Doing Business in the Arab World: Unlocking the Potential of Wasta

  • David WeirEmail author
  • Nabil Sultan
  • Sylvia van de Bunt
Part of the Contributions to Management Science book series (MANAGEMENT SC.)


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.


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


  1. Al-Hussain, F., & Al-Marzooq, A. (2016). Saudi men and women work participation: The use of Wasta to overcome sociocultural barriers. In: M. A. Ramady (Ed.), The political economy of Wasta: Use and abuse of social capital networking (chap. 7, pp. 95–114). Berlin: Springer.Google Scholar
  2. Aljbour, R. H. (2011). Wasta and Non-Arab training, characteristics, task, and culture in Arab markets. Ph.D. Dissertation, Lynn University. ISBN 9781124568928.Google Scholar
  3. Al-Meles, M. (2007). Understanding people’s attitude towards the use and impact of ‘Wasta’[Nepotism] in Kuwait. Suggesting practical ways of overcoming negative attitudes and demotivation in people through organisational behavioural change in key areas [recruitment & selection] (Working Paper). Cranfield School of Management.Google Scholar
  4. Alsane, N. (1994). Developing management in the countries of the Gulf Co-operative Council. Paper presented to the Arab Management Conference 1994, Bradford. University of Bradford Management Centre.Google Scholar
  5. Al-Suwaidi, M. A. (2008). When an Arab executive says “Yes”: Identifying different collectivist values that influence the Arabian Decision-Making Process. MA thesis, University of Pennsylvania. Retrieved February 15, 2018, from
  6. Anderson, R. (2016, June 21). Wasta seen as main source of corruption in Saudi, Gulf Business. Retrieved August 3, 2018, from
  7. Anderson, J. C., Håkansson, H., & Johanson, J. (1994). Dyadic business relationships within a business network context. Journal of Marketing, 58(4), 1–15.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Arnove, R. F., Torres, C. A., & Franz, S. (2012). Comparative education: The dialectic of the global and the local. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.Google Scholar
  9. Asharq Al-Awsat. (2004). Abdulla Al-Ahmar pardons his daughter’s killer. Retrieved March 11, 2018, from (Arabic text).
  10. Ayubi, N. (1986). Bureaucratization as development: administrative development and development administration in the Arab world. International Review of Administrative Science, 52, 201–222.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Azra, A. (2016). Koneski, Kolusi, and Nepotism (KKN): Culturally embedded? The Indonesian experience of combating negative Wasta. In: M.A. Ramady (Ed.), The political economy of Wasta: Use and abuse of social capital networking (chap. 11, pp. 161–172). Berlin: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Badawy, M. K. (1980). Styles of Mid-Eastern managers. California Management Review, 22(2), 51–58.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Bailey, D. C. (2013). Women and Wasta: The use of focus groups for understanding social capital and middle eastern women. The Qualitative Report, 17(33), 1–18. Retrieved March 11, 2018, from
  14. Barnes, J. A. (1969). Graph theory and social networks: A technical comment on connectedness and connectivity. Sociology, 3(2), 25–32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Barnes, J. A. (1972). Social networks. Modular Publications in Anthropology (Vol. 26). Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.Google Scholar
  16. Barnett, A., Yandle, B., & Naufal, G. (2013). Regulation, trust, and cronyism in Middle Eastern societies: The simple economics of ‘Wasta’. The Journal of Socio-Economics, 44, 41–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Brandstaetter, T., Bamber, D., & Weir, D. T. H. (2016). Wasta: Triadic trust in Jordanian Business. In: M. A. Ramady (Ed.), The political economy of Wasta: use and abuse of social capital networking (chap. 5, pp. 65–78). Berlin: Springer.Google Scholar
  18. Brouthers, K. D. (2002). Institutional, cultural and transaction cost influences on entry mode choice and performance. Journal of International Business Studies, 33(2), 203–221.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Buckley, P. J., & Casson, M. C. (1988). A theory of cooperation in international business. In F. J. Contractor & P. Lorange (Eds.), Cooperative strategies in international business (pp. 31–53). Lexington, MA: Lexington Books.Google Scholar
  20. Burt, R. S. (2000). The network structure of social capital. Research in Organizational Behavior, 22, 345–423.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Chaston, I., & Mangles, T. (2000). Business networks: Assisting knowledge management and competence acquisition within UK manufacturing firms. Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development, 7(2), 160–170.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Chennoufi, B., & Weir, D. T. H. (2000). Management in Algeria. In M. Warner (Ed.), Management in emerging countries: Regional encyclopaedia of business and management (pp. 176–181). London: Business Press.Google Scholar
