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Arab goodwill points
way for Irish business
The Joint Arab-Irish Chamber of Commerce has been forging business and friendship links for more than 21years, writes Alex Meehan


t a time when Ireland’s economy is
undergoing a period of destabilisation, there’s never
been a better opportunity for Irish companies to
create new markets for themselves
in the Arab world.
That’s the message from the Joint
Arab-Irish Chamber of Commerce
(JAICC), which is lobbying to increase trade links between Ireland
and the Arab countries.
According to the most recentlyreleased figures from the Central
Statistics Office, Ireland buys 17
times more per capita from Arab
countries than they buy from us.
‘‘Even though Ireland has a surplus of e753 million in its trade with

the Arab countries, we still buy
much more per capita from them,’’
said Louis Maguire, chairman of
the JAICC.
According to the CSO, Ireland’s
total exports to Arab markets grew
by 14.5 per cent in 2007 to reach
e1.16 billion, while its imports from
Arab countries grew by 243 per cent
to e407 million.
‘‘When you consider that there
are 340 million people in the Arab
world and only 4.5 million people
here in the Republic, these numbers
take on a different perspective,’’
said Maguire.
In essence, the figures mean that
Ireland imported e90.44 per capita
from the Arab world in 2007, while
it only bought e5.12 per capita from
this country.

‘‘The potential for continued
growth in our exports to the region
is clearly enormous, especially
when you also consider that many
of the Arab countries are major oil
and gas exporters and they are reaping the huge benefits from the massive rise in hydrocarbon prices over
the past few years,’’ said Maguire.
The JAICC came into being formally in May 1987 with the goal of
promoting commercial, industrial,
tourist and financial relations between the Arab countries and the
Republic of Ireland.
The Arab world consists of parts
of the Middle East and North Africa, and includes countries such as
Algeria, Bahrain, Kuwait, Mauritania and Saudi Arabia.The JAICC is
part of an international network of

similar chambers, located in 19
other non-Arab countries.
Its current chief executive, Louis
Maguire, was instrumental in creating the first trade links between Ireland and the Arab world. In 1969, he
set up the first Irish-Arab Society, a
forerunner to the current chamber.
‘‘I had a tremendous interest in
the Arab world when I was a kid,
everything about it seemed fascinating, and when you’re living in
west Mayo in the 1950s and 1960s,
it seemed very far away and exotic,’’
said Maguire.
At the time, there were no diplomatic contacts between Ireland
and this part of the world, so Maguire went to London and knocked
on the door of every embassy.
‘‘I was welcomed with open arms

by every ambassador when I told
them what I was doing and soon invites started to come in from governments all over the Arab world,
asking would an Irish delegation
visit,’’ he said.
Today, the board of the JAICC
consists of 12 Arab directors, who
represent chambers of commerce
in the Arab countries, and 12 Irish
directors, who represent a broad
range of Irish companies and industry sectors. Maguire visits the foreign embassies of the member
countries in Britain on a regular basis and also travels to the Middle
East in his capacity as chairman of
the JAICC.
‘‘It has become significantly easier to do business in the Arab world
in the last few years, and there are

great opportunities for Irish businesses,’’ he said. ‘‘However, at the
same time, there are also companies
from other countries chasing orders
as well. There are countries now
doing business with the Middle East
that weren’t doing so in the 1970s ^
Germany, for example, is actively
and aggressively pursuing trade
links in the Middle East.
‘‘That said, the goodwill for us in
the Arab world is unbelievable, I
know of a certain president who told
his cabinet that when they could,
they should buy from Ireland. This
shows a strong degree of goodwill
from the very top levels of Arab society.’’
According to the JAICC, ITcompanies make up the majority of Irish
firms already working in that part

of the world. While it has become
harder to sell Ireland as a low-cost
centre for ITpurposes, there are still
opportunities for companies in
other areas.
‘‘Up to now, our big business was
IT, but unfortunately we’ve lost
some of this.There are still opportunities for companies working in
pharmaceuticals and engineering.
For example, in the developing
countries, they will now buy any
machinery we have to offer, and
there are already companies doing
very well out of this.
‘‘Products such as bulldozers and
plant and building equipment are in
demand, as are dairy and food products. Kerrygold is an example of an

to page 2




Arab-Irish Commerce
By Post Reporter

success story
is attributed
to its highly
and modern


ore than
100 people attended a
br iefing
in Croke Park conference centre last month hosted by the
Joint Arab-Irish Chamber of
Commerce (JAICC) and the
government of Dubai’s Department of Tour ism and
Com merc e Marketing
Fayha Sultan, marketing
manager in commerce for the
DTCM gave a presentation
highlighting Dubai’s growing
significance as a regional hub.
‘‘The commerce team at the
DTCM aims to raise awareness of potential business opportunities and to provide
knowledge and expertise for Irish companies looking to expand or start new business
ve ntu res i n D ubai,’’ s aid
Wayne Leitch, director of Non
Stop Media, the media events
firm that organised the briefing on behalf of the JAICC.
Dubai enjoys a strategic location at the crossroads of Europe, Asia and Africa and is the
hub of an economic boom in
the region. Dubai’s economic
success story is attributed to
its highly developed and modern infrastructure, a comprehensive selection of free zones,
tax benefits and modern facilities offered by business centres. It also offers a host of
attractions as a tourist destination.
According to Sultan, diversification is the economic strategy for the future development
of Dubai. Last year, non-oil
revenues accounted for nearly
95 per cent of GDP. Diversification has resulted in annual
average GDP growth rates of
13 per cent since 2000.
Gross domestic product
(GDP) of stg»28 billion (e35
billion) in 2007 is forecast to almost double to stg»54.8 billion
(e69 billion) by 2015.
The retail sector is one of the

Wayne Leitch, managing director, Non Stop Media; Fayha Sultan, marketing manager, commerce UK and Ireland, Department of Tourism, Dubai; Evelyn Harrington,
Arab-Irish Chamber of Commerce; Louis Maguire, chairman, Arab-Irish Chamber of Commerce; Peter Jackson, senior marketing adviser, Enterprise Ireland

Strategic Dubai at hub of
region’s economic boom
primary growth areas. Visitors
to Dubai’s 25 major malls
reached 80 million in 2005. Sultan said that 75 per cent of the
planned shopping malls in the

Gulf would be in Dubai,where
the area covered by retail centres in 2005 was 7 million
square feet and is set to increase to nearly 46 million

square feet by 2010.
The areas in which there are
opportunities for Irish companies, according to Sultan, include the environment and

phenomenal response to the
Dubai Business Briefing in
Croke Park last month from a
wide var iety of businesses
throughout the country. We

even had one company flying
in delegates from France just
to attend,’’ said Leitch.
‘‘The seminar was the perfect introductory platform for

Gulf advantages to be showcased at Expo

Commercial Profile: Higgins, Chambers & Flanagan Solicitors

Galway solicitors with
far-flung viewpoint


he team at Higgins, Chambers
& Flanagan Solicitors, a Galwaybased law firm,
have responded
to a growing demand for legal
advice over the past two years
from many sectors of Irish
businesses seeking to capture
market share in the UAE and,
in particular, Dubai.
The experience gained by
associate Kayanne Horgan
when working in law firms in
Abu Dhabi in the 90s has
proved invaluable when liaising with government departments, such as Dubai’s Land
Department and Real Estate
Regulatory Authority, on behalf of clients. Although the
UAE has grown exponentially over the past 15 years in
a commercial sense, she said
that government reforms have
ensured that the regulatory
framework had grown with it
to make the process of starting up businesses in Dubai
much easier.
According to Horgan, the
attractiveness of the area for
entrepreneurs is increased by
a highly favourable tax regime, as well as operating incentives in the 19 government
designated free zones, including Dubai Internet City, Dubai Media City and Dubai
International Financial Centre.
‘‘Adding to Dubai’s attractiveness for business is the fact
that the emirate has a strong
economy that is growing at a
steady rate and the fact that
the government is committed
to creating new business opportunities in order to maintain the diversification of the
economy,’’ she said.
‘‘In addition to these economic factors, other advantages include the Emirates’
strategic and accessible location, excellent infrastructure,
competitive labour costs, no

alternative energies, power,
mass transport, construction,
financial services, life sciences,
and education and training.
‘‘To put it mildly, there was a

SMEs looking to establish
business links in Dubai and
the feedback was really positive from all attendees on the
‘‘I had a strong feeling the
response would be big, given
the recent slowdown in the Irish economy that matched, of
course, with the continued and
unabated level of growth in
‘‘There was naturally a high
level of interest from companies with some form of involveme nt i n the c onstr u ction
sector, but we were taken
aback at the level of interest
from across all sectors, including finance, legal, IT, training
and health. We must apologise
to the large number of companies that wished to attend but
that we could not cater for on
the day.’’
He said there was a wealth of
opportunities across the region
for Irish firms that possessed
the skill sets that the Arab
countries were now demanding.
‘‘Non Stop Media is working
very closely with the Joint
Arab-Irish Chamber of Commerce and we intend to host a
series of similar events on
emerging as well as more established markets from across
the Arab world, both in the
Middle East and North Africa
in 2009 and beyond,’’ said

The thriving economies of
Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (notably
Dubai and Abu Dhabi) provide
major business opportunities
across a broad range of sectors.
The economic development
of the Gulf and the advantages
this offers will be showcased at
an exhibition and speaker programme at the GCC Europe
Expo this week.
The expo takes place over

two days, November 12-13, at
the Olympia Two exhibition
hall in London.
The GCC Europe Expo
aims to facilitate bilateral trade
and investment, and to help
forge new commercial relationships between EU and
G C C (G u l f C oop e rat ion
Council) businesses.
While providing a showcase
for goods and services from the
GCC, Europe and Britain, the
expo will also deliver a wide

range of back-to-back seminars to inform, educate and
promote bilateral trade.
The expo will include more
than 150 companies, a full
two-day seminar programme,
including cultural entertainment, and will feature specific
European and GCC country
regional zones in the exhibition
halls over both floors, accommodating thousands of visitors
each day.
This is the first major event

of its kind since The GCC and
Britain exhibition attended by
the then British prime minister, Margaret Thatcher.
Also scheduled to take place
on the evening of November
12, 2008, at the Dorchester is a
gala dinner, which will be attended by dignitaries from the
GCC, Europe and Britain.
The keynote speaker for the
evening is British secretary of
state for business, Peter Mandelson.

