The Middle East and Africa (Mea) region is the world's "last growth frontier" for spending on technology, says a senior IBM executive.
The US firm, which yesterday opened an office in Qatar and said it would open more later this year, is forecasting "significant growth" in regional IT spending this year.
"The last growth frontier in the world now is the Middle East and Africa," said Takreem El Tohamy, the general manager of IBM in Mea.
"Before it was India, China, Eastern Europe. But if you look at the countries or the geographies where there is still big room for expansion, this is happening in the Middle East and Africa."
According to Gartner, the technology research company, IT spending in the Middle East and Africa is set to grow by 14.3 per cent this year, in contrast to flat or declining budgets in North America and Europe.
Mr El Tohamy said growth in the Middle East and Africa could be slightly lower, but still "significant". "It's high single-digit, or the beginning of double-digit growth," he said.
IBM yesterday opened an office in Qatar, where it said it would serve clients in the banking, energy, government and aviation sectors. Mr El Tohamy said he expected growth in IT spending in Qatar to be broadly in line with the regional average, driven partly by infrastructure investments and the upcoming Qatar 2022 Fifa World Cup.
"We've been working in Qatar for a long time," he said. "What we're trying to do now is strengthen our presence."
The executive declined to specify the total number of employees in Qatar, or the wider Mea region. IBM employs about 440,000 people worldwide.
The launch of IBM's direct operations in Qatar will be one of "several" new office launches in the Mea region this year, Mr El Tohamy added.
IBM does not disclose revenues for the Middle East. However, it said the region made up part of the company's expanding "growth markets" business, along with India and China.