What we do
Menas has been helping multinational companies operate in the Middle East, Africa, and other emerging markets since the late 1970s. We are a strategic and political risk consultancy providing actionable intelligence for our clients, from country entry strategies, to due diligence, stakeholder analysis, political risk reports, market assessments, problem solving and exit strategies.
Initially, we were mainly engaged in creating and managing teams of country experts to work for legal teams on international border disputes and commercial arbitration cases.
Menas has worked on eight international border disputes before the International Court of Justice or arbitration panels and the majority of the large oil cases before the US-Iran Claims Tribunal.
See more on our specific Iran capabilities
Besides the legal cases themselves, we have also advised international oil companies on numerous land and maritime border disputes.
More recently our work for law firms has tended to concentrate on political risk insurance cases. The affected businesses have ranged from oil refineries in the FSU to car showrooms in Kuwait, LNG plants in Egypt, upstream oil assets in Myanmar, Chinese banana imports, and confiscated oil rigs in Argentina and Venezuela.
Since October 1988 the majority of our consultancy work has been conducted for oil companies and other multinational clients. These range from the super-majors to very small IOCs with only a single international asset. We have undertaken many hundreds of ad-hoc consultancy projects on around 60 different countries for 40-50 clients.
Menas has had to become more flexible in the range of consultancy projects we offer as companies are faced with growing legal requirements (e.g. FCPA and UK Bribery Act) and pressure from host governments, shareholders, press, and NGOs to act as more socially responsible investors (e.g. stricter environmental legislation; local content requirements etc.). The range and complexity of our work has therefore developed over time from relatively straight-forward political risk reports to encompass all parts of the business cycle. For example, the volume of due diligence and ‘know your client’ projects we have undertaken has significantly increased since 9/11.
See our consultancy page for more information about and case studies of our consultancy projects.
We have also expanded our business activities to include online publications on some of the regions we cover, country briefings – both private and public – and Ask our Experts. The latter is a micro-consultancy service that allows clients to put their questions directly to our consultants via a confidential phone call or written report.
The heart of our capabilities lies in our network of highly focused authors and consultants, and Menas’ flexible structure enables us to mobilise this network at very short notice.
Menas is made up of a core team of experts, who in turn are supplemented by their own wider circles of country and industry specialists. Because we commission consultants on a project-to-project basis and are not obliged to use the same person for every assignment on one country, we are able to use the expert with the most suitable skillset for each specific project. The knowledge required to carry out an assessment of the cement market in Algeria will, for example, be very different to that required to conduct a security report on the same country, and the way we work reflects this.
All of our consultants are carefully recruited, with a priority placed on both English and foreign language skills, excellent analytical abilities, and in-country knowledge and contacts. They range from former high-ranking diplomats, UN employees, and regional heads of multinational corporations to journalists, economists and leading academics.
A personal approach
One of the most important aspects of how we operate is the close relationship we develop with our clients. Rather than a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach, we listen to our clients and gauge each unique situation to offer a tailored service and actionable insight. It is no coincidence that returning customers make up the vast majority of our business.
We appreciate feedback, and in an industry where it would be all too easy to become a faceless entity we try to create as many opportunities for personal interaction as possible, for example with our free monthly Breakfast Briefings, which have now been running for over five years, as well as other special events delivered over the course of the year.
We extend this personal approach to the relationship between our clients and our experts: we want to connect you directly with our trusted sources, for example with our Ask our Experts service. That’s a mark of our pride in their work, and our commitment to openness with our clients.
An independent, long-term view
We place an emphasis on candour and integrity, and can provide testimonials from clients who value the ability of our consultants to deliver hard truths about countries and their governments, as well as the good news.
We continue to look at difficult countries even when business interest wanes so that we can provide experience and advice when demand for the market returns. When many consultancies left Iran, Libya and Yemen, for example, we remained, and our current knowledge is therefore based on decades of analysis. Our Yemen publication, for example, tracked the advance of the Houthis and highlighted the threat they posed for two years before it became evident; Libya Focus predicted early on that, whilst IS was weak in Derna, the group would get a real hold in Sirte and that it would be difficult to dislodge it from the town; and our Iran consultant forecast well in advance of the press and other analysts the date of the signing of the JCPOA to within a few days.