Arab goodwill points way for Irish firms
from page 1

Kayanne Horgan & Brendan Flanagan of Higgins, Chambers & Flanagan Solicitors

corporate and personal taxes
levied and an exceptionally
safe and pleasant working environment.’’
In addition to legal advice,
she said that clients availed of
the firm’s general advice in relation to business etiquette in
the Middle East.
Higgins, Chambers & Flanagan has also seen a surge
in Irish investors seeking to
participate in the booming
property sector. Principal
Brendan Flanagan sees it as
imperative that, when considering buying property abroad,
one should thoroughly investigate both the tax and legal
implications of any purchase.
‘‘We have already seen a
number of cases where investors have signed documentation without taking any legal
adv i c e, and have s ubs e quently run into problems.
The best way to do this is to
enlist the help of an independent legal adviser who has
knowledge of the area you
are buying in,’’ said Flanagan.
‘‘When required, we liaise

with an associate legal office
in Dubai to ensure that the
purchaser obtains a good
marketable title to the property they believe they are buying. This means that you will
own the property and entitles
you to mortgage or sell it in
the future as the legal owner.
If translation services are required we can assist in obtaining such services,’’ he said.
Given that more than 100
Irish companies now export
products and services worth
almost e300 million to the
UAE ^ which, in 2007, had a
population of nearly 4.5 million people and had six million visitors ^ the
opportunities are obviously
However, Flanagan advised that selling to the UAE
market required a long-term
perspective, including the establishment of strategic alliances and partnerships with
local companies.
‘‘Foreign companies or individuals wanting to do business in the UAE must at least

have a sponsor or service
agent and obtain a trade licence. Foreign companies
must register with the local
Chamber of Commerce and
Industry, the Economic Development Department and
with the Ministr y of Finance,’’ he said.
E xa mples of H ig g i ns,
Chamb ers & F lanagan’s
work in Dubai over the last
two years includes advising
on a range of commercial
agreements, including computer software and graphics
joint venture agreements,
franchise agreements, and
share s ale and pu rchas e
agreements, as well as reviewing property sales agreements
and employment contracts.
For further information,
please contact either Brendan Flanagan or Kayanne
Horgan at Higgins, Chambe rs & Flan ag an, The
Square, Headford,
Co Galway; tel: 093-35656.

Irish company that has done
very well in this part of the
world ^ there is hardly an upmarket hotel in the Arab world
that you don’t get Kerrygold
butter in,’’ said Maguire.
The top five Arab markets
for Irish companies are Saudi
Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Morocco and Kuwait.
Ranked by size, the top five
exports to these countries are
miscellaneous food products,
office machinery, oils and perfumes, medical and pharmaceutical products, and dairy
In contrast, the three main
imports purchased by Ireland
are petroleum products, clothing and fertilisers.
Doing business in far-flung
countries can create totally
new sources of revenue for Irish companies, but the rewards
are not without risks.
‘‘In particular, it’s possible to
lose business opportunities as
a result of not being fully aware
of cultural issues in the Middle
‘‘One way you can really
wreck things for yourself here
is if you mess around with cash
or payments,’’ said Maguire.
‘‘There is no tolerance for that
and in such matters your word
is your bond. If you are personable and make a good personal
impression,your business goals
can get a major boost.
‘‘Regardless, the one thing
you must never do is ask for
money upfront on a deal. In
the past, shady business people

Louis Maguire, chairman, JAICC

from other countries have taken advantage of scrupulously
honest Arabs and taken them
for a ride.
‘‘As a result, personal introductions and recommendations carry a lot of weight. You
have to have good contacts,
and we are prepared to help
any reputable company to get
a contact.
Likewise, it can be very helpful to have advice from people
who know these countries very
well and can help match a product to a market,’’ said Maguire.

Benefits of chamber membership
The Joint Arab-Irish Chamber of
Commerce (JAICC) is a non-profit
organisation, with open membership
available to any company, trade
association or representative body
involved in commercial activities in
Ireland and any of the Arab countries.
Its role is to facilitate greater ease of
commerce between member countries and
Irish companies interested in broadening
their market bases.
Among other benefits, members can
gain access to introductions to senior
personnel in embassies and state
organisations, as well as other official
associations and government agencies
when necessary.
‘‘Essentially, the job of the chamber is to
stamp documents and make the
interaction between businesses here and
government departments there a little
easier,’’ said JAICC chairman Louis
The JAICC said that it processed more
than 4,000 sets of commercial documents

for Irish exporters last year, and expected
to see this figure grow by the end of this
‘‘Every document going to the Arab
world has to have our stamp on it to ensure
that goods travel smoothly and swiftly
through the ports,’’ said Maguire. ‘‘It’s
not absolutely necessary to go through us
to do business in the Arab world, but it
makes things a lot easier.’’
Members are included in a list of
interested companies that is circulated on
a quarterly basis to all the major chambers
of commerce in the 19 Arab countries that
the JAICC represents.
‘‘We represent every Arab country and
have a network of contacts that spreads far
and wide. We can help identify markets,
organise warehousing, arrange contacts
and more,’’ said Maguire.
All trade enquiries, when received, are
immediately passed on to relevant
members and the JAICC can help Irish
firms match their products or services to
relevant markets in the Arab world.



Arab-Irish Commerce

e1 billion duty free business
still thrives after 25 years
Dubai’s duty free business,
established with the assistance
of Aer Rianta executives in 1983,
has been a winner ever since


ub a i D u ty
Fre e, wh i ch
o p e n e d fo r
business in
19 8 3, c e l e brates its 25th
anniversary this year and there
are plans to make this a truly
memorable occasion.
The anniversary is on December 20 and will be marked
with a 25 per cent discount on a
wide range of merchandise, in
what has become an annual
celebration for passengers travelling through the airport.
‘‘We started this promotion
when we celebrated our 20th
anniversary in 2003 and offered shoppers a 20 per cent
discount for that day,’’ said
manag i ng di re ctor C ol m
McLoughlin. ‘‘Sales soared to
a record high on that day, and
proved to be so successful that
we have continued to mark our
anniversary day in this way
ever since.’’
Sales to the end of September have reached $780 million
(e614 million), representing an
impressive 27 per cent increase
over the same period in 2007,
and placing the operation on
track for another record year.
Perfumes continued to hold
on to the number one category
as sales rose to $110 million
(e87 million), while sales of
gold rose by 35 per cent to
reach $92 million (e73 million)
in the nine-month period.
Other notable increases were
in electronics, which rose by 19
per cent and confectionery,
which rose by 36 per cent.
McLoughlin has been with
Dubai Duty Free since its
foundation. ‘‘It has been a remarkable journey over the past
quarter-century, and I am delighted to have been very much
a part of that,’’ he said.
‘‘The Dubai government
had approached Aer Rianta
back in July 1983, with a view
to setting up the duty free operation in Dubai International
Airport, and had given Aer
Rianta six months in which to
do this.
‘‘I was part of the original
ten-man team that travelled
over, and we quickly got a
sense of what was expected
from us in a very limited timeframe.The good news was that
we were starting with a blank
canvas as the duty free offer in
the former retail area was a
haphazard group of shops,
mostly selling the same products.
‘‘We had si x months i n
which to design and fit out the
duty free operation, recruit
staff, purchase the products
and set up the operation, so it
was all hands on deck. I stayed
on at the request of the then director general of Dubai Airp or ts, and wa s joi ne d by
George Horan, who is now our
deputy managing director, and
John Sutcliffe, who is now
managing dire ctor of Aer
Rianta International based in
From the beginning, their
brief was to create a worldclass duty free operation that
would provide travellers with
value for money, quality goods,
a wide range of merchandise,
excellent customer service and
a shopper-friendly environment.
‘‘These five principals are
very much relevant today,’’ said
‘‘In our first year of sales
[1984] we reached $20 million
[e16 million],which was fantastic. Some 25 years later, we expect our turnover to reach $1.2
billion [e945 million] for 2008.’’
Over the years, the operation has undergone many
transformations. ‘‘We now operate around 7,000 square
metres of retail space in terminals 1 and 2 at Dubai International Airport and on October
14, we opened another 8,000
square metres of retail space
in the new Emirates Terminal
3, which is very exciting.
‘‘The new operation has en-

abled us to increase our current
range of products in certain cat e gor i e s an d to ad d n e w
brands,’’ said McLoughlin.
Dubai International Airport expects to attract 40 million passengers this year and,
by 2011, the airport will cater
for 75 million passengers.
‘‘Dubai Duty Free has obviously benefited enormously
from the increase in passengers using the airport, but we
are happy to see that our sales
increase, which is about 27 per
cent to date, is higher than the
passenger increases.
‘‘Dubai Duty Free’s penetration level ^ the number of passengers who actually shop at
Dubai Duty Free ^ is about 45
per cent, which is way above
the industry standard of 20-25
per cent, so we are pleased with
that, but want to increase it
even further.’’
Emirates Terminal 3 at Dubai International welcomed its
first passengers last month.
‘‘For Dubai Duty Free, the
new terminal will provide us
with over 8,000 square metres
of additional retail space,
which more than doubles our
total retail offer.
‘‘The new Emirates-dedicated terminal is stunning,
and we are pleased with the location and positioning of the
duty free, which is on the same
level as the departure gates,’’
said McLoughlin.

The duty free area in Dubai Airport’s Terminal 3: Nic Bruwar, Sean Staunton, Sine
´ ad El Sibai, Ramesh Cidambi, Salah Tahiak, Colm McLoughlin, managing director, George
Horan, deputy managing director and Anne Smith
lar-sized warehouse centres in
Europe and the US. The semiautomated system works best
for our needs and we currently
employ 400 staff in the distribution centre,’’ he said.
‘‘The new head office will

One of the duty free gift shops and, below, the Dubai
Duty Free complex

‘‘The retail offering is similar to that in Sheikh Rashid
Terminal [Terminal 1], which
is also a beautiful retail area.
The main differences are an
extended fashion area, a larger
stand-alone gold shop and,
overall, a sense of a ‘shopping
boulevard’ in the departures of
Terminal 3,’’ said McLoughlin.
DDF recently opened its
new head office in Ramoul,
which is located beside a centralised warehouse and distribution centre for the duty free
operations in Terminals 1, 2
and 3.
‘‘Our former warehouse was
around 12,000 square metres,
whilst the new facility is 27,000
square metres and allows for
future expansion should we
need it. The aim is to have this
as a centralised warehouse and
distribution centre, as opposed
to using our other, smaller
warehouses near and around
the airport.
‘‘The new facility is semiautomated and is based on
many months of research that
involved visiting several simi-

also allow for future growth
and expansion. Dubai Duty
Free currently employs 3,500
with the majority of our staff
dedicated to the retail operation, which operates 24 hours
a day, seven days a week,’’ he
Perfumes continue to be the
top-selling category this year,
followed by liquor, tobacco
and gold.
‘‘When we first started back
in 1983, we quickly learnt that
Dubai, with its diverse cultural
mix,would mean that the basic
stalwarts of the duty free business would be slightly different.
Gold, for example, is seen as an
investment in the Asian subcontinent, and we sell over
three tonnes of 24, 22 and 18carat gold every year,’’ said
DDF has received numerous awards. ‘‘We labelled the
Frontier Awards the ‘Oscars of
the industry’, mainly as we won
the top Frontier Award for Airport Retailer of the Year more
times than anyone else,’’ said

