Editorial – December 2022
The Middle East region is being conventionally seen as the one having a strong and sustained steel appetite. This is because of the numerous infrastructure development projects going on t in the region. This growth is led by the countries like Saudi Arabia, UAE etc. which are mostly investment driven economies. In fact MENA region (Middle East & North Africa) was the fastest growing economic bloc till the covid pandemic struck the world. A net importer of huge quantity of steel !
Though the pandemic changed the face and the thought process of the industry world over, it can hardly change the basics of a manufacturing industry. Though the basics of steel manufacturing and processing remains the same, there are many changes post covid. Apart from countless negatives of covid, one positive thing is that it taught us the importance of digitalization. Many plants in the middle east are now implementing Industry 4.0 (or smart manufacturing as they call it) modules in the manufacturing and processing of steel. The steel fabrication industry has also followed this way and now almost all the equipment / machinery is studded with smart electronic gadgets facilitating smart processing. A lot of robotics has entered the industry and many of the processes would now be entirely carried out and monitored by robots.
Another subject which has gained prominence in recent years is ‘Green Steelmaking’. We all know that the resources on our mother earth are depleting very fast and one has to use them carefully in the production processes. Also it is a fact that global steel industry is the biggest contributor to the carbon footprint in the environment. Experiments are being conducted, research is being carried out to replace carbon by the other reducing agent (say hydrogen) in the steel making process. Metallurgists and scientific community is hopeful of the commercial viability of this new process and it may be established in the years to come.
On the demand front, the MENA region has slowed down a bit after the pandemic. The infra projects, which were halted during the covid period, are now gradually restarting but still a long way to reach pre covid levels. The economics of the region has changed. The investors are not that bullish. The ongoing Ukraine – Russia war also has its impact. The Indian economy, not very far from MENA region, is growing steadily. The steel sector in India looks far more promising than that in Middle East. Aligning with such a growing economy and promising steel sector will surely be beneficial to the steel industry in MENA region. I look forward to more business interaction between these regional economies for mutual benefits !