Oman’s Ithraa shaping a new investment & export future

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Muscat: Targeting priority international markets and sectors, Ithraa has been at the heart of driving Oman’s inward investment and international trade since 1996.

“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,” says Nasima Al Balushi, Ithraa’s Director General for Investment & Export.

The Power of Exports

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, organizes local and international trade events and educates companies about markets opened by Oman’s various free trade agreements,” explains Al Balushi.

She goes on to point out that Ithraa has identified 21 countries that are lucrative for Omani exports and 59 products that have the potential to be exported. 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.

Global Reach

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.

Al Balushi notes that these outreach activities help communicate Oman’s stand out 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.”

Changing Patterns of Engagement

With regards 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 US$60 billion in 2008 to US$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 US$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 organizations will also exhibit at 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 notes: “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 organize Invest in Oman roadshows in China, Japan and Saudi Arabia later this year. The organisation’s export team are also finalizing 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’s highly successful Oman Export Week (OEW19) is scheduled for 27 – 31 October at the Oman Convention & Exhibition Centre.

“Now more than ever, countries such as China and India must be prioritized 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,” advises 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.

Small Businesses Matter

While large international businesses are taking advantage of opportunities in Duqm, Muscat, Salalah and Sohar there are also plenty of opportunities for SMEs and start-ups. In fact, Oman has seen a rise in the number of active SMEs over the past few years, a move that is creating sustainable jobs and contributing to the sultanate’s economic diversification.

So what exactly is it about Oman that attracts SMEs?

“We are known for having a strong business ecosystem, where small as well as large companies work alongside one another, meaning there is space for everyone to grow, irrespective of size. Then there are all the aspects that attract bigger firms to Oman, like great connectivity from our airports and ports, affordable office space on developments such as Knowledge Oasis Muscat and Innovation Park Muscat and a wealth of talented, multilingual, tech-savvy graduates. Start-ups also benefit from plenty of co-working spaces and support from local incubators, including the National Business Centre which offers office facilities, business support and mentoring,” reveals Ithraa’s Investment & Export Director General.

However, for Al Balushi while identifying international opportunities is one thing, being able to capitalize on them is another entirely.

“It is important for local businesses, particularly Oman’s growing start-up community, to understand what it means to go international. This is why we launched OEW last year. An intensive five-day program, designed specifically to help smaller firms understand what is involved in exporting and for them to be competitive internationally.”

Creative Business Thinking

Showing people around the world what an outstanding place Oman is to work and invest is Ithraa’s highly popular quarterly discussion forum, Inside Stories.

“Created ten years ago to serve as an incubator for creative business thought, Inside Stories brings together some of the brightest minds in Oman, innovators, visionaries and entrepreneurs to take a deep dive into topics as wide-ranging as hyperlocal tourism, smart cities, micro-manufacturing, the changing world of work, entrepreneurship, and attracting investment and talent. The idea behind the initiative has always been to have a ripple effect, where we can take good business news, energy and inspiration and spread it as far as we can,” says Ishaq Al Busaidi, Ithraa’s Director General of Marketing & Media.

Concluding, there is one message Al Busaidi is keen to emphasise: “Team Ithraa works relentlessly to make more people aware of all Oman has to offer – not only is the sultanate a great place to live and work; it also has a fantastic business environment that encompasses everything from affordable office and manufacturing space and a proactive, business friendly environment to outstanding multilingual talent and great transport links. It is this combination that makes Oman a compelling option for businesses.”

Sidebar: Oman is Attracting Investment & Talent

There are many excellent reasons to locate your business in Oman. They range from our favourable low tax regime and supportive business environment, to the availability of a well-educated workforce, easy access to large and affluent markets and an outstanding quality of life. 

  • Oman is a Business Friendly Environment

Stable and legally transparent, Oman is low on bureaucracy and tax and big on ambition and enterprise. And there’s high-quality, affordable work and office space in every part of the sultanate.

  • Oman is a Regional Leader 

Our advantageous location, world-class connectivity, twenty-first century infrastructure, educated and ambitious young talent pool, cutting edge research centres, state-of-the-art industrial estates and globally focused free zones are just some of the benefits enjoyed by leading companies in manufacturing, tourism, logistics, fisheries and mining who have set up here in Oman.

  • Oman is Innovative & Entrepreneurial

Oman-based start-ups have access to a dynamic ecosystem of support that includes, but is in no way limited to, plentiful and high quality business incubator space, ready access to training and mentors, help with ideas protection and technical support. The level of funding available to new businesses in Oman is high by international standards.

  • Oman is a Great Place to Live & Work

Oman is an outstanding place to set up home, raise a family, grow your business, develop your career and have the time of your life. It offers accommodation options to suit any and every requirement, great schools and top quality healthcare. On top of that, it has first-class recreational facilities and entertainment options, not to mention a stunning natural environment. Shall we go on?

  • Oman is a Gateway to Large & Affluent Markets

Enviably located and boasting fast and efficient transport links to markets in the Middle East, Asia and Africa, Oman is one of the most open and globally connected countries in the world.

About Ithraa
Founded in 1996, Ithraa is a government-run, ISO and Investor in People certified inward investment and export promotion agency. We provide a range of support services and information to help domestic and international investors set up in and export from Oman.

For press enquiries please contact:
Mrs. Sajda Al Ghaithy
Media Director
PO Box 25
Wadi Kabir, 117
Sultanate of Oman
+968 24 62 33 61 

© Press Release 2019