‘‘We received the last one in
October last year at the annual
Frontier dinner in Cannes,
which is held during the Tax
Free World Association exhibition. In January this year we
were delighted to receive an
award from a New York-based
publication, Global Traveller
for Best Duty Free; while in
May we once again received
the Business Traveller Middle
East award for Airport Retailer and the DFNI award for
Travel Retailer of the Year,’’ he
While work on Dubai International’s $4.5 billion (e3.5 mill ion) ex p an s ion n e ar s
completion, work is already in
progress on a project to build
the world’s largest airport,
barely 40 kilometres away.
Up on c ompletion, D ubai
World Central ^ Al Maktoum
International Airport will
have the capacity to cater to
120 million passengers annually and handle 12 million
tonnes of cargo at its 16 air cargo terminals.
‘‘Phase one of Al Maktoum
International Airport is scheduled to open late 2009, and Dubai Duty Free will operate
around 4,000 square metres of
ret a i l sp a c e t h e r e,’’ s a id

shirts and baseball caps to
magnets, mugs and pens.
‘‘We also sell Guinnessbranded products, both clothing and gifts supplied fromTra-

ditional C raft and the
Sha m ro ck g i ft C ompany.
Waterford and Newbridge supply their extensive gift ranges
to our gift shop, particularly

popular for Christmas gifts,’’
said Tahir.
All the Irish products sold in
the gift shop are imported directly from Ireland. The DDF

buyer visits Showcase, the gift
exhibition held in the RDS in
D ubl i n ever y Janu ar y, to
source new products and meet
existing suppliers.

The Joint Arab-Irish Chamber of Commerce
Celebrating 21 successful years promoting and supporting trade and
commerce between Ireland and the Arab world.

Services include:
- Certification of commercial documents
- Legalisation of commercial documents

Irish products

- Translation to/from Arabic language

According to Saba Tahir,
acting purchasing manager at
Dubai Duty Free, sales of Irish
products have grown consistently in both Dubai Duty Free
retail outlets at Dubai International Airport and its gift shop
in the IrishVillage, which comprises the restaurant and pub
located in the grounds of the
Aviation Club (managed by
‘‘We list a number of products across different categories not least of all liqour,
with total sales of just over e1.5
million in 2007,’’ she said.
‘‘Of course, Baileys sales
dominate the Irish cream category with total sales exceeding
e1 million last year. Notable
whiskey brands that we sell include Jameson,Tullamore, Brogans and Kilbeggans,’’ said
Irish firm The Copyright
Company has supplied Dubai
Duty Free for almost ten years
with music, DVDs, tapes and
games for its music and entertainment shops.
‘‘We also sell the popular
range of Irish confectionery
Butlers, and a number of other
smaller confectionery products and items from toy suppliers based in Ireland,’’ she
The Irish Village gift shop
sells a variety of Irish village
own-brand souvenirs from t-

- Market information
- Trade advice
- Marketing and trade promotional activities
- Visa processing
Thank you to all our members and clients over the years who annually account for over
90% of Ireland’s exports to the Arab markets.
We look forward to supporting your success for many years to come.
The Joint Arab-Irish Chamber of Commerce was established in May 1987 as a non-profit
organisation under the auspices of the General Union of Chambers of Commerce, Industry
and Agriculture for the Arab Countries. The Board of the Chamber consists of 12 Arab
Directors who are nominated by the General Union, and 12 Irish Directors, who are elected
by the members and who represent a broad spectrum of Irish companies and industry
For more information, to avail of our services, or to join the Chamber as a member, go to
The Joint Arab-Irish Chamber of Commerce, 63, Lower Mount Street, Dublin 2
Phone: +3531 662 4451/662 1577

Fax: +3531 662 4729

Email: jaicc@indigo.ie




Arab-Irish Commerce
Irish firms look to the Middle East
numbers of
Irish companies
are seeking
to establish
a market
presence in the
booming Arab


a¤ n a i s t e M a r y
C oug h lan w i ll
lead a trade mission of 75 Ir ish
firms to the United Arab Emirates
(UAE) from November 24 to
27. Participating firms operate
in a variety of sectors, from
ICT and construction to pharmaceuticals and e-learning.
Applications for the trade mission have now closed, according to Jim Mongey, Enterprise
Ireland (EI) regional manager
for the middle east and north
Africa based in Dubai.
‘‘We’ll be glad to work with
clients one-to-one after the
mission is completed,’’ he said.
Irish companies receive support from EI to establish new
markets for their products and
services. ‘‘Our primary aim in
the region is to assist Irish companies in entering the middle
east and north African markets,’’ said Mongey.
A large part of EI’s remit is
to raise the profile of Ireland
as an attractive trading partner
that offers competitive, high
quality and technologically advanced products and services.
EI has had an office in Saudi
Arabia since the late 1980s, as
Saudi has always been one of
the larger markets for Irish
goods and services, he said.
The first office was in Jedda
and the office later moved to
In the 1990s, there was little
trade development with the
Gulf States of the United Arab
Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and the Sultanate of
Oman. However, according to
Mongey, trade with these second-tier markets has grown
over the last number of years,
particularly from 1997.
‘‘In recognition of these developments, and the increasing
importance of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region
to Irish companies, EI opened
a new regional office in Dubai
in September 2002,’’ he said.
‘‘The remit of the Dubai office now covers all the Arab
speaking markets, from Morocco to Syria, and also the
Muslim states of Iran, Pakistan
and Bangladesh.’’
The Gulf region now forms
part of the Enterprise Ireland
Southern Europe, Middle East
& Africa (SEMEA) region.
The Middle East offices
(Dubai and Riyadh) also service the Mediterranean rim
markets from Libya to Syria.
This aligns the Gulf with the
rest of the Arabic speaking
markets and will allow for
greater pan-Arab market development activities.
Mongey said the teams in
Dubai and Riyadh worked
with EI clients on a customised
one-to-one basis helping to
identify opportunities, open
doors and close deals. ‘‘In addition, Gulf markets, and most
notably Saudi Arabia, will be
an important focus of Enterprise Ireland’s newly formed
Dublin-based high growth
markets team,’’ he said.

Growth in trade
Trade between Ireland and

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, vice-president and prime minister of the UAE and ruler of Dubai, with Jim Mongey, regional manager for the Middle East and North Africa, Enterprise Ireland

the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
has been growing steadily in
recent years and Irish companies continue to flourish in
Saudi Arabia, said Mongey.
Figures for the year to November 2007 show that Irish
companies increased their
sales in Saudi Arabia by almost
12 per cent to e345 million. Irish-owned SMEs have been the
leaders in sales growth, achieving average year-on-year sales
increases of over 20 per cent.
‘‘The United Arab Emirates
is one of the most important
economies in the Gulf for Ireland,’’ said Mongey. ‘‘Dubai’s
position as the key hub for business operations across the
Middle East is due to its booming market, geographic position, pro-business
environment, global outlook
and highly professional way of
doing business. Dubai is also
the regional business base for
a large number of multinationals and emerging Arab regional companies.’’
Over the past ten years,
there has been a significant upsurge in trade between Ireland
and the UAE. It is now the fastest-growing market for Irish
companies in the Gulf region.
‘‘Total Irish exports have
more than doubled in the past
four years and there are now
more than 100 Irish companies
that export to the UAE.
‘‘In 2000, just one Irish company had a physical presence
here; now there are more than
20,’’ said Mongey. ‘‘A lot of
companies that were visiting
Saudi and the UAE for the first
time during the January 2007
trade mission are now seasoned exporters to the region.’’
Irish firms have been successful in winning business in
a number of key sectors such
as information technology and
telecoms software; healthcare
and pharmaceuticals; third level education; the utilities,
power and construction industries; and in e-learning and e-

Recent Enterprise Ireland activities

Comment from Ta¤naiste, Mary Coughlan

& October 2008: Leadership 4 Growth
programme for executives in the
construction industry, Dubai, October 1923
& October 2008: Gitex Dubai, ICT trade
show, October 19-23
& April 2008: Multi-sectoral trade
mission to Saudi Arabia, March 30-April
2, 2008 focusing on education services,
construction and ICT, led by Minister

‘‘Political and business ties between
Ireland and the Gulf region are already
very strong and I hope to be able to further
deepen the relationship during the course
of my visit.
‘‘This trade mission will aim to promote
Irish industry in the region, raise
awareness of Ireland as a source of worldclass products and services and support
Irish companies in accessing opportunities
in the Gulf.

Michael Ahern.
& April 2008: Dublin seminar on
construction market opportunities in the
Gulf Region including Saudi
& November 2007: Market study visit to
Dubai Air Show
& September 2007: 3GSM Dubai,
telecoms and software exhibition
& January 2007: Taoiseach-led trade
mission to Saudi Arabia and the UAE

‘‘We believe that Irish companies have
the potential to take increased market
share in many key sectors, particularly in:
telecommunications; IT; construction;
banking; public sector/utilities and
education and e-learning services and
mission participants will be representative
of these key sectors.
‘‘I am hopeful that the outcome of my
visit will also prove beneficial and that new
business partnerships will result.’’

Upcoming Enterprise Ireland activities
& November 2008: Trade mission to UAE
November 24-27, 2008
& 2009: Plans for 2009 projects are still
being formulated and await approval, but
key elements include:
& Trade mission to Kingdom of Saudi
Arabia and Qatar

government applications.
‘‘Selling to the Saudi Arabian and UAE markets requires a long-term
perspective,’’ he said.
‘‘More Irish companies are
establishing their market presence in Saudi Arabia and Dubai through strategic alliances,
technology collaboration and
other forms of partnerships
with local companies and institutions, thereby creating strong
Opportunities exist in the
Emirates and in the wider Gulf
region for all sectors of Irish
exports, said Mongey.
‘‘We believe that the significant opportunities in the region are matched by Ireland’s
supply capability in many key
sectors, and particularly in key
sectors where Irish companies
were already active, including
ICT and telecommunications;
construction; financial services; the public sector and utilities; and education and elearning services.’’ In April

& Trade mission to UAE
& Construction study visits to several Gulf
& Financial services opportunity
investigation visits
& Gitex Dubai, the key regional IT event

2008, the Minister for Innovation Policy, Michael Ahern led
an Enterprise Ireland trade
mission of 29 Irish companies,
from a wide range of sectors, to
Saudi Arabia and the United
Arab Emirates (UAE).
Participating companies
came from several sectors including telecoms, engineering,
automotive, risk management,
education, project management, and tourism and leisure.
The trade mission also included a strong education focus with a numb er of
participants from Irish thirdlevel education institutions.
‘‘For many years, hundreds
of students from Saudi Arabia
and the Gulf Region have
come to Ireland to study,’’ said
Recently, Irish institutions
received over 100 King Abdullah Scholarship Programme
(Kasp) students for postgraduate courses. By 2010, it is expected that more than 1,000
Kasp students from the pro-

gram me will have pass ed
through Irish education institutions.
‘‘We are particularly conscious of the enormous opportunities for Irish companies to
meet the needs of the booming
construction sector in the Emirates,’’ he said. ‘‘For this reason, Enterprise Ireland held a
major seminar on construction
opportunities in the Gulf in
Dublin in April.’’