Menas Associates believes that sustainable, long-term success is based on the highest integrity in business relationships, on ethical practices, corporate responsibility and consistency of approach. These business principles guide all our decisions and actions. Wherever we are in the world, we adhere to consistently high standards of integrity and principles common to most OECD countries:
- We protect the legal interests of our clients, suppliers, contractors and employees
- We observe all local and international laws and regulations governing business transactions and environmental issues
- We avoid conflict of interest and nurture transparency and accountability
- We provide a client-oriented, efficient and professional service and we are committed to continuous improvement
- We believe in ethics, integrity and corporate responsibility.
Our business centres around people and trust, and our continued success depends upon unswerving adherence to this standard. Our mission is to develop, scale-up and promote solutions for international companies who face challenges arising from operating in emerging markets around the world. Our principles inform our experience, expertise and effectiveness.
Regions we cover
Menas Associates has a broad reach and an extensive network of contacts around the globe. Traditionally, we have focused our consulting practices and our stable of publications on the Middle East, Sub-Saharan Africa, and the wider Caspian region. In addition to this, however, we have amassed considerable consulting experience in South Asia, East and Southeast Asia, Latin America, and the Island States.
- Middle East
- North Africa
- Sub-Saharan Africa
- South Asia
- East and Southeast Asia
- Island states
- Latin America
For over 50 years, the Middle East has been the centre of regional hostilities, internal conflicts and religious extremism set against a backdrop of increasing wealth and prosperity. A phenomenal rise in oil revenues has given the region enormous economic power and influence. However, a wide range of social and political challenges continue to affect most Middle Eastern countries; in some, booming populations and high unemployment rates, as well as growing income disparities, contribute to internal instability frequently under the threat of terrorism, despite bilateral and multilateral efforts to curtail extremist Islamic activity.
Situated at the crossroads of Europe, Africa and Asia, the Middle East has always been an important commercial centre. The UAE, Qatar, Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain, Yemen, Oman and Saudi Arabia are of key importance in terms of international trade, especially in the energy resources that form the backbone of Western economies.
Menas Associates has years of experience working with international specialists and in-country experts producing reports and undertaking consultancy projects, and extensive knowledge of the region and its individual countries. We have unparalleled expertise on the region’s working practices and security issues.
The past decade has brought dramatic growth in direct foreign investment flows into the Middle East as the region’s high oil revenues continue to contribute to better in-country infrastructure, advanced logistic facilities and a safer investing environment, making it more attractive to international investors. Menas Associates works together with clients to devise tailored solutions to help investors better understand existing or emerging concerns and opportunities in the Middle East markets.
North Africa, with its predominantly Muslim population and strong political ties to the Middle East is a very separate entity from Sub-Saharan Africa. All the neighbouring countries in the region share geographical, cultural and economic similarities, and present a favourable context for intra-regional financial integration and bilateral ties. While some have small populations, are major oil exporters and typically import labour, others have large populations and face unemployment issues. The disparities between the North African countries are wide ranging, however the presence of extremist Islamist activity and al- Qa’ida is felt equally across the whole region.
Interest in North Africa from the upstream oil and gas industry has been growing in recent years. Foreign investors who have been operating in the region for decades are maximising their drilling efforts and are looking to new, unconventional reserves. However, security of foreign companies and personnel operating in North Africa remains under threat as Islamic fundamentalism shows no signs of abating.
While North Africa’s hydrocarbon producers are ideally located to service the vast EU market and are in turn an expanding market for European exporters, they are also a stepping stone for large numbers of Sub-Saharan economic migrants trying to reach Europe. Trade and illegal migration are the cornerstones of the relationship between the countries of the Mediterranean’s northern and southern shores. The continued strength in oil and gas prices have given a boost to exploration and development activities in Northern Africa, although the current economic downturn and decline in global oil demand has pushed back some plans.
The founders of Menas Associates began working in the region in the early 1960s, undertaking a wide variety of specialist consultancy projects for IOCs, government agencies and various foreign investors. We have four decades of experience in projects relating to Libya, Algeria and Egypt, and an extensive network of in-country contacts and regional specialists who tailor our reports to reflect client needs and interests.
