Male Emirati’s are marrying foreigners to ‘save money’

Going through the paper this morning I read an article by Amna al Haddad of The National, concerning a trend in Emirati men marrying non Emiratis It presents one of many challenges of finding a suitable Emirati spouse. The data is attributed to the Dubai Statistics Centre dated 2007 through 2009, and states the number of marriages between Emiratis and foreigners rose 10 per cent to 539, while the number of marriages between two Emiratis dipped two per cent to 1,178.

“Social experts have attributed the trend, which started in the 1980s, to the large dowries demanded by Emirati women. Sheikh Zayed, the founding President of the UAE, limited the official maximum dowry to Dh 20,000 ($5,465) but it can go as high as Dh 800,000 ($218,580) in unofficial family agreements.”

“A lot of people in the UAE complain that families of the Emirati woman demand a large amount of dowry and a wedding in an expensive hotel,” said Fawzya Taresh Rabee, the director of family development at the Ministry of Social Affairs. “So they end up opting for the foreigner.”

The figures, which are for Dubai only, are based on the annual report from Dubai Courts but it reasonable to assume this is true for the other major urban center, Abu Dhabi City. I believe the article is worth reading to give you further insight of how the family unit works and the challenges they face.

It seems many barriers (both financial and social) are put up by families of men and women. In the case of a man looking for a bride it can be the demand of excessive dowries. In the case of a woman wanting to find a spouse who is Emirati, it may be her desire to delay marriage until she has completed college. Also in some cases a woman going to a western nation for her education causes problems due to the perception she has been too exposed to western society.

Give the article a read and let me know what you think.

Ramadan Kareem!

Who Said You Can’t Gamble in the UAE

We are watching a high stakes poker game being played in the region with RIM the maker of Blackberry at the table along with a number of Middle Eastern countries led by the United Arab Emirates. They are playing for big money and for cyber security. I am not going to take sides today because all the players at the table have a legitimate interest and that is something I’ll let others determine. It is clear everyone knows what they are playing for and what the potential wins and losses can be.

UAE, Saudi Arabia, India, Kuwait, and others have been communicating with RIM for 2 to 3 years attempting to resolve their particular national security concerns. For India it was Mumbai, for the UAE the assassination of a HAMAS leader plus outside groups trying to use the region for illegal activities, prompts concerns how groups communicate without detection. The Saudi’s have similar problems and therefore each nation at a minimum is concerned about illegal activities be it terrorist or porn. It is also reasonable to assume that all these nations want to have other agenda’s when it comes to watching what is being said or being seen. I may not personally like it, but you understand when you go abroad in many nations that’s the deal and you live with it.

RIM could just say fine, look at the data and that would be that, but it’s a great deal more complicated than that. They are a worldwide provider of the Blackberry product in 175 countries, therefore rolling over could cause all kinds of problems for them in each country they operate. RIM declared in a press release that it would “not compromise the integrity and security of the BlackBerry” by turning over its users’ private information to “any third party to read encrypted information under any circumstances.” If they can’t work out a deal with the UAE and Saudi Arabia then they lose about a million customers out of 40 million in other words 2.5% of its customer base. I guarantee you that will be painful but when playing high stakes poker a loss of a big hand is acceptable if you believe it will help you win the game.

UAE is playing the hand very strong. First, after I’m sure many private conversations with RIM, they set a drop dead date and made it public to the entire world. Then Etisalat, in all the within 48 hours, the state owned telecommunication company which sells Blackberry packages, announces it will of course comply with the government announcement and present a plan to replace all the phones. Etisalat and Du, the other provider, purchased full page ads which offers very inexpensive new packages to Blackberry users (as good as or better than the deal they have with Blackberry now) to trade in the old and get a new smartphone such as IPhone which seems to be in legal compliance.

As I said, UAE is sending every signal possible saying they aren’t bluffing that the date is real ,and unless RIM strikes a deal this will happen even if it causes chaos for outside travelers and for corporations who are forced replace mobile phones systems in less than 60 days. As a person who likes to play and watch poker you love to see how a player will react when a player tries to buy the pot. They may fold or lose if you stay in the hand but you just don’t know. That’s why they call it gambling!

I’m not sure how this will turn out but both sides have the ability to survive the ordeal. It is reported, on Tuesday by an Indian newspaper that RIM has agreed to give India’s security authorities the right to monitor e-mail sent and received on the smartphone. However this report was pulled by Yahoo the next day. As you can see the situation is fluid. People I know who have some knowledge of the situation are hopeful that UAE and SA will work this out with RIM but no one will bet on it.

What lessons are to be learned for companies who do business in the Middle East? First, your priorities and the host nation’s priorities while similar are probably not the same. The UAE is very friendly to business and desires to continue to be a world player with multi-national corporations residing in its region, but cultural issues and how security is perceived can override this friendly haven. Second, things can change in a moment’s notice. Countries in the Middle East, like the UAE play, their cards close to the chest and do not tell their intentions to very many people until they act. It makes it very difficult to plan and prepare when the real possibility exist the business or social environment will change. Laws can be enacted or interpreted differently from one year to the next. It doesn’t mean you can’t do business in this part of the world, but rather your leadership must have a mindset that things can and will change. Also it is not smart to embarass the government or it’s corporate  groups. RIM may have done that a year ago when a “patch” was sent to customers by a phone carrier that RIM then told its customers how to delete. 

It is why you hire people who live and work in the Middle East and have a feel for the lay of the land. They can’t predict what will happen but they can get you prepared to get through it with little damage.

Stay tuned to see how this card game turns out. Don’t be shocked if its settled tomorrow or the final day before services are cut off or RIM is out of business in the region on October 11th.