Enterprise Ireland’s activities in the region are built
around two themes.
‘‘Firstly, we work proactively
with certain sectors where
there is a world-class supply
capability,’’ said Mongey. ‘‘Enterprise Ireland’s role is to
gather information on market
opportunities, to educate Irish
clients about the region, and to
introduce them to prospective

buyers through events like
trade missions.
‘‘Secondly, we work on a reactive basis with all clients, to
assist them to get into the Gulf
markets through a range of services and market contacts.’’
The key sectors with significant potential for Irish companies include:

The regional governments
are investing heavily in their
IT infrastructures and Irish
products have a strong competitive edge. While all countries
in the region are upgrading
their IT infrastructure, Dubai
and Saudi are particular targets for EI’s software companies where second telecoms
operators have been set up.

Construction and
utilities industry
The unprecedented construction boom in the UAE is
rolling into Saudi Arabia,
where large scale projects such
as the King Abdullah Economic City have been annou n c e d. T h i s c r e at e s a
demand for construction pro-

ducts and services that experienced Irish exporters are well
placed to pursue.
The utility investments
being made by governments
across the whole region in infrastructure and automation
offer excellent opportunities
for Irish companies.
The Leadership 4 Growth
programme saw 30 Irish executives travel to Dubai last
month to attend the first part
of a course to help them ’’internationalise’’ their businesses.

products and
With a population of 285
million, and growth rates of
two to ten per cent ayear, much
of it migrant labour,the market
for healthcare consumables in
the Arab world is growing rapidly. As well as stretching existing s er vic es, increas ed
personal income is pushing demand at the private end of
Saudi Arabia is investing in
its healthcare infrastructure
and services to improve the lot
of the working classes. With
very little penetration of the
market by Irish companies, EI
views this as a potential market
for companies with finished

products and with healthcare
informatics solutions.

E-learning and
This is a new sector for EI in
the region. As the Gulf becomes more computer literate,
the market for e-Learning is
expanding rapidly. In addition,
Irish experience in e-Government can be translated into
trade opportunities as the region’s governments go online.

Irish third-level education
institutions have attracted students from the Gulf Region to
study in Ireland for many
years. While traditionally students have enrolled in medicine, other courses are now
becoming popular.
In the academic year 20062007, there were more than
700 Gulf and Middle East students in Ireland. These students are attending both the
mainstream universities and
the institutes of technology.
Increasingly Arab countries
see the need to follow Ireland’s
example of creating a workforce that meets the demands
of local industries.

Irish exports manage to hold their own in tough
By Margaret O’Brien


espite the global
turmoil in financial
markets, Irish exports to the Middle
E a s t a n d No r t h A f r i c a
(MENA) are holding their
own.While we are showing positive export growth in some
countries within the MENA
region, in others we have failed

to recapture the export heights
of a decade ago, particularly to
North Africa.
Ireland’s main export to the
North Africa region is livestock, which has suffered dips
and swings by virtue of the foot
and mouth and BSE crises.
‘‘By comparing export levels
in 2000 to current export levels, we get a good indication
of where we stand,’’ said John
Whelan, chief executive of the
Irish Exporters Association.

‘‘For the first six months of
this year, our exports to North
Africa were valued at e126 million, an increase of over 1 per
cent over the same period last
‘‘However, for the first six
months of 2000, our exports totalled e304 million. So our exp or t s have dropp e d
dramatically to North Africa,
compared to eight years ago.’’
On a more positive note, Irish exports to the Middle East

John Whelan, Irish Exporters Association

region for January to June were
valued at e642 million, an increase of 5.5 per cent over the
same period last year.
‘‘For the entire year of 2000
our exports to the region totalled e1.18 million, so in essence Ireland has managed to
regain lost ground.’’
Ireland’s strength in 2000
was in the export of computer
components, but these exports
are down as Ireland’s own
computer industry has contin-

ued to shrink dramatically.
Ireland’s greatest export
achievements to the region are
to the United Arab Emirates
(UAE) and Saudi Arabia.
‘‘Our exports to the UAE
stand at e172 million for the
first six months of this year,
whereas in 2000 that was the
figure for the entire year, so we
have made substantial strides
in that market,’’ said Whelan.
‘‘We exported a diversity of
goods to Dubai, which is un-

dergoing huge expansion.
Everything from seven-star
hotels to state of the art educational developments are going
ahead in Dubai.
‘‘As such,they are importing
everything ^ industrial components, pharmaceuticals, medical devices and chemicals,’’
said Whelan.
Ireland is also g ai n i ng
ground in Saudi Arabia. ‘‘Ireland exported e281 million to
Saudi Arabia in 2000, whereas



Arab-Irish Commerce

Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange is headed byTom
Healy, whose brief is to develop the eight-year-old
exchange and bring it in line with international
standards. E¤ibhir Mulqueen reports
Tom Healy, director general, Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange. Above left: the securities exchange trading floor


Healy optimistic about Abu Dhabi


ithin three
months of
retiring as
head of
the Ir ish
Stock Exchange (ISE),Tom Healy found
himself in the emirate of Abu
Dhabi with a new exchange to
develop in an exciting business
environment powered by oil
Despite graduating in an era
of high emigration, it was the
first time the man from Kinnegad had worked overseas,
apart from doing some international consultancy, and after
20 years of heading up the ISE,
more consultancy work was
what he expected.
Still only aged 57, he said he
was probably preparing himself for working overseas. He
had been offered a few directorships and they were all foreig n. But after he went to
Spain last year for a three-week
holiday with a golden handshake of e520,000, he was beginning to feel bored. Then a
headhunter offered him the
position of director general of
the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange, a position which had
been open for some time.
‘‘I had hardly heard of the
place, never mind seen it,’’ he
said. ‘‘But, it sounded very interesting. It is an interesting
part of the world. I took the
view that if it did not work out
I could always go home. I
sig ned a contract for two
When he says the place is
‘‘interesting’’, he means, as he
puts it, that he meets more
heads of international banks
in a month there than he did in
20 years in Ireland.
‘‘All of the investment banks
in the world are beating a path
to here these days,’’ he says.
The Gulf states, while not
immune from recession, can
count on continued international demand for their main
export, oil, the revenues from
which are fuelling massive economic development on the domestic front.
‘‘You have to have big plans
and big plans get developed
here. It is partly culture and it
is partly money ^ they can afford to do it.’’

He points to a huge development plan for Abu Dhabi that
will continue until 2030 for a
city that is expected to more
than treble in population. ‘Plan
Abu Dhabi 2030: Urban Structure Framework Plan’ envisages a new airport, metro and
capital district, for the city of
820,000 people, as well as huge
housing projects and eco villages in the desert.The population of the UAE capital is
expected to grow to three million in that time.
‘‘They can afford to fund all
of it without borrowing a single
penny of it,’’ says Healy.
Banks are not nearly as
badly hit as in the western
economies, he adds, and if they
need to be re-capitalised, the
funds are there.
It may also help that governments in the region still have
large shareholdings in them,
although the trend has been towards full privatisation.
He compared the relative
decline in the regional bourses
compared to their western
counterparts during the worst
of the recent turmoil. The bigger ones, like the Saudi and
D uba i exchang e s, fel l by
around 40 per cent. Abu Dhabi’s fell by over 20 per cent at
its worst and is down 28 per
cent this year but Healy is confident that the index is well
placed internationally going
‘‘The banks and the local
companies are all heavily investing in the local economy
and the local economy is growing very fast.
‘‘It is one of the few places
that are still growing. The Abu
Dhabi economy will grow by
nearly 10 per cent this year,’’
he says.
Regionally, Abu Dhabi is in
a loose economic union with
the other six emirates, Saudi
Arabia, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait
and Bahrain through the Gulf
Cooperation Council (GCC).
Healy noted that members are
working towards monetary union and a common currency
within two years while harmonising trade links, but stressed
that it is not at the level of the
‘‘It is like a very early stage
European Union. There is no

‘You have to
have big
plans, and
big plans get
here. It is
culture and
partly money
– they can
afford to
do it’

capital of the GCC. We do not
find ourselves going to meetings. There is not even a group
of GCC stock exchanges.’’
He took up the position of
director general on September
7 last year, enduring a few
weeks of temperatures in the
high 30s before they settled
into a more pleasant range until the following summer. ‘‘For
nine months of the year,the climate is as close to idyllic as you
can get,’’ he said.
In broad terms, he said, his
brief is to develop the eightyear-old exchange to international standards, make it ‘‘internationally more relevant’’
and position it as a leading ex-

c h a n g e r e g i o n a l l y. Wit h
bourses also in Dubai, Oman,
Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait and
Saudi Arabia there is plenty of
competition in seeking to
achieve the third aspiration.
The Abu Dhabi exchange is
dominated by the banking sector and real estate companies.
Across 65 listed companies it
has a combined market value
of around e100 billion. However, he said he expected the
number of listed companies to
grow to more than 100 over
the next two years as listing
rules ease and the economy expands.
‘‘In terms of developing it,
we want to develop new product areas,’’ he adds.
Last March, he announced a
c ol lab orative ef for t w ith
NYSE Euronext to develop a
derivatives market and a trading system that will give Abu
Dhabi global reach for investors.The exchange is switching
from the platform provided by
Nasdaq OMX G roup Inc,
which is the platform used by
Healy’s closest competitor,
Borse Dubai, owner of Dubai’s
two stock exchanges, Dubai Financial Market and Dubai Inte r nat ional Fi nan c ial
A five-year strategic plan
was announced in May, which
includes listing ETFs (exchange traded funds) and establishing a bonds market.
‘‘We have got fairly big development plans, not all of which
have been shared publicly, so I
will not go into them,’’ Healy
He grew up on the family
farm in Kinnegad, Co Westmeath, and went to school in
St Finian’s College in Mullingar before studying economics
in Trinity. His family are in Ireland with the exception of one
daughter, an interior designer
who has moved to neighbouring Dubai. ‘‘The market has
dried up for people like that in
Ireland,’’ he says.
He travels home often, despite Abu Dhabi being as far
from Dublin as Chicago, by diverting from frequent business
trips to Europe.
But moving to the emirate
has been no big culture shock.
He finds the Arabs very similar

international markets
in the first six months of this
year we achieved e215 million
worth of exports, and therefore
are on track to export over
e400 million this year,’’ he said.
‘‘The two big export players
for us are the UAE and Saudi
Arabia and our exporters are
p owe r i ng ahe ad i n thos e
He believes that Irish exporters need to be supported because they ‘‘can deliver, ensure

a robust economy and a return
to more modest, but much
more sustainable levels of
growth for Ireland.
‘‘We are aware the government is conscious of the need
to further support our exporters and, to that end, two trade
missions will take place to the
Middle East over the next
One aspect of the trade missions is to ensure that a lot of

the technical skills developed
to support the construction industry here in Ireland in recent
years, can be exported to support projects in the Middle
‘‘For instance we need to sell
our design, engineering and architectural services, all of
which come under the heading
of services exports,’’ said Whelan.
‘‘In addition, there is a lot of

demand for software requirements in the region and our
software companies can do
well by selling their wares in
the Middle East.
‘‘The Middle East offers
huge potential for the export
of Irish services as well as
‘‘They have the money and
they are willing to pay for the
high quality goods we produce.’’

