Demand for packaged and processed foods have risen in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries. This is due to high disposable income and busy urban lifestyles. The demand is expected to grow at a healthy pace.
Singapore companies can look for opportunities in the UAE’s food manufacturing and food services industries to meet the growing consumer demand. Local food service operators are also keen to invest in food manufacturing facilities to complement their businesses. This gives you opportunities for co-investment.
One avenue to enter the UAE market is by participating in the annual food trade show, Gulfood. This popular platform allows you to connect to food industry buyers and sellers from around the region.
Asian food is also becoming more popular in the Gulf and a number of Singapore companies are already exporting their products to the GCC. With food importers generally placing high trust in the Singapore brand, you have an advantage over your competitors.
The UAE is strategically located at the centre of international trade. Its geographical location and infrastructure make the country an ideal supply and re-distribution gateway. One-third of the world's population lives within a four-hour flight, and two-thirds within eight hours of flight time. It offers huge growth potential for Singapore logistics companies.
Singapore companies will find the UAE one of the most "logistic friendly" countries to operate in and a strong re-export destination to the Middle East and Africa.
The UAE is a competitive market for the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) industry. To reduce dependence on oil revenue and grow the private sector, the Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030 and the UAE Vision 2021 government initiatives set out to build a competitive knowledge economy and establish an open, efficient, effective, and globally integrated business environment. Integral to this is the UAE’s investment in the ICT sector, and it is of no surprise that the UAE led the ICT Global Competitiveness Index in 2019.
With consumer demand for ICT products totalling US$4 billion (S$5.3 billion) in 2016, it is evident that the nation is a strong market for final goods. Moreover, the UAE has undertaken measures to grow in the product development, manufacturing, and software programming sectors, with the UAE topping the Middle East and Africa IT Risk/Reward Index in Q2 of 2019. In 2020, the pre-COVID projection was for the ICT market to grow by 7.4% to reach a value of US$6.8 billion (S$9.1 billion).
The UAE is a re-export hub for consumer ICT goods, with more than half of all shipments to the UAE in many sub-sectors (e.g., PC monitors, smartphones) being ultimately re-exported to other markets. This has left the local IT industry relatively underdeveloped, allowing foreign companies to seize market share.
Tourism is a central pillar of the UAE’s economic growth and diversification plan. There are opportunities for Singapore companies in food and beverage, retail, hospitality and event management to benefit from the UAE’s booming tourism industry.
Sharjah is another UAE emirate offering opportunities in the tourism and hospitality sector. Unesco declared it the Cultural Capital of the Arab World in 1998, and reaffirmed this recognition in 2014, when it became the Capital of Islamic Culture.
The UAE has one of the highest per capita water consumption rates in the world at 550 litres a day. Rapid commercial and industrial growth contributed to the growing demand for water.
With the country’s water infrastructure under increasing pressure, the UAE government has been investing in water solutions such as wastewater treatment and desalination. These are areas which play perfectly to the strengths of Singapore companies.
In the UAE, almost all drinking water is desalinated. Production capacity of desalinated plants is expected to increase steadily over the next few years, contributing 96.5% of all water produced by 2019. Singapore firms with expertise in solar-powered or nuclear desalination technology can tap opportunities in this area.
Beyond water, Singapore companies can also lend their technology to the Utility boards in the UAE in areas like grid management, energy audits and joint research and technology transfer in the power and water sectors.