Sub-Saharan Africa has long been defined by an unstable political climate, a lack of transparency, and social unrest, making it a somewhat precarious investment prospect. Despite its political difficulties and economic adversity, however, many countries of the Sub-Saharan region are on the verge of economic prosperity have become more stable and have been making progress on governance issues. Foreign investment opportunities abounded in the last decade, and Asia’s demand for oil, minerals and other natural resources introduced new and powerful players; the West can no longer rely on monopolistic access to the continent and governments are more easily able to pick and choose who they will partner with.
Many countries have been experiencing steady growth – though recently tempered by low commodities prices – and there has been a significant surge in market potential and an increased interest among investors amid recent oil and gas discoveries in the region. Menas Associates has a long history of knowledge of Sub-Saharan Africa, and a host of experts with years of experience in the region. We take a multidisciplinary approach in assisting not only those with a track record of working in Sub-Saharan Africa but also those venturing to the continent for the first time.
Despite the large potential benefits, there remain numerous challenges to working in Sub-Saharan Africa’s extractive industries. Violence, threats of civil war, weak corporate and national governance structures, and overly stringent fiscal regimes contribute to an often difficult investment climate. Menas Associates works together with in-country agencies and authorities to find ways to sidestep the aforementioned obstacles and offer clients solutions conducive to strategic business management and development.
Menas Associates integrates advisery services with years of in-country experience when working with multinational organisations interested in learning about the prospective political, social, security and reputational issues that might affect their working practices in the region. We tailor our deliverables to suit client needs, and provide support throughout all phases of the business cycle; from market entry to exit.
The 15 countries of the former Soviet Union (FSU) span 11 time zones. They are still dominated by a resurgent Russia which has recovered from the break-up of its empire. The region is now actively seeking to re-establish its political and economic hegemony over its neighbours, and the recent conflicts in Georgia and Ukraine have demonstrated its steely determination. Menas Associates has a strong Caspian and FSU consulting practice headed by experts with over 15 years of experience in the region. We have advised on transparency and corruption issues, pipeline routes, personnel security, political change and the possible consequences for business.
The Caspian region’s oil and gas potential has attracted the attention of IOCs since the early 1990s making it a significant supplier of crude oil to world markets. Its large natural resources make it a lucrative business investment opportunity as it gears up to become a major oil and natural gas exporter over the next decade.
The Caspian states have conquered several markets but still have a potentially wider audience to reach, including those nations trying to meet their economies’ increasing demand for energy, and also those that wish to reduce their dependence on the Persian Gulf.
Menas Associates cover all the ‘above ground’ risks relevant to operating in the FSU and Central Asia. In addition, we regularly undertake due diligence assignments on prospective joint venture partners or target companies, working where necessary with associated individuals or organisations on the ground.
The region’s sizable energy resources offer rewarding business opportunities for foreign investors in energy development in the Caspian Sea and littoral states. Menas Associates offers unique country expertise, and devises tailored solutions to meet clients’ requirements and needs focusing on political, social and security aspects pertinent to trade practices and the making of strategic business decisions when working in the FSU.
South Asia is a vast, strategically important and heavily populated region which is currently in transition as it strives to set up effective economic, political and legal structures to support sustained growth. It is home to over one fifth of the world’s population. Despite recent steps toward rapid development, the region remains one of the world’s most disadvantaged; juxtaposing the political and security turmoil of Afghanistan and Pakistan with the emergent economic super-power status of democratic India. Added to the mix is Bangladesh, one of the world’s poorest countries, and Sri Lanka which has been in a state of near civil war since 1983.
While all the South Asian nations are making strides toward development by aiming to improve the delivery of basic services such as education, healthcare, water and sanitation, conflict and political instability remain a major problem.Menas Associates has been carrying out an increasing number of projects on South Asia, and has an expert team of associates who have worked and lived in the region for decades. Our highly experienced head of the South Asia team has an international reputation for research in the geopolitics, development, social and environmental issues of the area.
In the last two decades, a number of South Asian countries have sought to expand domestic petroleum exploration by attracting private and foreign investors. They also plan to expand their refining and transportation capacities thus proving South Asia to be not only an emerging lucrative business investment opportunity, but one that is also wrought with risk. It is imperative that international investors are aware of all the potential pitfalls that might affect their business. Menas Associates consults on a wide range of non-technical issues facing multinational organisations, focusing on the political, the economic and security.