to the Irish in many ways, in
their friendliness and openness. ‘‘There tends to be a lot
of business done on a handshake. The character of the
people is quite easy to fit in
For now he has no plans to
learn Arabic, pointing out that
‘‘perfect English’’ is widely
spoken. ‘‘If I tried, they would
nearly expect me to do business

in Arabic. That would be dangerous for me.’’
He is not surprised at the
presence Irish companies have
built up in the region. Abu
Dhabi even has its own GAA
club although, he says, numbers dwindled during the Celtic Tiger years. B efore he
joined the ISE, Healy worked
for Co¤rasTra¤chta¤la, now the IrishTrade Board, the State body

charged with building export
business that is now part of Enterprise Ireland. ‘‘I know that
for a long time they were doing
good business,’’ he said of Irish
export companies.
But he now believes the business environment has got
tougher, with a lot more European and American companies adding to the competition.
When not at work, he likes

to walk, citing the ten-kilometre promenade on the city’s
seafront, close to where he
lives, as a favourite place.
He finds the security in the
emirate to be discreet, saying
security is handled differently
to other areas. ‘‘It is discreet,
but it is not visible.The impression I have living here is it is not
an area where there is an awful
lot of policing going on.’’




Arab-Irish Commerce

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, vice-president and prime minister of Dubai, with a group of 31 chief executives from the Irish construction industry who visited Dubai

Building new relationships in Dubai
With its record success in setting and achieving ambitious development targets, Dubai was selected as the first stop on Enterprise Ireland’s
development programme to help construction industry leaders struggling in the current environment in Ireland, writes Caroline Allen


trip to Dubai
last month by
3 0 c o m p a ny
heads from the
constr uction
s e c tor i s a l ready generating activity in
Ireland.The trip was part of an
Enterprise Ireland initiative to
help chief executives accelerate
the internationalisation of
their businesses.
The programme has been
developed jointly by the Construction Industry Federation
and Duke Corporate Education. Along with building capability to internationalise their
businesses, the companies will
look at ways to collaborate to
develop projects overseas.
‘‘This will include benefiting
from the experience of similar
collaborations facilitated by
Enterprise Ireland in IT, software, biopharmaceuticals and
the food industry,’’ said Dermot Reidy, Enterprise Ireland’s
development adviser for the
construction sector. ‘‘We will
learn from the experience of
these industries as they collaborate in international markets.’’
Chief executives of contractor, quantity surveyor, project
management and construction
product companies partici-

pated in the Dubai trip,the first
part of a year-long business development and leadership programme. The visit provided a
high level of access to international players in the construction se ctor. Reidy said he
expected substantial deals
would be done within the next
year as a result.
During the visit, the group
met Sheikh Mohammed bin
Rashid Al Maktoum, who is
vice-president and prime minister of the UAE and ruler of
Dubai, as well as Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rash id A l Maktoum, c rown
prince of Dubai and chairman
of the executive council of Dubai.
The Irish executives also attended an executive briefing
by the chairman and chief executive of the Dubai Roads
and Transport Authority and
met with representatives from
a number of agencies working
towards the continued development of Dubai.
The UAE prime minister
said that he welcomed the
growing partnerships between
members of the Irish construction industry and the organisat io n s d r iv i ng D ub a i’s
ambitious development plans,
which include the creation of

world-class infrastructure.
Liam O’Donohoe, Enterprise Ireland’s head of leadership development, said the
Leadership 4 Growth programme had proven hugely effective in other sectors, such as
software, in building both leadership capability and organisational capability to succeed
in international markets.
‘‘The programme incorporates interaction with highranking industry leaders from
the reg ion and across the
worldwide construction industry. Brian Bruce, chairman of
Murray & Roberts, took part
in the initiative’s launch at the
IMI, Dublin, a month ago. His
senior Middle East colleagues,
who lead Murray & Roberts,
met with the chief executives
in Dubai.’’
Dubai was selected as the location for the first module in
the programme because Enterprise Ireland recognises its
success in achieving ambitious
development projects.
‘‘Dubai’s success, ambition,
drive and record of achievement sit very closely with Irel a n d ’ s a m b i t i o n ,’ ’ s a i d
Dubai’s Mohammed Bin
Rashid Programme for Leadersh ip D evelopment

drive and
record of
sit very
closely with

(MBRPLD) is recognised as
an innovative leadership programme. It was launched by
Sheikh Mohammed Al Maktoum to develop national leaders who are willing and able
to promote the sustainable de-

velopment of the UAE.
Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid explained to the visiting
Irish construction chiefs the
reasons for launching the initiative, its growth and achievements, and h is future
ambitions for empowering
young leaders.
‘‘Ireland and Dubai are both
investing and focusing heavily
on leadership development,’’
said O’Donohoe.
‘‘Enterprise Ireland provides a range of development
programmes for its clients to
help build their leadership and
innovation capability to succeed in international markets,’’
O’Donohoe said.
‘‘One of the hallmarks or
competitive advantages that
Ireland Inc has and will increasingly have, is leaders who
have the ambition, confidence,
strategy and leadership capabilities to deliver exceptional
results to their customers, and
hence grow their companies,’’
he said.
‘‘If we aim to be the economy with the strongest leaders
in our companies,then we need
to conne ct the m with the
world’s best,’’ said O’Donohoe.
This is the first time that Enterprise Ireland has worked
with leaders from the construc-

tion sector on this type of programme. Previous Leadership
4 Growth programmes run for
executives in technology, life
sciences and services, have
been delivered by Stanford
Graduate School. This time,
Duke Corporate Education,
ranked as number one worldwide for customised executive
education by the Financial
Times and Business Week, was
selected as partner.
Enterprise Ireland hopes to
run the leadership programme
for the construction sector several times, depending on interest and demand, said
‘‘Ireland’s construction industry already has a number
of worldwide players and huge
capability, based on performance and experience in Ireland and the international
markets. The ambition now ^
and this project started in early
2007 ^ is to enable the industry
to grow into a series of successful international companies
that work together, collaborate
and partner to deliver value,’’
said O’Donohoe.
He said the sector contained
all the ingredients to succeed
internationally, particularly if
it could find the right combinations or partnerships to bring

value to international clients.
Finn Lyden, chief executive
of Siac construction group,
said the visit was designed to
encourage participants to
think outside the box on the
markets in which they were
currently operating.
‘‘It was very interesting for
people in the construction industry to visit Dubai because
there are fantastic things going
on there,’’ said Lyden. ‘‘The vision of Sheikh Mohammed bin
Rashid Al Maktoum and how
that is being implemented is
‘‘Their Metro project is 75
kilometres long, of which 15
kilometres is underground
with big chunks of the overground on stilts, which looks
great, and for which the total
cost is e3 billion,’’ Lyden said.
‘‘A big part of our business is
civil engineering and, until recently, that had good prospects
in Ireland. However, it is clear
now that the government will
not maintain the capital programme in Ireland, and therefore we are going to have to
look at other opportunities.
‘‘The Middle East is certainly a very interesting place
and there is great ambition to
get projects up and running.
They are very open to interna-

tional companies to come and
do business there and we have
seen enough to investigate the
market very closely.’’
Paul O’Brien, managing director of Henry J Lyons Architects, agreed that the trip had
been hugely beneficial. ‘‘It involved a cross section of the Irish construction industry and
allowed us to gather and talk
about fresh ideas and tackling
markets, not just in the Middle
East but in other emerging
markets such as eastern Europe and further afield.
‘‘Meeting with senior leaders in the UAE and forging
new links was immensely valuable and Enterprise Ireland
was a huge facilitator in the entire process,’’ he said.
The links between Ireland
and Dubai will develop further
whenTa¤naiste and Minister for
Enterprise,Trade and Employment Mary Coughlan leads a
trade mission to the region later this month with up to 80 Irish companies in attendance.
Jim Mongey, Enterprise Ireland’s regional director, based
in Dubai, sees the trade mission (one of the biggest ever)
as the next major step in developing the links between Dubai
and Ireland in the public and
private sectors.

Major opportunities in e1.4 trillion Gulf building projects
Massive construction projects across the Gulf region
present huge opportunities for Irish construction
sector companies, writes Tom Kelly


hen it comes to
construction in
the Gulf region,
the words ‘largest’, ‘biggest’, ‘first’ and ‘best’
all come to mind.
The Gulf region has become
synonymous with iconic, eyecatching hotels, imaginative recreation parks and almost unbelievable man-made islands
grouped into the shape of palm
trees, the world, even the universe.
The scale and ambition of
the developments across the
region are truly amazing. Constr u c t ion proj e c t s wor t h
US$1.8 trillion (e1.4 trillion)
are under way in the Gulf
States, which include the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain
and Oman.
In this fast-growing region,
the surge in oil prices for most
of the last two years, as well as
tourism and real estate revenues, are providing the funding
for ambitious projects to tackle

the infrastructural deficits in
are as such as hospital ity,
health, sports, education, infrastructure and property.
Forecasts indicate that the
economies of the Gulf Cooperative Council (GCC) states
will stay strong well into the
2020s, so the short-term effort
to enter the market is likely to
be sustainable in the longterm.
Opportunities in the Gulf
are firmly based on visionary
plans by strong local leadership and are driven by a real
need for major structural upgrading. Because of the strong
wealth base, resources are
available and there is an assured future income flow.
In Saudi Arabia, the construction market is expected to
grow at a compound rate of 5.8
per cent ^ driven by growing
population, increasing foreign
direct investment, government
incentives and strong economic performance. Six economic
cities, each with an approxi-

mate price tag of $16 billion
(e13 billion), are to be completed by 2020.
In the United Arab Emirates, spending in the construction sector will increase to over
$63 billion (e50 billion) by
Among the planned projects
is the Nakheel Waterfront, a
development that will transform 1.4 billion square feet of
empty desert and sea into an
international community for
an estimated population of 1.5
million (twice the size of Hong
Meanwhile in Qatar,the $2.5
billion (e2 billion) Pearl of the
Gulf man-made island project
is set to take off and the country hopes to spend $100 billion
(e79 billion) on investment and
infrastructure projects by 2012.
However, this rapid pace of
development is creating bottlenecks and gaps that represent
opportunities for firms in the
Irish construction sector. A
strong need exists for building

Tom Kelly, head of Industrial and Life Sciences,
Enterprise Ireland
supplies, consultancy services,
design, contracting companies,
project management, sustain-

ability and environmental servic es, water, waste water,
renewable energy and more.

