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REGIONS MIDDLE EAST & AFRICA


THERE’SPOTENTIALLYADIFFERENTPATHFORWARD THANWE’VETHOUGHTFORMANYYEARS


IsraelandtheUAE:a matchmadeinheaven?


THE ABRAHAMACCORDS HAVE GENERATED A FLURRY OF EXCITEMENT AND OPTIMISM ON BOTH SIDES. SETH O’FARRELL REPORTS


he was amazed by the “genuine wel- come” he received as chief executive of a non-profit organisation which connects businesses and govern- ments with Israeli start-ups, and by the “genuine desire” among Emirati investors to collaborate. In the three months since the announcement of the Abraham


W


Accords — or the Israel–United Arab Emirates normalisation agreement — there has been a flurry of interest in and optimism for future economic relations on both sides. The accords subsequently included a bilateral agreement between Israel and Bahrain. Mr Kandel remarks that the “relative


strengths [of the two countries] are highly com- plementary”, citing specificallytheUAE’sgovern- mentalagilityandIsrael’s technological prowess. For Emirati investors, Israel represents a


paragon of innovation that has thrived on tech- nological advancement over the past two dec- ades and which may provide the expertise for the UAE to ramp up its move away from an oil- based economy. For Israeli investors, the UAE is both a sizeable domestic market and a gateway hub, granting potential access to other markets in the region. Both large-scale and small-scale ventures


are currently being explored: from infrastruc- ture and logistics to venture capital inflows and the opening of new office spaces. There is pal- pable excitementamong investorswhoare now faced with a new reality, one where the hith- erto untapped potential for collaboration and expansion can be explored above board.


Watershedmoment Greenfield foreign direct investment announce- ment tracker, fDi Markets, recorded three pro- jects fromIsrael into the UAE and two fromthe UAE into Israel this year in the health, AI and education sectors.


88


hen Startup Nation Central’s Eugene Kandel was in Dubai in September,


Elie Wurtman, co-founder and partner at


Pico Venture Partners, says that the UAE was, broadly speaking, a “forbidden fruit” until now, in spite of the fact many Israelis with second passports have been visiting for some time. Now, he expects to be investing in new partner- ships in the UAE before the end of this year. “There is no question that this is a water-


shed moment for the region. There’s poten- tially a different path forward than we’ve thought formany years,” he says. Mr Wurtman notes that the difference


between these accords and the bilateral agree- ments with Egypt and Jordan in the 1970s and 1990s, is that the two countries are “on equal footing” in economic terms. DP World, the Emirati multinational logis-


tics company, has bid along with Israel Shipyards for Haifa port. This follows a memo- randum of understanding with Bank Leumi to enhance trade and logistics in Israel. DP World declined to comment on the ongoing bid. TheUAE’s sovereign wealthfund,Mubadala


Investment Company, has also signalled its intention to partner with Israeli companies. Arshi Ayub Mohamed Zaveri, chief execu-


tive of TrustwithTrade, an Emirati company that manages family offices and advises royal family members, says she has been exploring opportunities in Israel in education tech, cyber security, biotech and fintech. It isnonetheless widelyacknowledgedthat in


these initial stages of trust-building between the two nations will also require patience and entail a process of cultural learning. Capital flows are therefore only part of the story.


Moving too fast Financial administration services provider TMF Group’s JonathanWheeler,managingdirector of the MENA region, and Liat Shibolet, Israel coun- try director, say that on both sides things are moving “really fast”andwith“hugeexcitement”, but the infrastructure and the authorities are playing catch up.However, bothMrWheeler and Ms Shibolet are confident that this will be


www.fDiIntelligence.com December 2020/January 2021


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