The countries of South Asia are looking to diversify their traditional energy supplies, promote additional foreign investment for energy infrastructure development, reform and privatise energy sectors, and promote and expand regional energy trade and investment. Menas Associates draws on its unique country expertise and network of external and in-house experts to provide clients with the necessary contextual understanding of the region and its trade practices in order to make well informed decisions about their business.
The varied social, economic and political characteristics within East and Southeast Asia epitomise the diverse nature of this sub-region. It includes China, the world’s fourth largest economy, and four of the world’s least developed countries: Cambodia, Lao, Myanmar and Timor-Leste. The region, which spans the Palaearctic, Oriental and Australasian bio-geographical areas, has significant natural resources, much of which have not been completely explored.
The region is becoming a leading player in international production networks and supply chains, and has experienced a rapid growth in trade within the last decade. East and Southeast Asia is now competing with the West for natural resources, and Asian countries are increasingly favoured as trading partners with resource-rich nations because they do not seek to tie trade to sensitive political issues. Menas Associates has developed its practice in East and Southeast Asia to reflect client needs in several sectors, including oil and gas. From our Asia hub in Hanoi, and through an extensive network of associates in the region, we offer timely and commercially relevant advice on a wide range of issues and countries.
We work together with clients to tailor our services to fit their needs and interests, and thus enable them to maximise investment opportunities and minimise costs and risks. In the past, undertakings have included political risk analyses, market assessments, sector-specific client reports and due diligence investigations. On top of that, we have close ties to in-country experts and intergovernmental institutions, and can assist our clients first-hand with business practises and international and regional economic transactions.
Our advisery services incorporate years of experience and practical know-how when working with multinational organisations interested in learning about the prospective political, social, security and economic issues that might affect their working practices in East and Southeast Asia.
Island states – from vast Greenland to microstates – are scattered around the globe in three of the five oceans and several seas. They share common characteristics, namely very small populations, unique cultures, sensitive environments, limited funds and human resources, and fragile economies that can be transformed and distorted by a major oil or mineral find. Because of the very nature of these states, the ocean wields great influence over their physical and socio-economic infrastructure and resources.
Economic development and eradication of poverty are the two most crucial concerns for many island states. Thus, with limited resources and low adaptive capacity, these islands face the sizable challenge of meeting the social and economic needs of their populations in a manner that is sustainable. Many have also become tax havens. Yet despite the economic windfall, a finance sector that crowds out a traditional island economy can create challenges.
Menas Associates has developed a particular expertise on the impact of major development projects on small and isolated communities. We have undertaken integrated impact assessments on several potential new oil provinces and have advised governments on the future of small dependencies.
We have a wealth of experience and expert insight into the different issues at stake throughout all phases of the business cycle, from market entry to exit, and tailor our consultancy packages to suit our clients’ individual needs. We believe it is imperative for international companies working in any one of the island states to be aware of the opportunities and the risk in their operating environments in order to make well-informed, strategic business decisions.
The vast tract of Latin America, which includes the world’s fourth largest continent South America, stretches from the US border to Antarctica, with a total surface area of 17,820,900 square km, and a population of over 604 million. Brazil and Venezuela are the leading trade exporters, and Brazil is quickly becoming a world superpower with a healthy economic outlook mainly due to the revenues generated by its natural resources: petroleum and petroleum-related products. And while Brazil is making great strides towards being the dominant nation, Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro is in the vanguard of the Bolivarian movement to abandon economic neo-liberalism and return to socialism, as championed by the late Hugo Chávez.
Latin America has a diverse abundance of natural resources, with intra-continental trade consisting mainly of goods such as wheat, cattle, wine and bananas, while external trade is dominated by petroleum, agricultural and mining commodities. The region’s investment environment has been fortified by the spread of democracy which plays an important role in medium-and long-term stability.
Exploration of Latin America’s natural resources offers significant opportunities for investment and economic growth, but not entirely without risk. With subsidiaries in both Argentina and Brazil, Menas Associates is ideally placed to assist companies in and on Latin America. Our seasoned specialists maintain excellent in-country contacts to assist private and public sector clients in achieving their objectives within the region.