Capacity constraints, such as
shortages in materials,technologies and labour, are the main
barriers to implementing a
more rapid pace of construction activity.
Ramping up business in the
Gulf is resource-intensive in
the beginning, so getting in
there is not cheap or easy. But,
domestic capabilities in highvalue and technology solutions
are limited and Irish construction companies, with their decades of experience, are ideally
placed to meet that gap and develop business in the Gulf, part i c u l arly a s t h e bu i ld i ng
specifications rise.
Enterprise Ireland has begun to put particular focus on
the Gulf States ^ particularly
so in the case of construction.
There are plenty of opportunities for Irish companies to
seize part of this vast market
and, given the scale of the projects under way, a small slice of
this could have a dramatic effect on turnover.
Significant opportunities
also exist in Kuwait, Bahrain,
Oman, Egypt and Jordan ^ driven by growing populations,
infrastructural investment, foreign direct investment and expanding tourism. In April
2009, Enterprise Ireland seminar ‘Doing Business in the

Gulf’ was very well attended
and since then, a number of
visits by groups and individuals
have been made to the region.
The most recent Enterprise
Ireland event in the region involved over thirty chief executives from al most al l the
leading firms in the construction sector, including contracto r s , a r c h it e c t s , p roj e c t
managers, specialist services
and building materials firms.
They were there as part of
the Leadership for Growth
programme, aimed at accelerating the internationalisation
of Ireland’s construction industry ^ especially into rapidly
growing regions like the Gulf.
In late November, Ta¤naiste
Mary Coughlan will lead a
trade delegation to the region.
After decades of developing
trade relations between Ireland
and the Middle East, access to
the market has become less
tricky and over the years, a
strong network of Irish senior
executives with substantial experience in the industry in the
Middle East has been built up.
To date, people in this network have been extremely
helpful in guiding Enterprise
Ireland and its clients regarding opportunities and complexities in the market.
Perhaps not surprisingly, gi-

ven Ireland’s long tradition of
producing first-class civil engineering graduates and their
willingness to travel, decisionmakers on projects are often
expatriate engineers with a
good awareness of Irish expertise,while Enterprise Ireland itself has a number of very
experienced executives based
in our hub office for the region
in Dubai.
For Irish firms interested in
developing business opportunities in the Gulf, a call to our
Dublin offices in East Point
Plaza may be a good place to
A company should have a
reasonable level of financial
strength and a willingness to
invest resources and senior
management commitment for
an extended period if it is to
Skills in forming partnerships and alliances and, in
some instances at least, having
uniqueness in the product or
service offered may be critical
success factors. For those companies that do venture forth,
the potential rewards are great
and the challenge posed deserves careful consideration.
Tom Kelly is head of Industrial and Life Sciences at
Enterprise Ireland



Arab-Irish Commerce
RCSI in major Bahrain
healthcare development

The new RCSI Medical University of Bahrain campus: the Middle East is poised to become a major destination for global healthcare over the next five years

The Medical University of Bahrain,
established by the Royal College
of Surgeons, is central to an
emerging global healthcare hub,
writes E¤ibhir Mulqueen


he new RCSI Medical University of
Bahrain (MUB) is
p oi s e d to h el p
t r a n s for m t h e
country into a major centre for healthcare as it
trains a new generation of
medical practitioners and fosters links with medical institutions abroad.
Chief among these is the
Dublin-based Royal College
of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI),
its parent college, which established the Bahrain college four
years ago at the invitation of
the Gulf state’s government.
RCSI chief executive Michael Horgan, a director of
MUB, said developing this international platform is not just
good for the college, but will
help put Ireland on the map as
a global leader in healthcare
‘‘The benefit of our approach to international education is that it gives students a
wider perspective on the challenges of global healthcare and
encourages participative problem solving,’’ he said.
With healthcare tourism already well established in such
places as Singapore, Thailand,
Brazil and the Lebanon, the
Middle East is poised to become a major destination for
global healthcare over the next
five years, Horgan added.
A year after the Medical
University of Bahrain was formally established, RCSI began
operations in Dubai, with a
campus now located in Dubai
Healthcare City (DHCC) that
has 130 students enrolled on
two masters programmes ^ an
MSc in Healthcare Management and an MSc in Quality
and Safety in Healthcare ^ under licence from the UAE Ministry of Higher Education.
DHC C i s a 2 0 m i l l io n
square foot site, comprising a
hospital, clinics and wellness
centres, as well as the Al Maktoum Harvard Medical Library, the biggest medical
library in the Gulf Co-operation Council region.
Harvard Medical School
Dubai Campus has been instrumental in setting up the
DHCC and is working closely
with RCSI to develop student
The people taking the masters programmes are already
qualified health professionals,
such as doctors, dentists, pharmacists and nurses.
‘‘ T h e a i m o f t h e p r o grammes is to help these profe s s i o n a l s d e v e lo p t h e i r
managerial and leadership
roles within the healthcare system,’’ said Horgan.

RCSI in Dubai also offers
training and consultancy to
health professionals in management, leadership, quality,
patient safety and professional
‘‘Our primary area of res e arch i nterest is patie nt
safety,’’ said Horgan.
The institutional links also
help foster student interchange
programmes,with regular traffic between the Dublin, Dubai
and Bahrain campuses. For example, last July the RCSI
hosted the International Leadership Summer School which
was well attended by students
from Dubai and Bahrain.
‘‘The programmes in Dubai
are designed in such a way that
students can take their modules in Dubai, Bahrain or Ireland,’’ Horgan s aid. ‘‘We
encourage students to travel
and take their modules overseas. It also gives them the opportunity to visit hospitals in
those countries and build an
international network with
ot h e r h e alt h c are profe s sionals.’’
He p oi nt s out t hat t h e
healthcare market in Dubai is
set to grow by 14 per cent in
the next five years following a
tenfold increase in the population since the seventies and
further projected annual increases of 6 per cent.
‘‘Every year Arabs spend
$20 billion on overseas healthcare services, and $2 billion is
spent in the UAE on overseas
healthcare services each year,’’
he said.
Horgan started working for
RCSI in 1976, mainly in faculty
administration and managing
exams, both in Ireland and
overseas. He was also involved
in personnel management and
overseeing capital projects,
such as the development of the
Mercer Library and student
accommodation. He became
deputy chief executive in 1995
and took over from Professor
Kevin O’Malley as chief executive in 2004 when O’Malley
took up the position of founding president of MUB.
Horgan said RCSI’s international activities had developed
organically over the past four
decades to the point where
they are developing sister universities. ‘‘We have a long tradition of supporting developing
nations and their healthcare
systems through innovative
e du c at ion, tra i n i ng pro grammes and healthcare management services,’’ he said.
Since the 1970s RCSI has
been involved in running fellowship courses and examinations in surgery in the Middle
East and in Malaysia. In the

Michael Horgan, chief executive, RCSI

Professor Kevin O’Malley, foundation president of
RCSI Medical University of Bahrain
1990s RCSI was involved in
the management and operation of the North Wester n
Armed Forces Hospital in Tabuk, Saudi Arabia.
‘‘Our focus is on developing
additional revenue streams for
RCSI, to enable us to fulfil our
noble purpose. We define this
as ‘Building on our heritage in
surgery, we will enhance human health, through endeavo u r, i n n ov at i o n a n d
collaboration, in education, research and service’.’’
RCSI Medical University of
Bahrain originally came about
through the Dublin college’s
relationship with Dr Faisal
Mousawi, who completed his
surgical training in Ireland in
the seventies. Dr Mousawi invited RCSI to begin surgical
training and exams in Bahrain.
‘‘This relationship spans over
30 years of surgical training

and examinations, healthcare
management programmes and
primary care residency programmes,’’ said Horgan.
He explains that the original
motivation behind expanding
abroad was that the RCSI had
been near full capacity. Developing colleges overseas was a
way of growing the institution.
The first students graduated
from Penang, the first college
to be set up, seven years ago
and, in Dubai, 86 students have
graduated from the two masters programmes since 2005.
Prof Kevin O’Malley, former head of RCSI and now
the foundation president of
RCSI Medical University of
Bahrain, said the idea for the
new institution emerged five
years ago.
‘‘While the original idea was
not mine, it was one that attracted me straight away. I was

The preliminary masterplan for the Bahrain Health Oasis
interested in the challenge inherent in such a venture in a
new culture,’’ he said.
A memorandum of understanding was signed between
the RCSI and the Bahrain gover nment in October 2003,
marking the first formal move
to set up the new university.
O’Malley retired early from
his position as chief executive
of RCSI to take up the new position in September 2004. The
temporary facility was officially opened by the prime
minister of Bahrain and the
then taoiseach, Bertie Ahern.
O’Malley said that in the
same week of the opening, the
first cohort of 27 medical students was admitted. ‘‘In a short
four years our student numbers have risen to 600. Our
medical student intake is now
125 per year,’’ he said.
Last month, after operating
from temporary accommodation for four years, the Medical
University of Bahrain’s (MUB)
state-of-the-art new campus
opened in Muharraq, although
the official opening will not be
until February.
The opening is a mark of the
success RCSI has had in establishing medical colleges and
providing internationally recognised medical and nursing
program mes abroad, with
MUB being one of the most
ambitious of these endeavours.
The building’s architecture
is symbolic of this ambition, incorporating Celtic and Islamic
motifs and drawing from the
history of the two cultures.
The building has two main
areas, connected by bridges
and galleries.
The university now has a capacity of 2,000. The student
body is an international one,
with around 30 countries represented, including six from
Ireland, who usually attend for
one semester. ‘‘This mobility is

facilitated by there being identical courses held simultaneously on both campuses,’’
O’Malley said.
As a medical university, it
has ac c ess to Ministr y of
Health hospitals and the Bahrain D efence Force Royal
Medical Services Hospital. In
addition, a new hospital being
built alongside the campus,
the King Hamad General Hospital,will be a teaching hospital
for the university when it opens
next year. It is expected that the
RCSI will manage and operate
the 300-bed acute public hospital on behalf of the Ministry of
It al l for m s par t of the
Health Oasis, an international
centre of excellence for Bahrain extending over approximately 60 hectares of multiple
inter-related facilities that are
anchored by three keystone
projects: the MUB, the general
hospital and the Oasis Private
The centre also includes hotels, a shopping mall, offices
and residential units for students and staff.
RCSI-MUB, with 60 fulltime staff, provides courses in
medicine and nursing, as well
as a master’s course in Ethics
and Legal Medicine in the
new university building.
‘‘We are currently examining the feasibility of a number
o f o t h e r u n d e r g r a d u at e
courses including dentistry
and pharmacy and also some
masters courses,’’ said O’Malley.
Most of its academic staff
are Irish, but people from the
region are also represented.
‘‘Most of the administrative
staff come from Bahrain,’’ said
O’Malley. ‘‘We believe that we
have a good mixture of Irish
and Arabic professionals in
our academic and administrative staff.’’




