Saudi Arabia/GCC: MENA, Convenient Shorthand or Confusing Acronym?

acronym-soup

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Acronyms. You’ve probably heard of them. More times than you’ve had hot dinners, no doubt. MENA is a good one. The GCC is another fine example. They’re bandied about all over the place, in newspapers, magazines, on the TV and on the Web, often with never a qualifier in sight. But what exactly do they represent? Both are linked, of course, to countries in the Middle East. However, do they make any difference to anyone’s life? Convenient shorthand, or do they just cause confusion?

We could have included OPEC, AAIP, EMEA and many more. Many have multiple meanings, too. Take the EMEA example, an acronym for Europe, the Middle East and Africa. But did you know it can also stand for the European Medicines Evaluation Agency, or the Eastern African Marine Ecoregion, or even the Eastern Meadowlark (bird species Sturnella magna). Yes, it can all become quite complicated – not to mention a little bit ridiculous!

However, it underlines the point that one person’s acronym is not necessarily someone else’s. Agreed? However, let’s stick to MENA and the GCC.

mena

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MENA – Middle East and North Africa

Straightforward, right? Well, no, because MENA can mean different countries to different people and therefore the total population of the region can also vary enormously, from somewhere around 380 million to 520 million people or more. That’s a difference of about 140 million people, or roughly the size of the population of Russia!

Fair enough, MENA is often used in military circles, and in newspaper, business and academic reports. It is not a real economic or political entity. As a result, what exactly is meant by MENA is often never qualified or made clear in terms of the countries the acronym refers to. So when you see MENA, does it include Cyprus, Turkey or Azerbaijan, as is sometimes the case?

You’d certainly never use Google to search for MENA banking, would you? Instead, you’d qualify the search phrase in terms of the banking service and the country you’re interested in, as in personal banking Oman, or savings account Oman, for example. So why shouldn’t you do the same when writing or talking about MENA?

gcc

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GCC – Gulf Cooperation Council

Sometimes it’s also called the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf, or CCASG. However, most commentators refer to it as the GCC, a far more memorable acronym. Unlike MENA, the GCC is a real political and economic union and therefore a region that is clearly and unambiguously defined.

However, just to add a bit of confusion, GCC can also mean the UK’s General Chiropractic Council, or the Global Corporate Challenge, the GNU Compiler Collection, or even the Glendale Community College in Arizona. Context is everything. If you want to know more about any of them then simply do a search on Google.

Meanwhile, the GCC in terms of membership consists of the Arabian Gulf states of  Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. Both Jordan and Morocco have been invited to submit an application to join, which they’ve done. It’s still being considered.

OPEC, by the way, stands for the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. AAIP is an acronym for the Arab Association for Investment Promotion. But you knew that already, didn’t you?

If you still want yet more acronyms – in fact more than you ever thought existed – then you’d better go here.

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3 Responses

  1. I’ve personally always thought that the Moro Islamic Liberation Front has a most unfortunate acronym and I wince every time I see it used in the media.

  2. One thing that’s a bit confusing to me is where Africa stops and Asia/Europe begins? This is especially true of countries such as Iraq, Kuwait, Syria, and Lebanon. Iran is usually considered part of Asia, Egypt is usually considered North Africa, and Turkey is part of Europe, but what about the countries in the middle? Now, this is with the idea that the term “Middle East” is not being used and one is simply referring to the continent a given country is on.

  3. If you look at a map it’s not confusing at all. Africa is a continent just as North America is a continent. Egypt is in North Africa. Because it’s a Muslim country they get identified as being in the Middle East. Even some Sudanese want to consider that they are a ME country which is ridiculous.

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