By Gavin Gibbon
Mike Hogan, Enterprise Ireland manager for the Middle East and North Africa, says moving to UAE is 'win-win' for Irish companies
Continued uncertainty over Brexit could strengthen bilateral trade between Ireland and GCC countries by up to 2 billion Euros ($2.2bn).
Mike Hogan, Enterprise Ireland manager for the Middle East and North Africa, admitted that Brexit is “an issue” and “a complication”, but he said it also presented an opportunity for companies from Ireland to explore markets in the region, which have traditionally focused on education and engineering, ICT, fintech and healthcare.
He told Arabian Business: “Obviously with Brexit in the background a lot of Irish companies are spreading their wings out of traditional markets. We’ve direct flights twice daily to Abu Dhabi and to Dubai from Dublin so it’s very easy to see the UAE as one of those countries to start doing business with.
“In general terms, our bilateral trade with the GCC countries, including goods and services, is running at around 4-4.2 billion Euros ($4.4-$4.7bn) at the minute. We’ve just had a report done by the Irish Arab Chamber of Commerce which suggests that exports to the wider Arab region could more than double over the next 15 years.”
Hogan said the ease of setting up business, particularly in the UAE, was a major draw for Irish companies.
“Certainly it’s very much on the radar for a lot of our companies and its ease of access is one of the key factors. It’s a win-win here because people come and don’t tend to do business by themselves, they do it with partnerships and that’s a nice play here because you’re not just coming in and making a simple sale, you’re building a business in the country,” he said.
In particular, the UAE is an important market for Irish cleantech companies with the opportunities that are present through the country’s “Energy Strategy 2050”, which has tasked individuals and corporates to reduce their energy consumption by 40 percent. The strategy also seeks to increase the percentage of clean energy in the energy mix from 25 percent to 50 percent.
Aidan Cronin, Ambassador of Ireland to the UAE, said: “As part of the Government of Ireland’s Global Ireland initiative, we are assisting Irish companies every day as they diversify into global markets such as the UAE. With Expo 2020 now just under a year away, there are so many fantastic opportunities here for Irish companies, utilising their high level of expertise and innovative solutions across a range of sectors including cleantech which is such a strong Irish success story.”
Meanwhile, Hogan also revealed that Saudi Arabia, typically the country’s biggest market alongside the UAE, is becoming more and more attractive, particularly in light of the recent announcement to offer tourist visas on arrival.
He said: “Saudi has been fairly quiet for the last few years but we’re seeing a lot more activity there in the last six months, both in terms of the dynamism of the market and the types of things they want to do, but also the appetite in Saudi to take on new technologies and solutions. It’s a much more beneficial place for Irish companies to do business than say two years ago.”