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A Short Review of SCM in the Arab World’s Organizations, Universities and Research | OMICS International
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Arabian Journal of Business and Management Review
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A Short Review of SCM in the Arab World’s Organizations, Universities and Research

Yousef Abdulsalam and Mehrdad Tamiz*

College of Business Administration, Kuwait University, Kuwait

*Corresponding Author:
Mehrdad Tamiz
College of Business Administration, Kuwait University, Kuwait
Tel: (965) 2498-88401/88245
E-mail:[email protected]

Received Date: July 29, 2016; Accepted Date: August 25, 2016; Published Date: August 27, 2016

Citation: Abdulsalam Y, Tamiz M (2016) A Short Review of SCM in the Arab World’s Organizations, Universities and Research. Arabian J Bus Manag Review S2: 005. 

Copyright: © 2016 Abdulsalam Y, et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

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The purpose of this paper is to briefly review Supply Chain Management (SCM), as a business discipline, in the Arab world’s academic and industrial environments. With a strong intention by many of the Arab states to diversify their economies, SCM becomes a key facilitator to support emerging industries and local production. SCM education and academic research in the Arab world appear to lag the trend of SCM-enabled business models and strategies of many organizations in the region. In order to support the growing need for SCM knowledge and professionals in the region, universities may need to increase the amount of research and teaching in the SCM discipline.


Supply chain management; Arab states; Economies; Business models


In the Arab world, investment in science research and development (R&D) is mostly state-funded. The Gulf States in the Arab world have been the most proactive at promoting R&D in science and technology, motivated by the need to diversify their economies and reduce their dependence on oil exports. These states, amongst others, have established new scientific institutions and research centers, such as the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Saudi Arabia and the Qatar Science and Technology Park, both inaugurated in 2009 [1].

In 2011, The Word Bank stated that the world average of GDP spent on R&D is 2.1% while the Arab world average was 0.3% percent (Table 1).

  Arab world average World average Top ranking states Top ranking Arab states
Gross expenditure on R&D (GERD) as % of GDP* (2011)       0.3       2.1       South korea 4.04% (2011)
France 3.55% (2012)
Austria 2.84% (2012)
Denmark 2.98 (2012)
Germany 2.92 (2012)  
Qatar 2.8 (2012 and 2013)
Tunisia 1.1 (2009)
UAE 0.49 (2011)
Jordan 0.43 (2011)
Egypt 0.2 (2013)
Kuwait 0.09 (2011)
Saudi 0.77 (2009)

Table 1: UNESCO institute for statistics.

In a gathering of a panel of experts, in Saudi Arabia in 2013, from the Arab region with institutional support from the Tunisia-based Arab League’s Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization(ALECSO), the Union of Arab Scientific Research Councils (UASRC) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), among others. Arab states approved a strategy to harness science, technology, and innovation for development by improving science education, upgrading and reforming universities, building research capacity and encouraging international cooperation [2].

The field of Supply Chain Management (SCM) covers multiple disciplines of quantitative and qualitative tools, and its scientific use in the Arab world is bound to add value to the initiatives mentioned above. In one form or the other, SCM has in fact existed in the Arab world for thousands of years to facilitate trade with itself and the outside world. Supply Chain Management, as formally defined by the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP), is “the planning and management of all activities involved in sourcing and procurement, conversion, and all logistics management activities. Importantly, it also includes coordination and collaboration with channel partners, which can be suppliers, intermediaries, third-party service providers, and customers1.”

With the advancement of science and the Arab world economies (mainly due to oil and petrochemical industries), numerous logistics and supply chain organizations have emerged. Agility, KGL, RSA logistics, CEVA, Al Futton, ATCO, EQUATE, SAHARA, etc. are among thousands of organizations that produce value through supply chain services. These organizations have significantly raised the maturity level of supply chain management in the region through their businesses and their participation in knowledge creation and dissemination. However, the market is in need of more supply chain professionals with the skills and experience to develop business supply chains and infrastructure.

The rest of this review briefly assesses the state of education, training, and academic research in supply chain management in the Arab world, relative to the rest of the world.

Education and Professional Training Establishments

Universities and the professional training organizations in the Arab world are responsible for producing the next generation of highly skilled workforce that SCM organizations require.

Top ten business schools in the US, despite minor differences, offer a wide range of courses in SCM and logistics at all level of study (Undergraduate, Master, and Ph.D. levels). The Thompson-Peterson (publishing firm) on-line survey of all accredited MBA programs in the US, Canada, Western Europe and the UK indicates that 551 schools offer “International Business, International Logistics and International Management” program. Most Universities around the world also offer some variations of the same major at undergraduate levels. In the United States alone, the Institute for Supply Management lists over 200 reputable universities that provide supply chain management education2.

Among the top 12 Universities in the region (according to the latest QS World University Rankings and Times Higher Education University Rankings), some offer minors or a few courses in SCM courses in Business or Management Colleges. However, few programs go beyond teaching one introductory Supply Chain Management course and one Operations Management course, and only briefly glossing over logistics and procurement topics within those two courses. None of the top 10 universities in the region offered a major (undergraduate not Master level) in supply chain management or logistics. At least one institution in the region, the University of Wollongong in Dubai, offers a Master of Science in Logistics program for graduates who want to understand the theoretical and practical aspects of logistics and supply chain management, to enhance business efficiency and advance their own skills development.