  23. Cunningham, R. B., & Sarayah, Y. (1993). Wasta: The hidden force in middle eastern societies. New York: Praeger.Google Scholar
  24. Cunningham, R. B., & Sarayrah, Y. K. (1994). Taming Wasta to achieve development. Arab Studies Quarterly, 16(3), 29–39.Google Scholar
  25. Dadfar, H. (1993). In search of Arab management, direction and identity. Paper presented to the Arab Management Conference 1993, University of Bradford Management Centre, Bradford.Google Scholar
  26. Doughan, Y. (2017). Corruption in the Middle East and the Limits of Conventional Approaches (GIGA Focus Nahost, 5). Hamburg: GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies – Leibniz-Institut für Globale und Regionale Studien, Institut für Nahost-Studien. Retrieved August 5, 2018, from
  27. Dwyer, F. R., Schurr, P. H., & Oh, S. (1987). Developing buyer-seller relationships. Journal of Marketing, 3(2), 7–23.Google Scholar
  28. El-Tayeb, H. (1986). Administrative reform in the Arab countries: Between the original and contemporary. In N. Al-Saign (Ed.), Administrative reform in the Arab countries: Readings (pp. 116–165). Amman: Arab Organization of Administrative Sciences.Google Scholar
  29. Feghali, R. (2014, April). Wasta: Connections or Corruption in the Arab World. Nardello&Co. Retrieved August 3, 2018, from
  30. Ford, D., Gadde, L. E., Håkansson, H., & Snehota, I. (2003). Managing business relationships (2nd ed.). Chichester: Wiley.Google Scholar
  31. Ford, D., Gadde, L.-E., Håkansson, H., & Snehota, I. (2006). The business marketing course: Managing in complex networks (2nd ed.). Chichester: Wiley.Google Scholar
  32. Fuller, G. E., & Lesser, I. O. (1996). A sense of Siege: The geopolitics of Islam and the West. Arab Studies Quarterly, 18(3), 87–91.Google Scholar
  33. Garbett, K. (1970). The analysis of social situations. MAN, 5(2), 214–227.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Gold, G. D., & Naufal, G. S. (2012). Wasta: The other invisible hand: A case study of university students in the Gulf. Journal of Arabian Studies: Arabia, the Gulf, and the Red Sea, 2(1), 59–73.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Granovetter, M. (1973). The strength of weak ties. The American Journal of Sociology, 78(6), 1360–1380.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Granovetter, M. (1985). Economic action and social structure: The problem of embeddedness. The American Journal of Sociology, 91(3), 481–510.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Granovetter, M. (2005). The impact of social structure on economic outcomes. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 19(1), 33–50.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Hamdy, A. A. M. H. (2008). The stigma of Wasta: The effect of Wasta on perceived competence and morality. Faculty of Management Technology, January, German University of Cairo.Google Scholar
  39. Hampden-Turner, C., & Trompenaars, F. (2015). Nine visions of capitalism: Unlocking the meanings of wealth-creation. Oxford: Infinite Ideas.Google Scholar
  40. Hearn, G., & Pace, S. (2006). Value-creating ecologies: Understanding next generation business systems. Foresight, 8(1), 55–65.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Hennart, J. F., & Larimo, J. (1998). The impact of culture on the strategy of multinational enterprises: Does national origin affect ownership decisions. Journal of International Business Studies, 29(3), 515–538.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Hickson, D., & Pugh, D. (1995). The Arabs of the Middle East. In D. Hickson & D. Pugh (Eds.), Management worldwide. Harmondsworth: Penguin.Google Scholar
  43. Hofstede, G. (1980). Culture’s consequences: Comparing values, behaviors, institutions, and organisations across nations. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  44. Hooker, J. (2008). Corruption from a cross-cultural perspective (Working Paper). Carnegie-Mellon University. Retrieved March 11, 2018, from
  45. Hutchings, K., & Murray, G. (2002). Australian expatriates’ experiences in working behind the Bamboo Curtain: An examination of Guanxi in post-Communist China. Asian Business Management, 1, 1–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Hutchings, K., & Weir, D. T. H. (2005). Cultural embeddedness and contextual constraints: Knowledge sharing in Chinese and Arab cultures. Journal of Knowledge and Process Management, 12(2), 89–98.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Kabasakal, H., & Bodur, M. (2002). Arabic cluster: A bridge between East and West. Journal of World Business, 37(1), 40–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Kacanski, S., & Lusher, D. (2017). The application of social network analysis to accounting and auditing. International Journal of Academic Research in Accounting, Finance and Management Sciences, 7(3), 82–97.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Kar, H. M., Nazioglu, S., & Agir, H. (2011). Financial development and economic growth nexus in the MENA countries: Bootstrap panel granger causality analysis. Economic Modelling, 28(1–2), 685–693.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Karalok, M. (2016). Quality-oriented education and workforce reform: The impact of Wasta (Case Study of Bahrain). In: M. A. Ramady (Ed.), The political economy of Wasta: Use and abuse of social capital networking (chap. 10, pp. 145–160). Berlin: Springer.Google Scholar
