UAE and Bahrain top MENA’s Doing Business Ranks, Most Improved Globally

October 31, 2016

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain are the two top ranking Middle East and North Africa countries and two of the top ten global improvers, according to the Doing Business 2017 global rankings released recently. Across the GCC, countries have been implementing reforms to make doing business easier. As all six countries look towards the private sector and small and medium enterprises to diversify their economies and enable growth.

The United Arab Emirates

The UAE continues to lead the region in terms of numbers of reforms implemented, with five reforms implemented over the past year. The UAE made Dealing with Construction Permits easier by implementing risk-based inspections, an international best practice feature, implemented by only 13 other countries across the globe.
The Emirates also made it easier to start a business by streamlining name reservation and articles of association notarization and merging registration procedures. The name availability check, reservation, and payment can now be done online at the website of Department of Economic Development.
Recently, the Department of Economic Development in the UAE launched electronic memorandum of association and "120-day" hassle-free trade license initiatives. These reforms are a move towards online registration, which will make starting a business easier.
The Emirates jumped 39 ranks in the Protecting Minority Investors category. The United Arab Emirates strengthened minority investor protections by increasing shareholder rights and role in major corporate decisions, clarifying ownership and control structures, and requiring greater corporate transparency.


Bahrain comes in second in the Middle East and North Africa ranking at 63. It is also among the top 10 improvers worldwide. Bahrain implemented reforms in the areas of Starting a Business, Getting Credit and Trading Across Borders. The island nation took a drastic leap in the rankings in terms of the Starting a Business indicator where it moved up 69 ranks.
It made the start-up process easier for entrepreneurs by drastically reducing the minimum capital requirement from 190% of income per capita to 3%. Bahrain also improved access to credit information by legally guaranteeing borrowers’ right to inspect their own data, and made exporting easier by improving infrastructure and streamlining procedures at the King Fahad Causeway.



Oman was able to make impressive progress in the Starting a Business indicator. It went from 159 in 2016 to 32 in 2017. Oman made starting a business easier by removing the requirement to pay the minimum capital within three months of incorporation and streamlining the registration of employees. Oman created a one-stop shop housing all the ministries involved with starting a business including the Ministry of Commerce & Industry, Ministry of Civil Defense, Royal Oman Police, municipalities, Chamber of Commerce, Environment and Water Resources, and the Ministry of Manpower.
In the Trading Across Borders index, Oman reduced the time for border and documentary compliance by introducing a new online single window that allows for rapid electronic clearance of goods.

Other GCC countries

Saudi Arabia saw improvements in the Starting a Business indicator as it reduced the time it takes to notarize a company’s article of association. Other reforms that reflected positively in Saudi is strengthening minority investor protections by strengthening ownership and control structures of companies and by increasing corporate transparency requirements.
Kuwait also made improvements in the Trade Across Borders indicator by making exporting and importing easier by introducing customs e-links and electronic exchange of information among various agencies.

Qatar made starting a business easier by abolishing the paid-in minimum capital requirement for limited liability companies.

Doing Business 2017: Equal Opportunity for All is a World Bank Group flagship publication. It is the 14th in a series of annual reports measuring the regulations that enhance business activity and those that constrain it. Doing Business measures regulations affecting 11 areas of the life of a business. Ten areas are included in this year’s ranking: starting a business, dealing with construction permits, getting electricity, registering property, getting credit, protecting minority investors, paying taxes, trading across borders, enforcing contracts and resolving insolvency.