ABU DHABI / WAM
The number of Israeli companies operating in the UAE is expected to grow 100 percent by 2022, the President of the UAE-Israel Business Council (UIBC) told Emirates News Agency (WAM).
“With bilateral trade expected to exceed $1 billion in 2021, $3 billion in three years, and over 500 Israeli companies (currently) importing, exporting and operating in the UAE, we expect over 1000 Israeli companies to be active in the UAE by this time next year,” said Dorian Barak, President and Co-founder of UIBC.
The global pandemic could be the only barrier to further growth in bilateral economic relations, he added in an interview on the occasion of
the first anniversary of the historic Abraham Accords.
The US-brokered deal normalised diplomatic relations between the UAE and Israel on September 15, 2020, which paved the way for Israel establishing diplomatic relations with three more Arab nations – Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan.
Israeli companies to follow new trend in UAE
Barak expects many Israeli companies to open facilities in the UAE’s various free zones, for sales, services and manufacturing.
“The focus of these companies is not just on the UAE, but also on the greater Middle East, the Indian subcontinent and Asia. This parallels a trend we are witnessing with other foreign companies establishing operations in the UAE, a trend that has accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic due to the country’s capable management of the pandemic,” stressed the president of UIBC that has over 6,000 members from UAE, Israel and other countries.
The UAE being an “unparalleled business hub”, he expects that it will become a first choice for Israelis looking for a platform to effectively serve the greater Middle East and South Asia.
UAE as a platform for trade with East
“There’s no better place to base offshore businesses, in terms of infrastructure, human talent and regulation. In particular, we’ll see Israeli technology companies establish offices in Dubai and Abu Dhabi to serve the UAE and beyond,” said Barak, who is a private equity investor, based in Israel and Dubai. He is also the Managing Partner of Indigo Global, a venture capital advisory firm.
He added, “We expect the UAE to be as a platform for trade between Israel and the countries to its east, across the Middle East, South Asia and East Asia. From my experience with Israeli companies, this will be a key factor attracting Israelis to establish operations and subsidiaries in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, as it offers real commercial advantages.”
Leap in tourist traffic
About 200,000 Israelis have visited the UAE over the past year, Barak revealed. “This is a small figure considering that Israel has among the highest rates of international travel, with about 50 percent of Israelis traveling abroad in 2019, before Covid-19.”
“I expect Abu Dhabi and Dubai to be the region’s destinations of choice for Israelis in the winter months. You will also begin to see Israelis in less touristed emirates and cities such as Fujairah, Khor Fakkan and Ras Al Khaimah,” explained the UIBC president.
Israeli property investors in UAE
Israelis are well known as property investors in Western Europe and the United States, Barak pointed out. “They tend to like stable markets with a population growth, a robust banking sector and strong contractual enforcement of property rights. All these ingredients are in place in Dubai and the UAE, and this has led to property purchases.”
“Unlike other markets, however, I expect Israelis to act mainly as property investors rather than investor-developers in the UAE, since the property development market is very advanced and localised in the UAE,” said the executive who has led multiple investment funds and corporate advisory businesses across technology, natural resources and financial services in his business career.
UAE businesses in Israel
It is more challenging to forecast Emirati activity in Israel since the latter has been largely closed to foreign travel since March of last year, Barak said.
“However, we are in contact with dozens of Emirati companies looking to set up operations or find local representatives in Israel, and of course many thousands of Israeli businesspeople are working with Emirati counterparts on opportunities in consumer goods, retail, advanced technology products and biotechnology. I think that after a year of getting to know each other, we’ll see a quick acceleration of this activity in Q4 of 2021 and into 2022,” he explained.
UAE’s 50th anniversary and Expo 2020 Dubai
There are few countries that have achieved what the UAE has over the past half century, the executive said. “The economic results are obvious, but beyond commerce, the UAE has excelled in creating an inclusive and tolerant society that really cares for its people. Israel has many parallels: from very modest roots under British colonial administration 70 years ago, we built a country, made the desert green, introduced some of the world’s most advanced agricultural and technological developments.”
“At the same time, we have a very diverse and inclusive society that takes pride in our rich religious and cultural traditions. We can also learn a lot from the UAE’s development trajectory, which is unparalleled and is successfully transitioning from natural resources to trade, transport, manufacturing, and tourism,” affirmed Barak who serves on the boards of public and private companies in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia.
Talking about Expo 2020 Dubai, he said it is an “excellent opportunity” for Israelis to learn more about the UAE and vice-versa.
Growth of UIBC
An estimated 7,000 Emiratis and Israelis have participated at UIBC’s wide array of digital and in-person events over the past year, he revealed.
“We’re delighted to see that we have attracted members and participants from beyond the UAE, Israel and the other Abraham Accords countries [Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan], including countries that do not have diplomatic relations with Israel. In addition, we are particularly proud of the high proportion of women and Israeli Arabs in our community,” Barak said.