  51. Larsen, A. G., & Ellersgaard, C. H. (2019). Who listens to the top? Integration of the largest corporations across sectoral networks. Acta Sociologica, 62(1), 4–19.Google Scholar
  52. Leuthesser, L., & Kohli, A. K. (1995). Relational behavior in business markets: Implications for relationship management. Journal of Business Research, 34(3), 221–233.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Li, Y., Du, J., & Van de Bunt, S. (2015). Social capital networking in China and the traditional values of Guanxi. In: M. Ramady (Ed.), The political economy of “Wasta”: Use and abuse of social capital networking (chap. 12, pp. 173–183). London: Springer.Google Scholar
  54. Lipka, M., & Hacket, C. (2017). Why Muslims are the world’s fastest-growing religious group. PEW Research. Retrieved June 12, 2018, from
  55. Loewe, M., Blume, J., Schonleber, V., Seibert, S., Speer, J., & Voss, C. (2007). The impact of favouritism on the business climate. A study on Wasta in Jordan. Deutsches Institut fur Entwicklungspolitik, Bonn. Retrieved August 4, 2018, from
  56. Mann, L. (2014). Wasta! The long-term implications of education expansion and economic liberalisation on politics in Sudan. Review of African Political Economy, 41(142), 561–578.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Mathew, V., & Kavitha, M. (2010). Women entrepreneurs practicing business in Middle East: Case study of socio-cultural environmental barriers. International Journal of Arab Culture, Management and Sustainable Development, 1(3), 239–253.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Mitchell, C. (1969). Introduction. In C. Mitchell (Ed.), Social networks in urban situations: Analyses of personal relationships in central African towns (pp. 1–9). Manchester: Manchester University Press.Google Scholar
  59. Mitchell, J. C. (1974). Social networks. Annual Review of Anthropology, 3, 279–299.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Mitchell, C. (1976). The concept and use of social networks. In W. M. Evans (Ed.), Interorganizational readings (pp. 293–306). New York: Penguin.Google Scholar
  61. Mitrega, M., Forkmann, S., Ramos, C., & Henneberg, S. C. (2012). Networking capability in business relationships—Concept and scale development. Industrial Marketing Management, 41(5), 739–751.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Mort, G. S., & Weerawardena, J. (2006). Networking capability and international entrepreneurship. International Marketing Review, 23(5), 549–572.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Mulnix, M. W., Beede, P., & López-Mulnix, E. E. (2014, June). Emerging issues among women Emirati entrepreneurs: A research agenda. European Scientific Journal, 1. Retrieved March 11, 2018, from
  64. NATO. (2002, June 6). Press Conference by US Secretary of Defence. Donald Rumsfeld. Retrieved June 12, 2018, from
  65. Ouchi, W. (1980). Markets, bureaucracies and clans. Administrative Science Quarterly, 25, 129–162.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Park, S. H., & Ungson, G. R. (1997). The effect of national culture, organizational complementarity, and economic motivation on joint venture dissolution. Academy of Management Journal, 40(2), 279–307.Google Scholar
  67. Pew. (2015, April 2). World’s Muslim population will surpass Christians this century, Pew Says. The Two-way. Pew Research Centre. Retrieved June 6, 2018, from
  68. Quran, Al-Qasas: chapter 28, verse 26. Retrieved March 11, 2018., from
  69. Rice, G. (2003). The challenge of creativity and culture: A framework for analysis with application to Arabian Gulf firms. International Business Review, 12, 461–377.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Rice, G. (2004). Doing business in Saudi Arabia. Thunderbird International Business Review, 46(1), 59–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Riege, A. (2005). Three dozen knowledge sharing barriers managers must consider. Journal of Knowledge Management, 9(3), 18–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Ritter, T. (1999). The networking company: Antecedents for coping with relationships and networks effectively. Industrial Marketing Management, 28(5), 467–479.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Sadi, W. (2017, July 29). Wasta, and wasta. The Jordan Times. Retrieved August 4 2018, from
  74. Sapsford, R., Tsourapas, G., Abbot, P., & Teti, A. (2017, December 26). Corruption, trust, inclusion and cohesion in North Africa and the Middle East. Applied Research in Quality of Life. Retrieved August 3, 2018, from
  75. Sawalha, F. (2002, April 1). Study says ‘Wasta’ difficult to stamp out when advocates remain in power. Jordan Times.Google Scholar
