization opportunities to address labor-intensive warehousing operations, rising costs, and inefficiencies from empty miles in freight transportation. Digital technologies pave the way toward manned and unmanned connected autonomous transportation and sensor-driven connected physical transportation infrastructure. Robotics, autonomous vehicles, big data analytics, the Internet of Things (IoT), and augmented reality are vital technologies to improve efficiency in sorting, order picking, inventory management, and packing operations in warehouses.Start-ups will lead the transformation of the logistics ecosystem. Government measures include entrepreneurship programs and efforts to boost access to funding to position the GCC region as an innovation and knowledge hub. Government stimulus packages include equity-free grants or fee exemptions, subsidized housing and office space, and health insurance coverage for companies.The healthcare sector, in particular, vaccine logistics, is forecast to become a key growth engine to support the growth of cold storage and air freight segments. Factors necessary for vaccine logistics include cargo monitoring with supply chain visibility and traceability, vaccine temperature monitoring, and stability testing. As such, the GCC region prioritizes vaccine distribution infrastructure development.Expansion of non-oil economic sectors also drives demand for logistics outsourcing and eCommerce growth. Cross-border e-commerce is a key area of focus, contributing to 40% of total e-commerce value. Development of economic corridors and free zones at major port cities will be crucial to attract investment in non-oil economic sectors and drive demand for logistics outsourcing. Measures such as the Dubai eCommerce Strategy and development of logistics zones and infrastructure such as bonded facilities are critical to support the region’s growth as a major eCommerce hub.
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