Menas Associates have undertaken numerous consultancy projects on countries in the region including Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela. We have unparalleled expertise on the region’s working practices and security issues, and specialists dedicated to tailoring each consultancy project to meet client-specific needs and interests.
Dr Noel Brehony
Noel Brehony joined Menas Associates after a career with the UK Foreign Office and as director of Middle East Affairs for Rolls Royce. Noel sat as Chair of the Council for British Research in the Levant, and was former chair of the British Society for Middle East Studies, the British Yemeni Society; the Anglo-Jordanian society and the Middle East Association. He co-edited “British-Egyptian Relations from Suez to the Present Day” published 2007, was author of “Yemen Divided: the story of a failed state in South Arabia”, published in March 2011. Noel is also co-editor of “Reconstructing Yemen”, which was published in 2015.
Bijan Khajehpour is a Senior Associate of Menas Associates and is also the editor of its Iran Strategic Focus reports which have been published every month since October 1988. He is also Managing Partner at Atieh International, the Vienna based international arm of the Atieh Group of Companies, a group of strategic consulting firms based in Tehran co-founded by Bijan in 1994. Bijan has been instrumental in advising numerous international companies on their Iran strategy. He is also a frequent speaker at international conferences on Iran and the Middle East and also a contributor to international publications. He completed his graduate studies in management and economy in Germany and the UK and his Doctorate of Business Administration at the International School of Management in Paris.
Sub-Saharan Africa Analyst
Tom Gray is Menas Associates’ Regional Analyst for Sub-Saharan Africa. In this role, he manages and edits all SSA publications; recruits authors and consultants; and writes analysis pieces on events in the region. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Politics, Philosophy and Economics from the University of Manchester and an MPhil in African Studies from the University of Cambridge, where he focused on politics, conflict and law. Tom’s interests in Africa stem from his work and travel in Tanzania. Burundi is his particular country of interest, along with eastern Africa, South Sudan, the Great Lakes region, and Nigeria more generally. Tom has expertise on the African Union and its security and developmental role on the continent. He speaks basic French and Swahili.
Phillip Griffin was appointed a director of Menas at the beginning of 2002. A consultant with extensive knowledge of banking and advisory services in the Middle East, he started his career in general banking in 1984. He has focused on emerging markets, trade, and corporate finance, earning the Citibank GAMS award in 1992. Mr Griffin has considerable experience in advising Western corporations on particular regions or on their country strategies. He has also provided expert advice on the structuring and execution of export credit, commodity, and structured trade finance business in the Middle East.
Tarek Kassem joined Menas as a Senior Associate in 2003. His background is in the financial sector, with a banking career stretching back some 35 years in the City of London. He has extensive experience of investment banking, including capital markets, structured finance, corporate finance, private equity, venture capital and project financing. Tarek also founded and ran a London based international investment bank, and set up a property investment company. His investment banking career has been based around his relationships in the Middle East, especially the Gulf. He has an extensive client base including the ruling families of several Gulf states and the major merchant families and industrial groups.
Sector Analyst and Marketing Assistant
Lauren Mawdsley is responsible for creating and managing business partnerships for Menas Associates, assisting with marketing, and editing written content for the website. Lauren has a strong interest in politics and development in Sub-Saharan Africa, and has a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations from the University of Leeds and a Master’s in International Development and Humanitarian Emergencies from the London School of Economics.
Dr Charles Gurdon
Charles Gurdon joined what was then Menas Services Ltd in 1980 as a senior researcher, initially working on international border disputes and other arbitration cases. When Menas diversified into consultancy work for corporate clients and newsletter publishing in 1988, Charles helped found the Menas Associates subsidiary. Since then he has run the company’s consulting portfolio and publication stable, and he oversaw the restructuring in which Menas Associates become the parent company of the Menas group. He holds a BA, MSc and PhD from the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), where he specialised in the Middle East and Africa. He is the author of two books and numerous reports on Sudan, and has also been a political commentator on radio and television.
Business Development Manager
Shayan Saeidi is responsible for developing relationships with clients and promoting Menas’ capabilities. He is also a member of the Iran team and is fluent in Persian. Prior to joining Menas, he worked in the public affairs sector in consultancy and business development roles, helping organisations to communicate with political stakeholders. Shayan has a Bachelor’s degree in Politics & International Relations from the University of Nottingham, where he spent a year studying in China.