  76. Schein, E. (2013). Humble inquiry. The gentle art of asking instead of telling. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers.Google Scholar
  77. Scott, J. (1991a). Networks of corporate power: A comparative assessment. Annual Review of Sociology, 17, 181–203.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Scott, J. (1991b). Social network analysis: A handbook. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  79. Stanton, M. (1999). An appreciative inquiry into the role of Islamic values in organisational decision making and practices. Unpublished Masters of Organizational Science Thesis, Malibu, California, Graziadio School of Business, Pepperdine University.Google Scholar
  80. Sultan, N. (2013). A culture of ethics and social responsibility: How a class of Yemeni businessmen made it work for everyone. In N. Sultan & D. Weir (Eds.), From critique to action: The practical ethics of the organisational world (new insights) (pp. 295–314). Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars.Google Scholar
  81. Sultan, N., Metcalfe, B., & Weir, D. (2011). Building the foundation for a post-oil era: The case of the GCC countries. In N. Sultan, D. Weir, & Z. Karake (Eds.), The new post-oil Arab Gulf: Managing people and wealth (pp. 15–44). London: Al-Saqi.Google Scholar
  82. Sultan, N., & Weir, D. (2010). Hadhramis: The great entrepreneurial leaders of Arabia. The European Academy of Management, paper presented at EURAM conference, 19–22 May, Rome, Italy.Google Scholar
  83. Thornton, S. C., Henneberg, S. C., & Naude, P. (2013). Understanding types of organizational networking behaviors in the UK manufacturing sector. Industrial Marketing Management, 42, 1154–1166.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  84. Thrift, N. (1993). Globalisation, regulation, urbanisation: The case of the Netherlands. Urban Studies, 31(3), 365–380.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  85. Trompenaars, F., & Coebergh, P. H. (2014). 100+ management models. Oxford: Infinite Ideas.Google Scholar
  86. Trompenaars, F., & Hampden-Turner, C. (1997). Riding the waves of culture. London: Nicholas Brealey Publishing.Google Scholar
  87. Uzzi, B. (1996). The sources and consequences of embeddedness for the economic performance of organizations: The network effect. American Sociological Review, 61(4), 674–698.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  88. Weir, D. T. H. (1998). The fourth paradigm. In A. Al-Shamali & J. Denton (Eds.), Management in the Middle East (pp. 60–76). Kuwait: Gulf Management Centre.Google Scholar
  89. Weir, D. T. H. (2003a). Human resource development in the Middle East: A fourth paradigm. In M. Lee (Ed.), HRD in a complex world (pp. 69–82). London: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  90. Weir, D. T. H. (2003b). Management development and leadership in the Middle East: An alternative paradigm. Paper presented to the leadership in the management theory at work series conference, June 2003, Lancaster, Lancaster University.Google Scholar
  91. Weir, D. T. H. (2008). Islamic perspectives on management and organization. International Journal of Islamic and Middle Eastern Finance and Management, 1(1), 84–87.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  92. Weir, D. T. H. (2010). Space as context and content. In: A. van Marrewijk & D. Yanow (Eds.), Organizational spaces: Rematerializing the workaday, world (chap. 9, pp. 115–136). Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.Google Scholar
  93. Weir, D. (2012). Islam, belief system and organization. In P. Case, H. Höpfl, & H. Letiche (Eds.), Belief and organization. London: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  94. Weir, D., Sultan, N., & Metcalfe, B. (2011). The Arabian Gulf as knowledge-based economies: The challenge. In N. Sultan, D. Weir, & Z. Karake (Eds.), The new post-oil Arab Gulf: Managing people and wealth (pp. 73–96). London: Al-Saqi.Google Scholar
  95. Weir, D., Sultan, N., & Van de Bunt, S. (2015). Wasta: A scourge or a useful management and business practice? In: M. Ramady (Ed.), The political economy of “Wasta”: Use and abuse of social capital networking (chap. 2, pp. 23–31). London: Springer.Google Scholar
  96. Williamson, O. E. (1979). Transaction-cost economics: The governance of contractual relations. Journal of Law and Economics, 22, 3–61.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  97. Zakaria, N., Stanton, J., & Sarkar Barney, S. T. M. (2003). Designing and implementing culturally sensitive IT applications: The interaction of culture values and privacy issues in the Middle East. Information Technology & People, 16(1), 49–75.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Weir
    • 1
    Email author
  • Nabil Sultan
    • 2
  • Sylvia van de Bunt
    • 3
  1. 1.Intercultural ManagementYork Business School, York St. John UniversityYorkUK
  2. 2.College of Business Administration, A’Sharqiyah UniversityIbraOman
  3. 3.Servant Leadership Centre for Research and Education (SERVUS), Vrije Universiteit AmsterdamAmsterdamThe Netherlands

Personalised recommendations