Business News

Inaugural Arab-Irish Business Forum to highlight potential of Gulf States for Irish businesses

By Business & Finance
12 February 2015

Delegates to the first Arab-Irish Business Forum will learn about the huge potential for Irish businesses presented by the Arab markets, which, in 2014, was valued at almost €4bn for goods and services and is expected to grow to circa €6bn by 2020.

This would see an increase in jobs supported by trade with the Arab world rising from an estimated 8,000 at present to over 14,000 over this period.

The forum will focus in particular on the Gulf States, which currently account for 65% of Ireland’s exports to the Arab region, and which present the best opportunities for Irish exporters in the immediate future. The event marks a significant milestone in trade and commercial relations between Ireland and the Gulf states, a relationship that has seen Irish exports to the region, comprising manufactured good and services, growing by 11% in the past year.

The day-long event will take place on Wednesday, March  11th and will feature a line-up of business leaders representing both Irish and Arab enterprises with key note addresses from Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney and Minister of State for Business and Employment, Ged Nash.

The forum, which will take place at Royal Hospital Kilmainham, is a unique collaboration between public and private organisations with the common goal of raising awareness for the importance of the Gulf region as a great place to do business. It is an opportunity for delegates to gain strategic insight into the opportunities and challenges that the region presents, and is being jointly organised by Enterprise Ireland, Emirates Airline, the Arab-Irish Chamber of Commerce and Bord Bia.

The Arab-Irish Business Forum aims to ‘de-mystify’ doing business in the Gulf region with insights into key markets such as the UAE, Qatar and Saudi Arabia and covering sectors such as food and drink, engineering, professional services, manufacturing, pharmaceutical and ICT.

Speakers include Declan Hegarty, MD of JP Morgan Middle East; Fergal McGarry, marketing director, Irish Dairy Board; Ramzi Salman, former senior adviser to Minster of Industry & Energy, Qatar; CEO of Glen Dimplex, Sean O’Driscoll; Eugene McQuaid of Vodafone Qatar with a keynote address from Colm McLoughlin, executive vice chairman of Dubai Duty Free. The diplomatic view on trade between Ireland and the Gulf States will be presented by Ireland’s Ambassadors to KSA and UAE, and Ambassadors to Ireland from KSA, UAE and Kuwait.

Speakers will share their knowledge, experience and advice through a blend of presentations, panel discussions and key note speeches. Senior executives from Irish companies exporting to or operating in the region will contribute their own unique insights and cast light on their own successes and the challenges they have faced – and overcome.

There are over 450 indigenous Irish companies currently operating in the Gulf region including Jones Engineering, Byrne Looby, Glen Dimplex, Glanbia, Chanelle Pharmaceuticals, PM Group, Glenbeigh Records Management and Kerry Group.

It has never been easier to do business with the Arab states with Emirates airline operating two daily flights direct from Dublin to Dubai, with 50 tonnes cargo capacity and onward connections to 17 destinations across the Gulf region.

The region’s appetite for Irish produce is growing, with food and drink exports reaching €237m in 2014. Commenting on the Irish food and drink industry’s success in the Middle East, Aidan Cotter, chief executive of Bord Bia said, “Bord Bia, in conjunction with the industry, is seeking to grow our current export figure substantially to exceed €500 million to the region by 2020. Food security is a major concern for the Gulf States and Ireland, as a country that exports 90% of its food and drink production, is well placed to sustainably supply a region that imports 90% of its food requirements.”

Brendan Flood, head of International Sales and Partnering at Enterprise Ireland commented: “A key element of Enterprise Ireland’s strategy is the determination to support our client companies to grow their export sales in global markets and create jobs at home. Irish companies have been steadily increasing their export footprint across the Gulf region and their success, across a wide range of sectors, demonstrates the genuine opportunities that exist for innovative, ambitious companies committed to developing long-term partnerships and business relationships in the region. The Arab-Irish Business Forum will provide a unique opportunity for Irish companies to gain valuable insights into the exciting opportunities, and challenges, that the region presents.”

According to the organisers, one of the main aims of the forum is to demonstrate how the Arab markets represent one of the most important trading opportunities for Ireland outside of North America and the EU. The chairman of the Arab-Irish Chamber of Commerce, Joe Geoghegan, said: “This is a fantastic platform from which Irish businesses can learn about doing business with the Arab markets. Trade with the region is growing year-on-year and the government’s recognition of this potential is clear with Enterprise Ireland, Bord Bia and Tourism Ireland all very active on the ground. This level of activity and commitment should encourage anyone thinking of exploring new business opportunities, regardless of size or ambition, to explore a little further.”