Valuable Insights from the CEO of AHK – Interview with Oliver Oehms, CEO of the German Emirati Joint Council for Industry & Commerce (AHK).
Marie-Christin Gabel, our Managing Partner MEAI, conducted an interview with Oliver Oehms, CEO of the German Emirati Joint Council for Industry & Commerce (AHK), to obtain valuable insights into the present economic and business environment in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for German enterprises.
Overview of the current economic and business landscape in the UAE
According to Oliver Oehms, the business and economic landscape in the UAE is constantly evolving, especially given its location in the competitive Gulf region. While the high oil prices have a noticeable impact on the economy, the UAE’s increasing appeal as a business hub also contributes to the interest of German companies in the area. Furthermore, the UAE’s ability to attract international talent is an essential factor for German businesses looking to expand their operations in the region, and most notably in the Emirates themselves.
UAE market vs. other markets in the Middle East
The AHK oversees six countries in the Middle East, ranging from Iraq in the north to the Sultanate of Oman in the south. Oliver Oehms explains that the UAE boasts a distinctive ecosystem that caters to German industry needs. He points out that the UAE is home to a wide range of highly skilled service providers, such as excellent law firms and the Executive Search Firm DEPARTER. While it may be difficult to compare individual markets, Oliver Oehms had to say, that compared to other markets in the region, the UAE’s exceptional business environment has made it an attractive destination for many German businesses, not at least SMEs. This information sheds light on the UAE’s distinct advantages and encourages German companies for further exploration.
Opportunities and challenges for German companies in the UAE
The UAE has long been an attractive destination for German companies, but what opportunities and challenges lie ahead for those seeking to do business in this region? According to Oliver Oehms, there are plenty of opportunities for German companies in the UAE. Oehms notes that the UAE’s ability to provide and attract the best international talent, its dynamic and pro-business regulatory environment, and excellent infrastructure, including high-quality seaports, airports, energy supply, and IT landscape, are some of the most relevant opportunities for German businesses. However, regional integration in the Gulf region poses a significant challenge. While European countries once dreamed of a higher economic regional integration in the Gulf region, this dream has yet to be realized. According to Oliver Oehms, the UAE aims to be recognized as a worldwide hub, rather than just a gateway to the Gulf region, and he acknowledges this ambition.
Industries with the highest potential in the UAE
According to our expert, the most dynamic topic in the UAE right now is the potential development of hydrogen value chains, which is seen as the top priority on both – the German and the Emirati – sides. Additionally, the UAE’s appeal as a hub for fostering tech startups and corporate capabilities is enhancing the country’s overall allure. As a result, small and medium-sized German enterprises are recruiting IT and software engineers in the UAE, partly because it is challenging to attract and locate such talent to the German labor market. The escalating demand for German tech-firms is a testimony to the UAE’s attractiveness for those seeking opportunities in the area.
The Impact of big events such as the EXPO 2020, FIFA World Cup and the CUP28 on the local business environment
The Middle East has been making significant progress in terms of infrastructure development, with big events like Expo 2020, the FIFA World Cup and the upcoming COP28 playing a major role. German companies have been actively involved in providing technology and expertise for these projects, which not only highlights their commitment to sustainability and climate change mitigation but also opens new business opportunities. These events have also showcased the UAE’s and Qatar’s ability to host and organize world-class events, which can attract even more events in the future. Overall, the local business environment is influenced positively by these events and the infrastructure development
Year 2023: The Year of Sustainability. Oliver Oehms’ thoughts on local initiatives and activities
2023 is the UAE’s Year of Sustainability and Oliver Oehms believes that global efforts to combat climate change will require local initiatives and activities to achieve this goal. The UAE is a regional frontrunner and is leading the way in implementing renewable energy within the Gulf States. However, there is still much work to be done in this regard. Oliver Oehms expressed hope that events like COP28 and the Year of Sustainability will lead to further regulatory changes and trigger a new, ‘green’ paradigm within local communities. It is crucial to recognize that everyone must play a role in the fight against climate change, and supporting and engaging in local sustainability initiatives is a vital part of achieving a sustainable future for our planet.
Insights about the UAE labor market and the outlook for the economy in the medium and long term
Oliver Oehms is stating that the UAE has successfully attracted talented individuals from various regions, not at least from South and Southeast Asia. The commitment of German
companies to localize their operations fits to the new regulations of Emiratization. Mr. Oehms reports that member companies are optimistic about the short to medium-term outlook. Furthermore, in the long-term, he anticipates that the UAE government will continue to focus on developing hydrogen value chains, a sector that Germany is in high demand for. He believes that the UAE is an ideal supplier of green hydrogen, which will contribute to a better exchange of technology and goods between Germany and the United Arab Emirates.
Additional advice for German companies intending to start a business in the country
Marie-Christin Gabel and Oliver Oehms discussed important insights about the business environment in the UAE for German companies. When asked about additional advice for German companies intending to start a business in the country, Oliver Oehms‘ first advice was that the UAE is not the place to come to save on taxes. While it may seem like a „tax heaven“, the UAE is a high-quality and high-commitment economy. Good salaries are paid to excellent people, therefore it is not a place of low labor cost. However, Oehms emphasized that the UAE is a great place for developing technology- and IT-driven ventures. Germans appreciate the focus on technology and innovation in the United Arab Emirates. German companies have found success in the UAE and continue to invest in the region.
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