IPMA International Project Management Association
1 February 2016 / 8:19

Projects and project management in Kuwait

Recently, IPMA was asked to come to Kuwait and support the creation of a national project management association. The State of Kuwait is situated at the tip of the Persian Gulf.  It is bordered by Iraq and Saudi-Arabia. Already in the 17th century people settled in the area which is nowadays the metropolitan area of Kuwait-City with more than 2 million inhabitants. The population of Kuwait accounts to more than 4 million people, of which only 1.3 million are Kuwaitis, the rest are expatriates, working in the oil and refinery industry or other kinds of sectors. Kuwait started as a settlement for fishers, boat building and later acted as a commercial hub between the southern regions of the Arabian Peninsula and the Northern regions as well as India. After the discovery of oil in 1938, Kuwait turned into an attractive and flourishing state. Due to this situation, Kuwait was unfortunately often offended by neighbouring countries. In 1990, the Iraq invaded and occupied Kuwait. A US-led coalition supported Kuwait, threw back military forces of Iraq and freed the Kuwaitis. However, Iraqi forces carried out a scorched earth policy by setting oil wells on fire.


Kuwait is a rich country, according to the World Bank, the fourth richest country in the world per capita. Petroleum accounts for nearly half of GDP and 94% of export revenues and government income. This is also one of the biggest challenges right now. The decreasing oil prices caused last year a huge deficit. For this year Kuwait expects a deficit of 35 Billion Euro. However, the reserves of Kuwait are still more than 500 Billion Euro, twice the volume of its GDP. Through the Kuwait Investment Authority a lot of this wealth is invested in foreign countries. There is a rich portfolio of projects and programmes being performed in Kuwait, most of them large and complex Capital Expenditure (Capex) projects  in the oil industry, but also in construction, societal development and public administration. One example of a megaproject, the new Kuwait Airport the Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmad  Causeway or the new campus for the Kuwait University. Until now, Kuwait did not establish its own project management association. Project management is mainly performed by expatriates or sub-contractors from the USA, Europe or Asian countries. There is no degree in project management in Kuwait, only some courses are taught, for example project management for information systems at the Kuwait University and an introduction to project management at the American University of Middle East. This is why the Kuwait University together with a major corporation want to establish a national project management association under the umbrella of IPMA. IPMA signed an MoU and will support the creation of such an association. It shall cover a broad range of project management activities, from the oil industry through construction, information systems to societal development.


IPMA values diversity in all regards and thus encourages a country, to start its own, national project management association enabling the profession to advance based on its specific cultural heritage. One of these cultural specialties in Kuwait is called “Dewaniya” a gathering of (typically male) families, tribes or other groups of people with a relationship. The Dewaniyas are at the heart of Kuwait’s social, business and political life, topics of interest are discussed, associates introduced, alliances formed, and similar networking activities undertaken, it is used to facilitate communication and consensus building. In addition, it helps to build “wasta” which can be translated into medium, means or personal connection, affecting hiring, promotion and any other business-oriented decision. This is also one reason, why the Kuwaitis liked the IPMA Global Standards, because they are building on human relations and behavioural competences as critical success factors for project management, more than any other standard.


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Reinhard Wagner

Author of this post

Reinhard Wagner has been active for more than 30 years in the field of project- related leadership, in such diverse sectors as Air Defense, Automotive Engineering, and Machinery, as well as various not-for-profit organizations. As a Certified Projects Director (IPMA Level A), he has proven experience in managing projects, programmes and project portfolios in complex and dynamic contexts. He is also an IPMA Certified Programme and Portfolio Management Consultant, and as such supports senior executives in developing and improving their organizational competence in managing projects. For more than 15 years, he has been actively involved in the development of project, programme and portfolio management standards, for example as Convenor of the ISO 21500 “Guidance on Project Management” and the ISO 21503 “Guidance on Programme Management”. Reinhard Wagner is Past President of IPMA and Chairman of the Council, Honorary Chairman of GPM (the German Project Management Association), as well as Managing Director of Tiba Managementberatung GmbH.