Doing business in the Arab world: Unlocking the potential of wasta

David Weir*, Nabil Sultan, Sylvia van de Bunt

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book / Report / Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Wasta is a way of social networking, of using connections, overcoming personal and/or family dilemmas or conflicts. Wasta may provide solutions to dilemmas in societies that had or still have limited opportunities for progress and economic development. This phenomenon has important implications for business networking, especially for indirect and global networking in uncertain business situations. Despite increasing interest in understanding the importance of business networking in general, the networking systems already prevalent in many cultures, whether known as Wasta in the Arab World, Guanxi in China or Blat in Russia, have been relatively ignored. Wasta has intrigued many people and raised questions of its origin, reasons and consequences. In relation to many Arab countries, the word Wasta evokes negative sentiments even amongst its citizens. Media outlets and government announcements often denounce Wasta. However, Wasta continues to be widely practised in developing economies in the Arab World and is in many situations accepted as a normal feature of these societies. There are many dimensions to this phenomenon, historical, cultural, social, political and global, and it is impossible in a short chapter to do justice to all of these aspects. Nonetheless, the precise operation of Wasta differs from one country and social milieu to another. There are over 20 countries conventionally accepted as being part of the “Arab World”. So, in this chapter we only deal with the general features of Wasta found in most parts of that region and explores a new approach for understanding the opportunities of Wasta to continue to exist as a means of conducting business in the Arab World alongside other social networking practices in the era of globalisation. The analysis is based on the need to understand the operation of social and organisational networks. No special position is taken in this chapter on the ethical and moral issues that sometimes dominate discussion of these topics. But it is pointed out that regardless of any ethical concerns, there is no doubt that these systems exist and are a powerful reality. However, it is argued that in considering such issues as entrepreneurship and business development, the existence of Wasta relationships should not be overlooked or undervalued.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationGlobalization and Development
Subtitle of host publicationEntrepreneurship, Innovation, Business and Policy Insights from Asia and Africa
EditorsNezameddin Faghih
PublisherSpringer
Pages323-341
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)9783030117665
ISBN (Print)9783030117658
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Publication series

NameContributions to Management Science
ISSN (Print)1431-1941
ISSN (Electronic)2197-716X

Keywords

  • Arab
  • Globalisation
  • Modernisation
  • Wasta
  • Western, social networking, interpersonal trust, entrepreneurship

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