Thursday, February 21 15:16:07
Ireland has the potential to treble its exports to the Arab states to E9 billion worth of Irish goods and services and support 20,000 jobs.
That's according to a new report on Opportunities for Ireland in the Arab World prepared for the Arab-Irish Chamber of Commerce (AICC) by DKM Economic Consultants and published today.
In 2012 exports to the Arab World totalled E3.4 billion supporting an estimated 8,000 jobs in Ireland.
This could increase to over 20,000 jobs in the long run if Ireland's public and private sector capitalise on the opportunities available in North Africa and the Middle East (MENA), DKM estimate. The MENA countries are highly dependent on imports, particularly food imports, reflecting in many cases limited resources of arable land and water.
Merchandise goods account for E1.75 billion of exports to the region making it one of Ireland's most important trading blocs outside of Europe and North America. Six sectors accounted for more than 80 per cent of merchandise exports, soft drinks concentrates, baby formula, medical and pharmaceutical products, computer sector, industrial equipment and dairy. Service exports for 2012 are expected to hit E1.6 billion and have shown strong growth over the past decade.
Four of the twenty one AICC member countries account for over 70 per cent of these exports, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Kuwait. Irish companies already have a significant presence in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States and need to consolidate and deepen Ireland's commercial brand there. Countries such as Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia offer medium to long term potential. The Report recommends that Irish companies experienced in the region should seek to establish a presence in these countries over time.
The MENA countries lag the West in development, particularly infrastructure, human capital and ease of doing business. Population growth is twice the global average and is expected to increase by 80 per cent over the next 40 years from 350m currently to 461m by 2025 and 621m by 2050. Unemployment is high in many countries. Large scale investment is planned across the region over the coming years. The IMF estimates that over US$4 trillion will be invested in MENA countries over the next 5 years. These developments will generate significant opportunities in the infrastructure, education, training and health sectors.
DKM identifies a substantial opportunity for Irish public sector bodies to provide technical assistance to mentor their Arab counterparts in socio-economic development arising from the significant proportions of the economy that flow through the public sector in the region. These opportunities are present in areas such as economic regulation, quality regulation, public service training and economic development and promotion. Significant funding has already been committed by the World Bank, EU and individual governments programmes for the education and training of public servants in AICC member countries. Bodies such as the Irish Medicines Board, HIQA, the Institute of Public Administration, IDA, Enterprise Ireland, Board Bia, BIM and Shannon Development are identified in this context.
Commenting on the Report today, Joe Geoghegan, incoming Chairman of the Arab-Irish Chamber said Irish exports have huge potential in the Arab world.
"Member countries of the Arab Irish Chamber represent a major international market for Ireland characterised by proximity, high import demand, high incomes in many countries, rapid population growth and large scale infrastructure plans. Direct air links between Ireland and the Gulf have eased market access considerably. DKM found that Ireland has a very positive image in the Arab World, born of long term business links, identification with a common historical experience and a perception that, among Western countries, Ireland is sympathetic to Arab causes."