Muscat: In an effort to boost Omani exports, 21 countries and 59 products with a high potential have been identified by Ithraa, a senior official of the Sultanate’s inward investment and international trade facilitator has said.
“There is probably no topic more important to an Omani CEO today than how they grow their business - and if you talk about where growth is going to come from in the next decade for local companies, it is going to be in tackling overseas opportunities. In fact, trading internationally is a natural step for many Omani businesses looking to grow and Ithraa is proud of the part it can play in assisting them harness the possibilities of foreign markets,” said Nasima Al Balushi, Ithraa’s Director General for Investment & Export.
Of particular interest are markets in the GCC, Sub-Saharan Africa and Iran, locations that have all hosted recent OPEX trade shows, an initiative spearheaded by Ithraa in partnership with OCCI and Madayn, she added.
According to the export and investment expert, while exporting extends an Omani company’s market, boosts turnover and reduces reliance on a domestic customer base, it is not always an easy option with challenges ranging from overcoming exchange rate fluctuations and dealing with cultural, legal and language barriers to meeting labelling requirements and coping with extended payment terms to maintaining a healthy cash flow.
“To help local businesses overcome any export problems they may encounter, Ithraa provides market intelligence, connects firms with our trade and investment representatives overseas, organises local and international trade events and educates companies about markets opened by Oman’s various free trade agreements,” Al Balushi added.
Accelerating Oman’s drive to promote local non-oil exports as well as attract increased levels of investment, Ithraa has recently conducted missions to China, Qatar, the UK, Algeria, India, Sudan, France, Switzerland, Germany, Switzerland, Canada and the UAE. These have proven successful and helped strengthen Oman’s business ties with these important international markets.
These outreach activities help communicate Oman’s standout characteristics and competitive advantages to the international business community. Indeed, for this trade expert, initiatives like this are key to attracting talent and investment to the Sultanate as well as boosting Made in Oman exports.
“In fact, over the past few years, we have seen a steady stream of investors being drawn to our shores, a result, in my opinion, of the government’s ambitious economic diversification strategy, our modern infrastructure, international connectivity, Class A office space, access to a well-trained talent pool as well as our sector strengths, particularly in manufacturing, tourism, logistics, fisheries and mining”, she said.
With regards to emerging markets, Team Ithraa keeps a particularly keen eye on Africa. Many countries on the continent will double in population in the coming years. Moreover, half the increase in the world’s population over the next 40 years will be in Africa.
The powerful rise in household income in many of Africa’s key frontier economies, like Ethiopia – a market Ithraa has explored extensively - is creating a boom in consumer spending, which according to the McKinsey Global Institute is set to increase from $60 billion in 2008 to $1.4 trillion in 2020.
Beyond commodity-driven economic growth, reduction in income inequality, increasing job stability, and higher education levels are helping fuel the expansion of Africa’s middle class.
The growth of this segment means that many households have the ability to buy cars, mobile phones, computers through to refrigerators. Growth that bodes well for Oman’s non-oil exporters.
China is another major market for Ithraa. Most recently, Oman has seen significant Chinese investment pour into local infrastructure projects. Including Oman Wanfang, the main developer of the China-Oman Industrial Park in Duqm who has pledged to invest $10.7 billion. Indeed, many in the business community see this as an initial wave of Chinese investment into the sultanate.
Later this month, and alongside SEZAD and the Ministry of Tourism, Ithraa will attend the Yunnan International Smart Tourism Conference in Kunming. The three organisations will also exhibitat the parallel 30,000-square-meter tourism trade show being held at the Kunming Dianchi International Convention & Exhibition Centre.
Revealing that Oman is the only country from the Arab World participating at this prestigious Chinese tourism event, Al Balushi said: “The opportunities for growth are there, and as Oman’s inward investment and export development agency we stand ready to help businesses of all sizes forge ties and cultivate relationships with potential Chinese investors and buyers.”
In addition to the Kunming event, Ithraa will organise Invest in Oman road shows in China, Japan and Saudi Arabia later this year. The organisation’s export team are also finalising Oman’s pavilion for September’s Marmomacc - the world’s leading marble and stone trade show - in Verona. Plans are also in place to organize a large Made in Oman food and beverage exhibition in Doha for later in the year. On top of this, Ithraa’shighly successful Oman Export Week (OEW19)is scheduledfor27 – 31 October at the Oman Convention & Exhibition Centre.
“Now more than ever, countries such as China and India must be prioritised in order to ensure that our business community is well prepared for the continued economic importance of the East. Whilst this may appear straightforward, moving our trade and investment focus away from familiar territories to markets in China and India is a serious undertaking. This is why our engagement with both countries must be long-term and holistic in approach,” said Ithraa’s Director General for Investment & Export.
As one of the world’s fastest moving economies, registering 7% growth in 2018, India continues to shine bright on Ithraa’s investment and export radar. However, it is a market that varies widely across its many different regions and states but it is one that should be taken seriously by Omani companies that are seeking to expand and go international. Interestingly, the business opportunities have now stretched beyond the traditional business centres to emerging cities such as Chennai, Nagpur, Ahmedabad, Chandigarh, Pune and Jaipur, to name but a few.