Say hello to 2020; a new year, a new decade and as our newly (re)elected and reinvigorated Government might espouse, a brand new era of hope and optimism!
It is, of course, still early days, and although we may still have the pre-recorded chimes of Big Ben ringing in our ears, there is undoubtedly a real sense of change upon us. Whether you are happy to join the ‘Brexodus’ of change, or view the PM as some kind of ‘Brexorcist’, dragging the UK kicking and screaming from its former EU host, most businesspeople are pragmatists and will recognise the potential opportunities that these changes can bring.
The road ahead for the UK and EU is likely to be bumpy and there will certainly be many twists and turns ahead as we determine the direction that our new relationship takes. In the meantime, HMG is encouraging exporters to maximise the overseas potential that the UK’s new-found freedom offers.
In 2017/18 the Department of International Trade’s (DIT) Food & Drink Directorate appointed me as a ‘Specialist Advisor’ for the Arabian Gulf. My task was to look at the trends and opportunities that might encourage more F&B exporters to sell into these lucrative markets. Having lived and worked in the region for much of the last 20 years, I was certain that there was enough potential to warrant the Government investing increased resources to create a ‘High Value Campaign’, for the region. My research supported this and HVC status was duly endowed upon the Gulf markets.
Whilst such a status is excellent for exporters of British food and drink products, as it provides resources and focus from Government, my research also identified a multitude of other business opportunities in a variety of sectors.
Let’s face it, in order to sell food & drink products there needs to be F&D outlets; retailers, supermarkets, hypermarkets and the food service sector, such as Hotels, Restaurants and Cafes (HORECA). These outlets need to be constructed, so the prospects for the construction industry through the supply of materials and products, are also created. On the service side of the equation, opportunities for design, architecture and training in areas such as Health & safety also exist.
As workers and businesses flood into the market the requirement for good quality accommodation, healthcare and education for the families that accompany them, also increases – and so the boom gets bigger.
Unfortunately, the six countries that comprise the Arabian Gulf are often caught up in the wider impact of negative press as a result of regional geo-political issues taking place in the ‘Middle East’ and to some businesses this can be daunting and can sometimes put them off. This really should not be the case!
I remain a regular visitor and have already taken 4 companies to the region so far this year. Two were food and drink suppliers, one works in infrastructure and water and another works in healthcare and training. Two were first timers but will be returning to the region again in the very near future to develop prospects, whilst the others were returning after previous visits, to build relationships and market their products – essential strategies for success in the region.
Whilst Brexit may still be on our minds in Essex and the UK, 2020 is also a significant year within the Arabian Gulf and in particular the UAE and Dubai. Expo2020 starts in October and will run for 6 months. It is the first time that an Expo has been held in the Middle East and the UAE is determined to make it the biggest and the best – a trait that many will recognise as being synonymous with Dubai. The Expo site is a massive 4.38sq km in size, or the size of 613.5 football pitches, and is expected to attract an astounding 25 million visitors over 6 months. With a dedicated metro station, there will be 23,000 visitors every hour, transported to and from the site. It is anticipated that a staggering 300,000 meals will be served each day.
The theme of the Dubai Expo is Connecting Minds, Creating the Future, with other sub-themes focusing on ‘Opportunity, Mobility and Sustainability’ and 90% of the materials used to construct the site will be used to create legacy buildings after the event.
Whilst one of the quirkiest facts relating to Expo2020 is that Uber has signed an agreement with Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority to test flying cars during the event, this actually demonstrates Dubai’s love of innovation and how open it is to new concepts and ideas.
Expo2020 and events such as FIFA 2022 are certainly putting the region on the global stage for major events, tourism and leisure. Astute businesses in Essex will also recognise the potential to supply their products and services into the existing and future projects that are taking place in Qatar. Innovation is high on the agenda and there is a huge emphasis on conservation and sustainability.
Football stadiums have been designed with many energy efficiency features.
They will also capture condensate water from the cooling systems and use it in irrigation. Treated sewage effluent water will also be used for dust suppression. It is anticipated that the new stadiums will use 40% less water than conventional stadiums as all the venues for 2022 have water conservation as a top priority.
More than 850,000m² of new green spaces will be created in the stadium precincts, while more than 5,000 trees will be planted. The stadiums will become green lungs and community hubs for their local residents.
Major cultural, commercial and sporting events will undoubtedly focus the attention of businesspeople, entrepreneurs and citizens living and working in the Arabian Gulf during 2020 and 2022.
With mega-projects valued at over US$2.5 Trillion currently being designed, planned and developed in this lucrative region, the opportunities will exist for many years to come.
At Jennings International we are confident that, in a post-Brexit environment, there are many companies in Essex that could be very successful in these English-speaking markets. We are always happy to offer advice and initial consultation free of charge to fellow members of the Chamber, so why not contact us and blow away those Brexit Blues.