Kuwait is one of the UK's largest trading partners in the Gulf Cooperation Council countries, and one of the UK’s largest export partners at £1.5 billion in goods and services alone (2014). The bilateral trading relationship is very healthy and growing. As an oil-rich economy which is heavily dependent on imports, Kuwait represents a good and varied market for UK exporters.
Kuwait recently published its new 5 year development plan, based on its previous £90 billion infrastructure development programme (2010). The plan includes mega projects for Kuwait International Airport, the Kuwait City Metro Project, Hospital Development Programme, Boubyan Island and Port Development, Oil and Gas projects and Numerous Housing projects, not least, alongside opportunities in Financial Services and Education & Training. Senior officials in Kuwait are encouraging UK companies to come and do business in Kuwait and as such there are many benefits for UK businesses looking to export here.
Qatar has embarked on one of the largest and most ambitious infrastructure programmes in the world, with projected spend of more than US$220 billion over the next decade. The catalyst for this transformation is the Qatar National Vision 2030. The country, through the four pillars of economic, social, human and environmental development, aims to be an advanced society capable of sustaining its development and providing a high standard of living for everyone. The FIFA World Cup in 2022 is also a driver for this transformation, including the development of Qatar’s first underground and light rail systems, an inter-Gulf rail network, major road construction and the provision of thousands of extra hotel rooms, not to mention eight FIFA-compliant stadia and 70 associated training grounds and facilities. As Qatar prepares for 2022, projects and construction contracts awarded in 2013 rose by 21% to US$19.4bn, up from US$16bn in 2012.
The changes are not just seen in Qatar, the country is reaching out beyond its shores. Qatar invests heavily overseas, with over £30bn invested in the UK alone, including investments in Harrods, The Shard, a stake in Sainsbury’s, BAA and The London Stock Exchange to name but a few.
Qatar is the UK’s third largest export market in the Middle East and North Africa region. In 2014, UK export of goods to Qatar increased 14% to £1.67bn. UK exports of services were an additional £649m in 2013 (the latest figures available). The majority of Qatar’s exports to the UK are LNG. The UK accounts for a third of Qatar’s exports to the EU. Qatari exports to the UK in 2014 totalled £2.2bn.
Saudi Arabia including Defence sales, is the largest market in the region with around £60 billion of civil contracts awarded in 2013, and large investments being made in new transport systems and social and physical infrastructure, particularly in healthcare and education. UK exports of goods and services in 2014 totalled more than £7 billion, and Saudi Arabia is designated as one of UK Trade & Investment’s high growth markets.
The Saudi economy is diversifying rapidly into knowledge driven industries. There are numerous opportunities for exporters and investors willing to commit to a long term presence and transfer of skills and technology. Key high value opportunity sectors include Healthcare, Education and Training, Airport and Railway development, Water and Environment, and Petrochemicals. Fast emerging sectors include mining, ICT, creative industries and retail.
Over 6000 UK companies actively export to Saudi Arabia and the UK is second largest cumulative investor in the country after the US. There are approximately 200 UK/Saudi Joint Ventures with total investment estimated at approximately US$17.5bn.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is the UK's largest market in MENA and the 12th biggest globally. Bilateral trade in goods and services reached £12.34bn in 2013. The UAE is a key trading hub for British companies – around 50% of UK goods are re-exported to a regional MENA market worth over £150bn. Many British companies have a long and successful history of working in the UAE - these include global companies such as Shell, bp, large engineering companies and many others.
Dubai and Abu Dhabi are similar markets but with different business cultures. Dubai is the commercial capital and the largest city in the UAE with 1.2 million people. It is a regional hub, servicing the MENA region. Many of the 5,000 successful British companies are SME’s and based in Dubai. Abu Dhabi has a more conservative business culture, focussed on helping business as well as organically growing the economy. Both markets are worth exploring.