Australian capabilities on show in the Middle East and North Africa

14 Mar 2017

The Australia Unlimited Middle East and North Africa (AU MENA) 2017 trade mission held this month will showcase Australia’s strong capabilities across a range of industries to deepen trade, investment and education links with the region.

AU MENA 2017, held from 11-19 March, will highlight Australia’s dynamic health research expertise using the theme ‘collaborate to innovate’ and will also incorporate a strong mining innovation focus.

Major activities will take place in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia and Iran, along with associated programs in Oman, Qatar, Kuwait and Egypt. This will be the first time Iran has been included in the AU MENA mission, an annual event in the region since 2013.

Gerard Seeber, Austrade’s Consul General and Senior Trade Commissioner for MENA, said the region is undergoing a period of dramatic change, driven by low oil prices and increased geopolitical and economic stability in its largest countries.

‘Companies and governments alike, especially in Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member countries, are having to rein in expenditure, look for different sources of revenue and consider restructuring and diversifying their economies,’ said Seeber.

‘This has created opportunities for Australia to help develop emerging industries and cope with growing demand across areas such as health, education and training, food sufficiency, mining and civil security,’ he said.

With a growth in tourism and demand for higher end product, Australia is well positioned to continue to be a strategic supplier to the region.

The nations of the GCC (comprising Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates) and Egypt already have strong trade relationships with Australia.

The UAE and Australia shared A$8 billion in two-way trade in goods and services in 2015-16. This included A$3 billion trade in services, up 8.7 per cent from the previous year. Australia and Saudi Arabia also recorded A$2.8 billion in two-way trade in goods and services.

Seeber said with sanctions against Iran now lifted, Australia’s trade relationship with the region can grow further, with Iran offering opportunities in agriculture, healthcare, education, water management and mining.

‘Australia’s mining companies have a lot to offer the MENA region in terms of developing a broad range of projects beyond the energy sector, especially as many MENA nations are exploring the potential of their mineral deposits,’ said Seeber.

‘This will lead to projected opportunities across the mining supply chain, including research and development and environmental management.’

Through a series of high profile forums, targeted roundtables, and official meetings, Austrade’s Mining Innovation program will provide Australian mining companies with unprecedented access to key government, industry stakeholders, and projects in Iran, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

‘Proven expertise in healthcare, also has Australia well-positioned to assist the MENA region as the public and private sector work to develop a local medical tourism industry and try to prevent the spread of lifestyle illnesses such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease,’ said Seeber.

It is estimated that by 2020, healthcare spending in the GCC alone will reach USD69 billion and that the sector will face a shortage of 15,000 physicians and 1.8 million nurses and midwives.

‘So the need to enhance skill levels in the healthcare sector also offers clear opportunities for Australian education and training providers,’ added Seeber.

This year, AU MENA will also encompass a week-long program for Dairy Australia. The program will run in key markets in the MENA region – Iran, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait.

The Australian dairy industry has had a healthy relationship with the GCC market, with 11 per cent of total dairy exports making its way into the region. MENA is likely to remain a key destination for Australian exports given 57 per cent of the GCC’s total dairy consumption is met through imports.

AU MENA is an Austrade led program, in collaboration with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, states and territories, and key business and industry stakeholders.

Visit Austrade’s website to learn more about AU MENA 2017 and the business opportunities in the MENA region.