Insights: Ireland's growing influence in the Middle East
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Insights: Ireland’s growing influence in the Middle East

Insights: Ireland’s growing influence in the Middle East

The relationship with Ireland is strong and enduring at both a Federal and Emirate level


From Atlantic shores of Galway to the soaring skyscrapers of Dubai, it might not immediately be evident what ties these two cities together. However, close bonds exist between Ireland and the UAE, which continue to strengthen year after year.

These extend over three broad factors. Firstly, the growing economic relationships bring mutual benefits to both countries that help develop financial and business opportunities. Secondly, the societal contributions made by the Irish diaspora working in the UAE and who have made a home here. The final factor is the strength of the government-to-government bilateral relationship that continues to deepen.

Growing economic and business relationship
The links between Ireland and the UAE go back decades, a relationship forged on the belief that cooperation and collaboration bring greater understanding and make us stronger as nations. None more so than in the areas of business which bring many economic benefits to both countries.

There are significant similarities between many Irish businesses and their Emirati peers, such as the level of family businesses in each country. Many Irish companies are family owned and so have a deeper understanding and appreciation of ways of doing business as an SME. Such relationships tend to foster trust and endure through the years. They also blend a high degree of flexibility to an innovative spirit.

Both nations are entrepreneurial by nature. This is an important factor as this drives a business mindset that is also very agile in overcoming challenges.

This relationship is deepening. With the latest figures on exports to the UAE and Saudi Arabia continuing the growth trajectory by Irish companies supported by Enterprise Ireland, (the Irish Government’s agency for trade and innovation), they are one indicator of the strength in business cooperation. Exports to the UAE have been increasing yearly, and the newly released figures show a seven per cent increase. The same can be seen in the figures for Saudi Arabia, which showed a rise of 13 per cent compared to the previous year.

Through these business relationships, we see the fusing together of ambition and innovation, which results in a solution driven approach yielding greater productivity and competitive advantage.

Societal contribution
With over 10,000 Irish diasporas calling the UAE home, the Irish presence in the UAE is felt right across the country. For example, in the regional education sector, an estimated 2,000 Irish teachers are based in the Gulf, the majority of which are in the UAE.

In healthcare, the contribution of Ireland in supporting the UAE’s healthcare professionals is significant, with a large proportion undertaking their professional education and development through Ireland’s Royal College of Surgeons. Its distinguished Alumni include the UAE’s first female surgeon, Dr Houriya Kazim. In addition, through Dubai Ambulance, the Irish presence is supports paramedic training, aligned to the Irish HSE training and standards and extends to a significant amount of the technology carried on the ambulances themselves.

Ireland contribution in the aviation sector is evident in the variety of Irish executives holding senior roles across the airline industry. Irish managers and leaders such as Colm McLoughlin, Dubai Duty Free’s executive vice chairman and CEO in Dubai Duty, which has grown into one of the biggest retail operators in the world.

The contribution made by the Irish diaspora is immense and personifies the Irish approach to friendship, professionalism, and willingness to get the job done to exacting world-class standards. This brings benefits to all; and this collaboration helps to drive success for Dubai and the UAE and mutually beneficial results in terms of economic benefits to Ireland. It also forms a key pillar of the Irish soft power both here and around the world.

Government to government bilateral relations
The hand of friendship extended by both countries is ever-present. The relationship with Ireland is strong and enduring at both a Federal and Emirate level. It is also continuing to grow further. Through the existing bilateral relationships, both governments continue to work closely together to share best practices, build expertise, and embrace innovation. With the UAE, we share a common belief that Government can be the facilitator of economic growth, prosperity and opportunity. It is through relationships and collaborations such as these that contribute to greater opportunities for both nations to navigate the global challenges that exist today.

Conor Fahy is regional director for India, Middle East and Africa at Enterprise Ireland

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