Arab-Irish Commerce
Etihad Airways helps UAE growth take off
Abu Dhabi is at the centre of a
booming aviation industry in the
Middle East, which has seen
carriers in the Gulf grow hugely


tihad Airways is
playing a crucial
role in dr iv ing
economic growth
across the United
A rab Em irates
(UAE), according to a major
study published recently by
Oxford Economics, a leading
British think-tank.
Etihad’s expansion is set to
support the creation of more
than 100,000 jobs in the next
ten years. The figures are all
the more impressive considering that Etihad has been operating for just five years.
According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the Middle East
witnessed growth of more than
18 per cent in passenger traffic
during 2007, compared with 7.4
per cent growth in passenger
traffic globally.
The report predicts growth
in the region between now and
2015 of more than 7 per cent ^
the highest of any region in the
world and outperforming the
forecasted global average of
5.3 per cent.
The growth also mirrors the
Middle East’s increasing emergence as a new focal point of
global aviation and a natural
air bridge between east and
west. Abu Dhabi’s geographical location makes it a gateway
to the Middle East, and Etihad
Airways operates connections
to 11 destinations in the region,
with flights to Amman, Bahrain, Beirut, Damascus, Damman, Muscat, Doha, Jeddah,
Kuwait, Riyadh and Tehran.
Etihad’s Dublin to Abu
Dhabi route currently uses an
Airbus A330-200, carrying
262 passengers and offering
the airline’s award-winning,

business-class flatbed seat.
In March, Etihad Airways
initiated a daily service from
Dublin Airport to its international hub in Abu Dhabi. This
eliminates the inconvenience
of having to travel to London
and mainland Europ e for
long-haul travel, meaning that
time-consuming connections
via Heathrow and Charles de
Gaulle are a thing of the past
for Irish travellers.
‘‘Strong and steady demand
for Etihad’s services encouraged us to increase our services
from Dublin to Abu Dhabi.
The introduction of a daily service signals our commitment
to the Irish market, and our
confidence in Etihad’s Dublin
route, which offers greater access for business and leisure
travellers,’’ said James Hogan,
chief executive of Etihad Airways.
Reaping the rewards of this
strateg y, Eti had re c e ntly
posted a 35 per cent increase
in passenger figures for the
first nine months of 2008. The
Abu Dhabi-based airline carried 4.4 million passengers
across its global network of 48
destinations, compared with
3.3 million for the same period
in 2007 between January 1 and
September 30.
Seat factors in the same period averaged 75 per cent, representing a year-on-year increase
of seven percentage points.The
Dublin route, which celebrated
its first anniversary in July, recorded monthly loads as high
as 95 per cent and an average
monthly seat factor of 81 per
‘‘Etihad’s Irish route has delivered an exc ellent nine month performance, increas-

‘Strong and
demand for
us to
increase our
from Dublin
to Abu
Dhabi. The
of a daily
signals our
to the Irish

The dramatic interior of Abu Dhabi Airport: the emirate attracts about a million visitors a year
ing capacity and revenue despite current market
conditions and an industry
backdrop that remains challenging,’’ said Beatrice Cosgrove,
Etihad Airways Irish country
manager. ‘‘Our commitment
to the Irish market is unwavering and this has been strongly
reflected in our sponsorship of
the GAA Hurling All-Ireland
Senior Championship.’’
The airline, which celebrates
its fifth birthday this month,
has come a long way since
making its first flight on November 5, 2003. Since then, the

airline has added 48 destinations, making it the fastestgrowing airline in the history
of commercial aviation. Now,
the national airline of the
UAE has become an established player on the global aviation map, and has cemented
Abu Dhabi’s position as a gateway to the Middle East.
Etihad signed one of the largest aircraft orders in commercial aviation history in July this
year, for up to 205 aircraft in a
deal worth $43 billion (e34 billion), at the Farnborough air
show in Britain,

The carrier has also won
several global awards across
the aviation industry during
2008 for the quality of its cabin
crew, website and in-flight customer s er vic e. It re c ently
scooped top honours at the
World Travel Awards (WTA),
including the top accolades for
the Middle East’s leading airline, leading first-class airline
and leading travel website.
Etihad’s growth reflects its
belief in the future plans of its
hub in Abu Dhabi, which will
see approximately $200 billion
(e156 billion) being invested by
Abu Dhabi airport in developing its facilities over the next
ten years.

Abu Dhabi is the largest
emirate in the UAE and the nation’s capital city, and is fast becoming a dynamic business
and tourist destination, combining its strong heritage and
culture with exciting future development plans.
Abu Dhabi attracts about a
million visitors a year and the
Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority
is projecting that this figure
will rise by 2.7 million visitors
a year by 2012.This will be driven by developments such as
the Formula One Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
and cultural tourism projects
like the Guggenheim and
Louvre museums.

The business class lounge of Abu Dhabi Airport

Commercial Profile: KCM Recruitment

The right approach to
foreign recruitment
By Post Reporter


CM Recruitment is a privately-owned
Irish recruitment c omp a ny e s t ab lished by industry-qualified
construction professionals.
We have developed a strong
reputation as international
recruitment specialists by
providing an honest approach
to meeting requirements from
both clients and candidates.
All our employees gained
practical, worldwide construction experience before
developing careers in recruitment.
Due to the ongoing slowdown in construction output
in Ireland and the general global downturn, KCM has noticed a huge increase in the
number of construction professionals who are interested
in relocating to the Middle
East, one of the few areas
where the construction industry is still vibrant.
KCM has develop ed a
large client base, which comprises contractors, consultancies and project management
companies in the Middle
East, and has found suitable
positions for large numbers
of Irish construction professionals. These roles have varied from senior executives to
project engineers across all
corporate areas, including legal and financial sectors.
While a significant number
of the positions are in the
UAE and Saudi Arabia, we
have also sourced positions
for candidates in other Gulf
States. These candidates have
been interviewed by our clients in Ireland, via phone interviews or by travelling to
the region to meet the client
in their local offices.
We are keenly aware that
the decision to relocate can
be difficult, especially if the
candidate has family and


Directors of KCM Recruitment Denis Mullin, Gerry Keigher & Kevin Clair
commitments at home. At all
times, we attempt to put ourselves ‘in the shoes’ of a candidate and give them the best
possible advice to assist them
in determining whether the
relocation would be suitable
for them. It is only when the
candidate has a strong concept of what the relocation
will entail that we proceed
with the application.
In general, companies in
the Middle East ^ whether international or regional ^ are
family-friendly and offer various allowances to facilitate
candidates relocating with
their families. The candidate
should be aware, however,
that they would normally
have to spend at least one
month in the country before
they could obtain visas for family members.
Packages vary and, depending on company policy,
candidates may be offered accommodation, transport and
education. Alternatively, allowances will be offered to facilitate these requirements.
All companies pay good bo-

nus es wh i ch are p er formance-related.
Candidates have various
reasons for relocating, depending on their personal circumstances. Some have either
lost their current positions or
are concerned that this may
happen in the near future.
Others choose the Middle
East for the experience, both
cultural and professional.
Most candidates plan to relocate for between two and
three years, with the intention
of returning to Ireland when
the economy improves.
At KCM, we attempt to assist the applicant in every way
possible, and only act with the
express permission of the
candidate. We provide as
much information as we can
on the area and the companies themselves. We arrange
all the interview procedures,
keeping the candidate constantly updated until an offer
has been made and accepted.
Our staff members organise flights and all the visa requ i re me nts, i ncludi ng
qualification attestation.

Where applicable,we put candidates in touch with agents
who help with finding appropriate accommodation. We
also, if required, put candidates in contact with others
w ho h av e a l r e a dy c o m menced employment in the
Middle East. We aim to make
the relocation as simple as
possible for our candidates.
Our company policy is to
encourage our own staff to
visit the region regularly, so
that information given to candidates is as current as possible.
If you are interested in
hearing more about employment within the construction
industry in the Middle East,
please contact our offices at
01-8744567 and ask to speak
to Denis Mullin, Gerry
Keigher or Kevin Clair. Alternatively, e-mail your det a i l s
t o
construction@kcmrecruitment.ie or visit www.kcmrecruitment.ie.
We offer our candidates
the same confidentiality we
would expect ourselves.

ood and drink exports
to the Arab countries
are forecast to reach
e300 million this year.
‘‘Saudi Arabia is the biggest
trade partner in the food sector, accounting for around
e170 million of these exports,’’
said James O’Donnell, international markets manager at
B ord Bia, the Ir ish Food
‘‘The next biggest is the United Arab Emirates, which imports nearly e40 million in
food and drink products from
He estimates that Irish exports of food and drink to the
Arab world have increased by
20 per cent in the last two
years.The bulkof these exports
are accounted for by dairy and
dairy-based ingredients like infant formula and whole milk
Me at ha s trad it ion al ly
played an important part in
Ireland’s exports, said O’Donnell, until a ban was placed on
imports of Irish beef in 2000
because of the BSE crisis.
‘‘Part of our action to reverse
that ban has been to highlight
the high levels of control procedures across the whole food
processing sector in Ireland,’’
he said.
In 2000, Ireland was generating revenues of e80 million
annually from beef exports to
Saudi Arabia alone.
‘‘The good news this year is
that in the last few months,
Saudi Arabia has agreed to reopen its market to Irish beef,’’
said O’Donnell. ‘‘We’d see ourselves being able to export Irish
beef as a premium product
over standard beef [like beef
from Brazil]. That will help
our trade.’’
Traditionally, Ireland has
had strong relationships with
the Arab world in terms of beef
exports built up by high levels
of exports in the 1980s and

James O’Donnell, international markets manager with
Bord Bia
‘‘Ir ish exporters are respected as understanding the
Arab culture and having a tradition of Halaal slaughter. The
meat is shipped in vacuumpacked containers,’’ he said.
Trade to the UAE has increased substantially ^ up 10
per cent this year, said O’Donnell. A small number of dairy
companies are doing a strong
trade. These companies have
to have Halaal certification,
which includes a guarantee of
no contact with pork products.
‘‘Moving forward, we’d see
significant potential for Ireland given the relationship to
Expansion program mes
within the airport sector across
the region will see the Middle
East capture an even bigger
slice of the global duty free
and travel retail business in the
next ten years.
‘‘The Arab world is a very
important duty free market.