In an effort to cater to the evolving business landscape and the rising role of SCM, The College of Business Administration at Kuwait University are in the process of restructuring their Management Science undergraduate major, starting by changing its name to Operations & Supply Chain Management (OSCM). This change also comes with a commitment to introduce several new courses, establish collaborative relationships with leading supply chain organizations in the region, and promote quality research in supply chain management among universities in the region.

Whilst the Universities in the Arab world equip themselves with appropriate courses and certifications in SCM, there are several professional organizations worldwide with offices in the region that provide the necessary training and knowledge in SCM to local organizations. Amongst these is the INFONET Institute with offices in Kuwait, UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.

Additionally, many trade associations exist to support supply chain activities and organizations in the region, supported by the numerous organizations that are highly invested in supply chain and logistics activities. Several well-established international associations, such as the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply (CIPS)3, have a formal chapter in the region. More recently local supply chain associations have emerged. A few noteworthy ones are:

• The Oman Logistics and Supply Chain Association (OLSCA), established in 2009

• The Middle East Logistics Institute (MELI), established in Saudi Arabia in 2010

• The Jordanian Logistics Association (JLA), established in 2007

• The National Association of Freight and Logistics (NAFL), established in 1992 in The United Arab Emirates

SCM associations in the Arab world attract members from various industries and provide multiple services such as organizing conferences, networking opportunities, and facilitating training programs. The local associations join some international associations to provide training as well as certification programs in various areas of supply chain management. Furthermore, industry-specific associations have taken supply chain as the main focus for improving their sector. For example, the Gulf Petrochemical and Chemical Associations (GPCA) regularly sets up SCM-related conferences where thousands of delegates from the Arab region and rest of the world gather to discuss challenges, opportunities and developments facing the Arab world’s supply chain and logistics domain.

Academic Research in Supply Chain Management

In the modern era, SCM as a business discipline has undergone a major evolution in the past three or four decades, as both researchers and executives began to recognize the strategic value of supply chain management, elevating their thinking from the more tactical “inventory management” mindset [3]. Numerous premier journals (which maintain competitive rankings among other top academic business journals) have encouraged high-quality research in the discipline. Such journals include The Journal of Supply Chain Management, Journal of Operations Management, and Journal of Business Logistics.

Many of the pressing issues investigated by publications of these journals in recent years are highly applicable to the management of supply chains in the Arab world. One trending area of research that has gained significant momentum in the past several years is humanitarian logistics. This area of research attempts to answer questions about how to best deliver disaster-relief supplies and services to people during or after a crisis situation (whether natural or artificial) given the disruptions in physical infrastructure, information flows, and limited resources caused by the crisis [4]. The recent Ebola crisis presented a sobering example of the limitations in logistics and coordination when it comes to responding to such situations. Supply management in healthcare is another enduring research area [5]. Supply chains in the health sector are among the most complex but have traditionally received limited attention and largely demonstrate a low level of maturity. This is no different in the Arab world, where a lot of opportunities exist in improving the cost-efficiency and quality of healthcare delivery. Another emerging area of research is supply chain finance [6], which holds a lot of parallels and applications with Islamic Finance.

On the flip-side, plenty of supply chain-related phenomena being observed in the Arab world may prove valuable for informing supply chain theory. The oil and gas sector of the Gulf region is a certainly a supply chain-intensive industry, and supply chain knowledge has been gleaned from studying this sector [7,8]. Plenty of other supply chain research opportunities exist in many other sectors as well. For example, the prevalence of public procurement in the region’s health sectors may provide insights about economies of purchasing, shared service strategies, inventory management, and the power imbalance between buyers and suppliers. There are also many opportunities to contribute to research in professional service operations and service supply chains by studying banking, telecommunications, and hospitality sectors, which form a significant part of the Gulf Region’s economy after oil and gas sector. Furthermore, examining buyer-supplier relationships in the Arab world provides a different cultural context relative to Western cultures. Culture is an important factor to consider in buyersupplier relationships, but studies have largely focused on comparisons between Western with East Asian cultures [9,10]. Considering the Middle Eastern culture may add depth to buyer-supplier relationships research.

While supply chain management is a trending concept in the Arab world among executives and progressive organizations, there appears to be only a modest amount of research being conducted by the academics of this region. We hope this will change over time as researchers recognize the value of pursuing research opportunities in supply chain management that may serve both the Arab world and the international academic community.


In the past two or three decades, SCM has gained a lot of traction in the corporate realm. The leading organizations in the world (e.g. WalMart, Exxon, Apple, Toyota, etc.) have all utilized SCM as a strategy to achieve their levels of success. This is no different in the Arab world, with SCM-oriented organizations reaping the benefits of a mindful supply chain strategy. However, the educational and research environment has yet to catch up to this trend. While there is definitely recognition of SCM in university curriculums, few business colleges take things beyond teaching on or two supply chain-related courses. SCM research in the region also appears to be modest, especially compared to the SCM research being conducted in other countries around the world.

We hope this short review serves to increase the awareness of Supply Chain Management as a business discipline and generates enthusiasm from the academic community to engage in quality SCM research and add more depth to SCM-related course offerings in university curriculums.





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