CNN explores the Middle East’s growing investment in the global space industry


Any use of this material must clearly credit CNN’s Marketplace Middle East

In a new episode of Marketplace Middle East, CNN’s Eleni Giokos explores how the Middle East is investing in the space industry.

Sami Salem, Director of Aerospace & Defence at PwC Middle East talks about the region’s burgeoning investment in space exploration, “Over the past five years, we’ve noticed an incredible rejuvenation and emphasis on the importance of the space sector, particularly from the governments of the KSA and the UAE who launched their national space strategies in an accelerated manner.”

Salem continues, “Our market intelligence suggests that the regional space sector market size is around 10 billion today, and that’s expected to grow at an impressive rate of around 22% to reach around 40 billion by 2030.”

Saudi Arabia recently sent the first Arab woman astronaut to space. Rayyanah Barnawi is a biomedical researcher who was selected by the Saudi Space Commission. Abdullah Alswaha, Chairman of the Saudi Space Commission speaks about the significant nature of Barnawi’s selection, “This was so historic. You’re talking about inspiring close to a billion women on the face of the earth, sending the first Muslim and Arab astronauts to the International Space Station. This is a commitment from the kingdom that we are genuinely about advancing human progress with space and innovation.”

Barnawi was joined by fellow Saudi Ali al-Qarni, a fighter pilot. Alswaha speaks about the research they hope to conduct on the International Space Station (ISS), “We have Ali al-Qarni, the second Saudi astronaut to space who’s going to conduct around safeguarding the planet and specifically around sustainability. Where cloud seeding is going to do the first experiment of its kind on the ISS.”

The space race is part of Saudi Arabia’s strategy to diversify the kingdom’s economy away from oil revenues. Salem explains, “In Saudi Arabia, the space sector is expected to generate around 11,000 jobs by the year 2030. This really provides a huge backbone in terms of return on investment. That is a more economic based outlook. In the shorter term, we are expecting investments from private sector that are actually generating returns in the short, medium, and long term, dollar for dollar.

This month’s episode also highlights Dubai’s booming luxury real estate market. The emirate experienced a record 44% hike in its home prices last year, making it the highest level globally according to international real estate agency Knight Frank. Liam Bailey, Global Head of Research at Knight Frank tells Giokos, “The market has more than doubled in scale over the course of the year. And actually, Dubai has gone from being a kind of regional market with regional importance in terms of its kind of top tier marketplace, to becoming actually arguably in the last year the largest super prime market globally.”

In 2022, hundreds of properties were sold for more than $10 million, making Dubai the fourth most active luxury residential market according to Knight Frank. Bailey discusses this, “Dubai has gone through a number of cycles over the past 15 years as the market’s matured and you have seen prices rise, you’ve seen prices fall. I think the difference this time around is, I think it’s fair to say that price growth at that level is not sustainable. And we’re not expecting to see price growth anything close to what we’ve seen recently this year.”

Bailey concludes, “I think in Dubai’s case, there is an argument to be made that actually the shift in pricing of the past two or three years is a reflection of a shift in the city. And it’s the way that it is attracting talent globally.”