There is a long tradition with
Aer Rianta, which has operated a number of duty-free centres on behalf of local
governments,’’ said O’Donnell.
‘‘Irish producers will be doing
quite a bit of business, predominantly in the area of alcoholic drinks and hand-made
fresh chocolates, Kerrygold
butter, cheeses and Barry’s
Drink exports include a
number of whiskeys and whiskey cream liqueurs.
The duty free sector is an
area of traditional links with
Ireland and is an area of significant future growth, according
to O’Donnell. ‘‘There are plans
to develop more duty frees in
the Middle East, including the
new concourse in Dubai airport, and expansion in Bahrain, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah.
‘‘The Dubai World Central
Airport to open in 2012 will
have an estimated passenger

capacity of 120 million.’’
As well as demand for products in the duty free sector,
there is huge growth and opportunity in western-style retail operations such as malls
and retail stores, said O’Donnell.
The westernisation of the
market and the substantial
number of western-style retail
centres in Saudi Arabia, for instance, represent opportunities
for Irish producers. In the
UAE, the large ex-pat community and large numbers of tourists repres ent further
opportunities in terms of a
market for Irish foods and
‘‘We look forward to seeing
development in our beef exports. And the market can support additional growth in the
export of dairy-based ingredients. Finally, areas like duty
free shops represent significant
opportunities for speciality
food producers.’’
Bord Bia works with Irish
exporters who are trying to sell
their products into Arab markets. ‘‘We have a representative
based in Dubai, so he would
make contact with Dubai Duty
Free and see what interest there
is in a product and the exporter
would take it from there.’’
Bord Bia provides information to Irish producers on various markets and areas where
there are opportunities for Irish companies. The board participates in trade fairs across
the Arab region.
‘‘We’ll have a national pavilion at the Gulf Food Fair taking place next February in
Dubai. We’d organise for a
number of Irish companies
from the dairy and meat industry to attend.’’
Building a personal relationship in business is key for Arab
traders before trade can start,
said O’Donnell. ‘‘They work
on trust. Once that is established, they are excellent trading partners and will remain
loyal to a supplier. Visiting the
market is key to developing
these relationships.’’



Arab-Irish Commerce
Jordan proves
attractive to
both tourists
and investors
By Joe Geoghegan


he historic site of
Petra was declared
one of the seven
wo nd e r s o f t h e
modern world in
July 2007. Not surprisingly, the number of tourists visiting th is amaz ing
place, and Jordan generally,
has increased significantly
since then.
Visitors from Ireland have
been travelling in growing
numbers to this destination,
and reporting very positive impressions and experiences on
their return.
Apart from Petra, Irish visitors have an opportunity to experience the desert, usually by
visiting the Wadi Rum in south
Jordan, where many scenes in
Laure nc e of A rabia were
Others holidaymakers enjoy
the renowned scuba diving in
the Red Sea at the Gulf of Aqaba, while many explore the
abundant historical and biblical sites dotted all around the

country. There’s also the opportunity to go to the lowest
place on earth, 420 metres below sea level at the Dead Sea.
Here many visitors from
Europe and elsewhere avail of
the famous healing properties
of the mineral-rich water and
Dead Sea mud, which have a
notable effect on psoriasis and
similar skin ailments. Then
there is the sublime experience
of simply floating in the densely saline water, which makes
it impossible to sink.
Jordan is an open and welcoming country that is well organised to receive and take
care of visitors from all cultures. English is widely spoken,
the people are very friendly
and helpful, hotels and restaurants are of an international
standard, and if th is isn’t
tempting enough, there are
three Irish pubs in Amman ^
just in case.
But Jordan is also an attractive commercial centre for Irish business people planning
to grow their markets in the region.
The cost of doing business in
and through Jordan tends to be

lower than in the crowded Gulf
There is also a well-educated
and skilled workforce from
which to draw, plus a modern,
efficient infrastructure ranging
from a sophisticated banking
system to good telecommunications, roads, airports and
shipping facilities.
In addition, the Jordan Investment Board is a dynamic
one-stop-shop for interested
investors and offers an enticing
range of incentives to attract
prospective overseas companies to establish themselves
For a long time, Jordan has
been the main commercial access point to the Iraqi market
and this pivotal role will continue in the future. There are
well-established commercial
connections between both
countries going back many
years and these remain active
today with avast array of goods
passing through Jordan en
route to Baghdad and other
centres in Iraq.
Irish companies are availing
of these connections to expand
their businesses into Iraq while

King Abdullah of Jordan and Joe Geoghegan, honorary consul of Jordan in Ireland
avoiding the risks currently involved in doing business there.
Jordan has been represented
on the board of the Joint ArabIrish Chamber of Commerce
since its inception 21 years ago
and is committed to continuing this relationship as a means
of further enhancing close bilateral ties.
Joe Geoghegan is honorary
consul of Jordan in Ireland

The monastery at Petra, Jordan’s ‘rose-red city half as old as time’

Middle East firms
invest in new markets
´ibhir Mulqueen
By E


iddle E ast er n
companies are
planning a major expansion
into new markets in India over
the coming years, a new survey
by KPMG International has
found. For corporate investors
in the major Gulf economies,
the UAE is the preferred location for 26 per cent of investors
over the next twelve months,
followed by Qatar (22 per cent)
and India (22 per cent). Saudi
Arabia, Bahrain and China
are joint third on 14 per cent.
However, in five years time,
34 per cent of investors expect
that India will be their major
focus, followed by UAE (22
per cent) and China (16 per
cent). Qatar is fourth, at 14 per
cent, the US fifth, at 12 per
cent, and Saudi Arabia sixth,
at 10 per cent.
‘‘This makes India far and
away the leader for future investments,’’ states the report,
which is entitled KPMG Middle East Capital Flows 2008 ^
a Study of Investment Intentions of Companies in the Midd le E a st. It c ont a i n s t h e
predictions of 50 senior corpo-

rate investment strategists.
Report author Abdelhamid
Attalla, a partner in KPMG’s
Egypt member firm, states
that,while for decades the Middle East had been a focus for
inward investment, increasingly the investment flow is
outward, ‘‘with Middle Eastern companies using the reg io n’s r e s ou r c e s to h e l p
establish their position in the
global economy’’.
The strategists, representing
large multinational companies
based in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain and Egypt, were asked a
series of questions on which
countries they planned to invest in other than their own.
Most of the companies surveyed were in the early stages
of international expansion,
with almost half (46 per cent)
investing in their chosen countries for the first time.
Attalla said the responses
suggested that large Middle
Eastern corporations were set
on becoming more international in their operations, but
were taking a cautious approach in their investment decisions.
‘‘The worldwide problems
with credit do not seem to worry these people very much.

Only 13 per cent think that this
will be a problem for the foreseeable future, and many say
that it will affect investment
plans for no more than two or
three years,’’ he said.
Of those who are reinvesting
in their chosen countries, 70
per cent plan to use the profits
from past investments to build
their presence, suggesting that
they prefer not to risk new
money until these investments
have proved themselves over
The most internationallyminded investors seem to be
thos e from Saudi A rabia,
whose intentions five years
from now are dominated by investments in India, China and
the US. Just over half (53 per
cent) of these investments will
be first entries into these countries.
By contrast, 80 per cent of
investments from Kuwaiti corporations will be into countries
where they already have a presence, mostly in other Gulf
states such as the UAE and Qatar. In five years’ time, India is
the choice of 40 per cent of Kuwaiti investors, but virtually all
other investment will still be in
countries in the Middle East
Attalla said that responses

to a question on which countries were expected to be most
influential in their sector show
a change in how the balance of
econom ic power was perceived to be changing, with
UAE growing more important
regionally, and China globally.
‘‘Among the Gulf States,
Saudi Arabia is expected to be
the most influential state in the
coming year, followed by the
UAE and Qatar. But in five
years, our respondents believe
that Saudi Arabia and the
UAE will be in equal first
place, as the investments now
being made into service industries in the UAE mature into
market influence.’’
Between next year and 2014,
China is expected to displace
the US as the most influential
country from outside the region,while India will also move
ahead of the US in terms of its
perceived economic influence.
‘‘This shows very clearly
that the rise of China and India
as global economic powers is
expected to be felt here just as
strongly as in the rest of the
world. For a region that has so
long been influenced by European and American business,
this may represent a major
shift in emphasis,’’ Attalla

Tourism increasingly important to Jordan’s economy
The tourism industry is a vital part of
Jordan’s economy, acting as the
kingdom’s largest private sector
employer, its second largest producer
of foreign exchange and contributing
more than $800 million, 10 per cent
of GDP, to the economy in 2006.
The country’s national tourism
strategy (NTS), established in 2004,
set some pretty ambitious targets:
doubling Jordan’s tourism figures
from 2003-2010, collecting $1.85
billion in sector revenues and
increasing the number of tourismrelated jobs to 91,719.
To meet these goals, the
government is employing a variety of

marketing and public relations
strategies, aimed at increasing the
level of average stay, which is
currently 4.1 days; promoting lesserknown destinations such as Umm al
Rasas, a less frequently visited
Unesco World Heritage Site, and the
country’s capital city, Amman;
upping the number of visitors from
the Gulf states, Japan and South
America; and encouraging family
The meetings, incentives,
conferences and exhibitions sector is
being promoted, while health tourism
is another burgeoning area.
Development is continuing apace,

and several billion dollars of
investment is being ploughed into
new hotels and resorts in Aqaba and
the Dead Sea region. This activity can
only be helped by the fact that Petra
has been voted one of the new seven
wonders of the world.
While the NTS goal of doubling
tourism sector figures by 2010 may
falter in terms of the number of
foreign arrivals, the sector is on
course to double revenue and the
number of tourism-related jobs by
that date.
Source: Oxford Business Group
(OBG), www.oxfordbusinessgroup.

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