How Irish firms can profit in Gulf nations

Growing populations, and demand for Western food, pave the way for Irish companies to grow

How Irish firms can profit in Gulf nations

KAMRAN JEBREILI / AP

Irish exports to the Arab nations of North Africa and the Middle East grew by more than 25% last year to a record €5.3bn with an estimated 450 Irish companies offering goods, services and personnel to the region.

But for all its growth potential it is a market that’s changing rapidly, and that presents considerable challenges, not least arising from the impact of lower oil revenues.

These challenges and opportunities will be discussed at a major Arab-Irish Business Forum to be held at the Printworks, Dublin Castle on April 15 next and one of those attending will be Sean Davis, Enterprise Ireland’s (EI) Regional Director of the Middle East and Africa he joined Breakfast Business from Dubai to discuss how Irish firms can profit in the region.

He told Newstalk that despite a tightening of fiscal policy in oil-producing countries as energy prices slump, there are still massive opportunities for Irish companies to enter or grow in these markets.

Mr Davis says that the population in the Gulf Cooperation Council nations of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates is due to grow by 33% to 53 million by 2020.

Along with this growth there is also a series of major infrastructural projects underway or in the pipeline in a number of Gulf countries, including plans linked to the controversial 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

The EI representative added that direct flights from Dublin to the Gulf have improved connectivity, and allow Irish companies to carryout primary research on the ground there.

He highlights Irish food goods as one area that has massive potential to grow, saying that there is a "natural synergy," as these countries import 90% of their food, while Ireland exports close to 90% of the food produced here.

There is also a growing demand for high-quality Western food - an area that Irish producers specialise in. He highlights Keogh's as an Irish producer which has already enjoyed success in the region.