Francesca Eames oversees the production and implementation of all digital and print media and marketing for the company. Fran builds on business and marketing partner relations for the company, and also runs events both in conjunction with Menas’ partners, but also those implemented for clients. Fran has a bachelor’s degree from Kings College London in Geography, and has previously held both editorial and marketing roles within publishing.
Menas Associates’ clients are multinational companies, international foreign investors, inter-governmental agencies, academic institutions and security agencies. We have provided cutting edge news and analysis of political, strategic and security issues in the emerging markets of the Middle East, Africa, the FSU, Southeast Asia and Latin America. Our clients include:
Alberta Energy Corp (AEC)
Amsterdam & Perloff
Beazley Syndicate at Lloyd’s
Brown & Root
CDC Capital Partners
Clyde & Co
Covington & Burling LLC
DEA Deutsche Erdoel AG
Eland Oil & Gas
Energy Market Consultants
Finnmap Partners Oy
Fitzpatrick Contractors Ltd
Fletcher Challenge Energy
FMC Energy Systems
Foreign & Commonwealth Office
Gaz de France
Gryphon Investment Bank
Gulf Bridge International
Holman Fenwick Willan
Ince & Co
International Learning Systems
Iranian National Oil Company
J P Kenny
Japan Tobacco International
KBC Advanced Technologies Ltd
Kerogan Capital (Asia) Ltd
Libyan National Oil Company
Lloyd’s of London
Maclay Murray & Spens
Madagascar Oil & Gas
Medley Global Advisors
Mitsui & Co Europe
Nabors Drillng International
National Grid Transco
New Age (Africa Global) Ltd
Nigerian Agip Oil Company (NAOC)
Northern Canadian Uranium
Omni Finance and Investments
Petrol Ofisi A.Ş.
Polish Oil & Gas Co (PGNiG )
Rigel Energy Corp
South African Government
Sovereign Oil & Gas
Triton International Petroleum
US State Department
‘I have worked with the Menas team both as a consultant and client and so can personally vouch for the exceptional professionalism Menas brings to any project, from both sides of the table. I would highly recommend Menas to any organisation needing an insightful and exclusive perspective on the countries where they do business. They know their stuff.’Krysta De Lima
“I have always found a reliable, professional and balanced source of information in your bulletins, views and recommendations. Your diligence and apt judgment makes it comforting to trust a first class and independent adviser.”Dr Ahmad Azizi
“Thank you inviting me to the Sudan seminar – for a new observer to the region it was very informative to get such a clear overview of the regional and political issues involved”
“My colleagues and I have used Menas Associates to assist with decision making: in my case international business development in the downstream sector. I’ve enjoyed and benefitted from their diversity of thought and objectivity. Their experience and approachability is reassuring, and their global network capability is simply awesome.”John Digby
“Thank you for asking me to this morning’s presentation on Ghana. I have been working on two commodity deals there. Now I know what to do with one of them. Very, very useful”.Harriet Hunnable
“Menas’ Breakfast Briefings and seminars provide absolutely excellent content.”Robert Amsterdam
“I trust your information and I appreciate your commentary. That’s why I like what you do”
“Menas provides country briefings that get closer to the key issues facing would-be investors than other industry equivalents.”
“Business is about people and Menas’ country briefings give you a powerful insight into the key decision makers in focus countries.”
“I very much enjoyed your Sudan presentation the other day, it was most informative and you have an impressively extensive knowledge of the country”
“OMV has used Menas to provide analysis for a number of countries on various occasions. OMV Libya used Menas’ specialist services to carry out a political scenario planning exercise for the country in 2015 in order to reflect on possible outcomes of the current situation, as well as to understand better the drivers that have an impact on political developments. Menas’ expert presented and discussed the analysis with the OMV team via video-conference; the exercise was very useful for OMV, and I was highly satisfied with the quality of the report and the discussion.”Peter Seitinger
“I have used Menas reports for a number of years to compile risk assessments for multinational corporations with which my company does business. I find them invaluable as an excellent product that provides information not readily available form other sources, such as newspapers and the internet.”Dr Stanley Bedlington,