Ithraa, Oman’s investment and export development agency, has focused on promoting the Sultanate as a world-class destination for business and a location of choice for potential relocations and expansions.
The export promotion agency, founded in 1996, said its team undertakes both pro-active lead generation and project handling to attract new inward investment from key international markets.
Today, Omani products are present in over 130 countries and in 2019, it exported $8.3 billion worth of non-oil commodities, Ithraa said in its report `Q1 outcomes of 2020 plan’.
The government agency said it works hard to bring the attention of the international business community to the vast investment opportunities Oman offers, to its exceptional potential in manufacturing, tourism, fisheries, mining and logistics. Ithraa also vigorously promotes the measures that have been taken to create Oman’s attractive business and investment environment.
“Attracting and retaining inward investment is hugely important to our economic ambitions. We want Oman to be a place where business can grow, succeed and thrive. We want it to be a place where great ideas and innovations are turned into great products and services. And as the new foreign investment legislation shows, Oman is more determined than ever to deliver the pro-business environment investors require. We’re proud to offer international companies certainty and stability, access to a flexible and well-educated workforce and the elimination of unnecessary red tape and regulation,” the report said.
Led by Nasima Al Balushi, Director General - Export Development at Ithraa, Ithraa’s Export Team helps Omani non-oil exporters explore and penetrate markets around the world. In fact, the efforts of the Ithraa Export Team have been helping grow jobs at home, strengthen Oman’s economy, and ensure long-term, sustainable economic growth for nearly 25 years, the report said.
Responding to export challenges
Ithraa team works hand-in-hand with local businesses providing market intelligence, organizing trade missions, B2B meetings with international buyers and agents as well as the highly popular and successful OPEX exhibitions that it co-organizes with Oman Chamber of Commerce & Industry (OCCI) and Madayn – the most recent of which was held in Rwanda in early March.
Designed to boost bilateral trade and investment, the four-day Kigali trade show provided 60 Omani exporters with a platform to showcase their products and services to a growing and influential Rwandan business community. The 60 exhibitors met with over 320 Rwandan firms during the B2B sessions it organised. And according to a post-event survey, 24 per cent of the participating Omani firms had already reported securing export orders while 64 per cent are in the process of finalising agreements with Rwandan agents and distributors.
In February, Ithraa took a stand at the highly popular Gulfood exhibition in Dubai – a trade show that attracts 5,000 exhibitors and over 90,000 attendees. As a result of its participation, post-event research indicated 75 per cent of the firms on the Oman pavilion sealed export deals, one firm securing an export order worth in the region of $130,000 and another at $75,000.
At the beginning of the year, and in partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture & Fisheries, it co-organised the sultanate’s pavilion at the seasonal honey exhibition in Doha. Eleven Omani honey producers participated at the show, 90 per cent of which secured export orders.
It is clear the hard work and commitment of Ithraa’s Export Team along with that of its partners are helping ramp-up the presence of Oman made goods and services in markets around the world. From fish, environmentally-friendly fertilizer and polyethylene pipes to steel, pasta, cement, fine ceramic tiles, fibre-optic and electrical cables, Oman is building a strong industrial base, the report noted.
On the investment front, the health sector has been very much on Ithraa’s radar of late along with opportunities for green investment and those in future-focussed technology. Recent examples of its activity in this regard include a program it organised for a British company researching options for making their environmentally friendly plastic bags locally and one for investors in 4IR technology.
Presently, Ithraa is finalising plans for a post-pandemic visit by an investor looking to set up a hospital specialised in kidney disease here, the report said.
Azzan bin Qasim al-Busaidi, CEO of Ithraa said: “I’m delighted to share that at the end of Q1, we’d registered three US and European investors working in manufacturing, packaging, food industry, tourism and real estate, taking steps to initiate projects in Muscat and Sohar. This is a solid result given the current status of the global investment scene.”
In mid-February and along with senior management from the Public Authority for Mining (PAM) and Minerals Development Oman, Ithraa presented at an investment webinar hosted by Stephanie Hallett, Deputy Chief of Mission at the US Embassy in Muscat. The webinar gave US businesses an opportunity to learn more about Oman’s new mining law and the investment opportunities available in this growing sector. PAM has identified new mining investment projects and initiatives estimated at over $2 billion, the report said.
The new legislation provides a far more robust framework for Oman’s mining sector, one that offers incentives, transparency and greater certainty for investors. It also covers PAM's role with regards issuing mining licences and concessions, protecting local communities and the environment, prioritising local employment, as well as enforcing investment commitments.
“In our view, investment interest in Oman’s mining sector is clearly being driven by factors that include: the new legislation, presence of a wide array of geological resources ranging from precious metals to industrial minerals, outstanding support infrastructure and logistics in the form of road networks, free zones, industrial estates and ports and easy access to major international markets,” Al-Busaidi pointed out.
Covid-19 and the business environment
He explained that prior to the outbreak of Covid-19, global commerce was already being hit by a new wave of trade restrictions, actions that were leading to more protectionist measures and increased economic uncertainty, lower investment and weaker trade growth. Big economies such as the European Union, China and the US were already slowing for reasons ranging from the US-China trade spat and Brexit to the disappearing fiscal stimulus from tax cuts in the US.
“I think the Omani government’s strong, well-planned, well-co-ordinated and well-executed response to the coronavirus crisis shows what a steadfast, reliable and resilient country we are,’ he said.
“With 200 ships calling per week, cargo continues to flow in and out of our three principal gateways in Sohar, Duqm and Salalah, directly linking Omani businesses to 86 ports in 40 countries. That’s business as usual,” he added.
“Moving forward and talking post-pandemic, given the wealth of tech talent in country, a natural progression for us will be a sharper focus on Oman’s growing hi-tech sector, an area that is already getting foreign interest and investment. And given this, I believe we will see a marked increase in the presence of Oman-made tech products and services in international markets,” he said.
Invest in Oman portal
He further emphasised that with Covid-19 travel restrictions in place the Invest in Oman portal plays a more important role than ever in connecting investors with opportunities in Oman and showing that in this changing world the attractiveness of our offer remains constant. The portal draws the attention of potential investors to the things that continue to matter to them and things the sultanate has in abundance – like our world-class infrastructure and multilingual, well-trained talent pool, lifestyle and of course our newly-introduced investor-friendly foreign investment legislation.
“To date, a variety of investment opportunities have been lodged on the Invest in Oman portal. In addition to this, public and private sector organizations as well as a range of service providers also have a presence there. It’s a growing community,” he said.—TradeArabia News Service