In the last week of October, on the same day as a bomb blast in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula—one of the deadliest insurgencies, reportedly, in decades—killed close to 30 Egyptian soldiers, Ramona Braganza, a fitness trainer from Canada, was working out with a group of 30 young people at the Dreamlands Golds Gym in Cairo.
The gym had invited Braganza, who has trained such celebrities as Halle Berry, Jessica Alba and Dominic Cooper, to teach a week-long course based on her “3-2-1” fitness method.
“It’s my understanding that there’s a growing interest in fitness training here,” Braganza said. “The gym has only been open for a short while and already has 3,000 members.”
That’s not surprising given the way things are changing in the Middle East North Africa (MENA) region and the fitness sector is one of a number of consumer oriented sectors that are experiencing strong growth there. The countries of the region – in particular those that went through the Arab Spring – face many challenges, but there’s little doubt that interests and tastes are rapidly changing across MENA, said Pervez Akhtar, corporate partner and head of law firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer’s MENA practice, and this shift is leading to a rise in private equity investments in the region.
“The MENA region is going through a boom with respect to population and also with pent-up demand for consumer goods and services,” Akhtar said. “You’ve got lots of young people who are saying ‘we want better schools for our kids, better universities, we want fashion, different kinds of food and we want to have leisure activities like sports and fitness as well.”