Services Exports to the MENA region
The Services sector makes about 75% Australia’s domestic production, yet it is conspicuously absent from Australia’s export to the Middle East. This is not for lack of opportunity – there are growing market entry options in the MENA region for service exports, particularly in education, medical, construction and financial and business services.
Australia is home to a booming service sector and our strong reputation overseas is bringing increasing demand for the export of Australian services. The MENA markets are no exception. With growing populations, significant wealth and economies that have developed their hydrocarbon sectors to the detriment other sectors, the Middle East has plenty of opportunities for Australian service exporters. To date, Australian companies have not fully capitalised on the potential of the markets in the MENA region. There are however, several Australian companies that have had great success exporting their service to the MENA region, and these ‘success stories’ demonstrate that incredible opportunity that exists for service export to the MENA region across many different industries and sectors.
Aspen Medical: leading the way on Australian healthcare exports
Aspen Medical is an Australian company that specialises in providing innovative healthcare solutions in remote areas and challenging environments, working with organisations like the Remote-Area Health Corps and the Australian Defence Force, in Australia.
Aspen Medical recently began exporting its services to the UAE where it provides Helicopter Emergency Medical Services to the subsidiary companies of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC). The company also set up the UAE’s National Ambulance Company, which provides private ambulance services, paramedic training, consulting on ambulance services, pre-hospital care for private and public events and healthcare solutions and services to government, construction and energy sectors in the UAE.
Aspen Medical has had substantial success in exporting its services to the Middle East and its expansion into a new market has been key to the firm’s growth. Dr. Andrew Walker, co-founder of Aspen Medical, highlights the success his company has had through export to the MENA region. “[Exporting to the Middle East] has absolutely expanded our business and profit”, he says. “Once you are a good and successful partner to one company or industry, this gives great credence to others in the region and gives you strong prospects of further business in other countries or with other companies in the region.” However, Dr. Walker also warns of the intricacies of doing business in the MENA region and the importance of understanding Arab culture and business practices. He emphasises that “you have to understand Arab culture, it is different and if you approach business (in the MENA markets) in a Western fashion, you will make enemies”. Read our blog on the importance of cross-cultural understanding for business in the MENA region here.
ServCorp: filling the market space with office space
ServCorp is an Australian company that exports professional services to the UAE in the form of functional office spaces with trained receptionists, fully-equipped boardrooms and meeting rooms in CBDs around the world. ServCorp started in Sydney, had its IPO on the ASX in 1999 and has since rapidly expanded around the world. Today Servcorp has offices in Beirut, Kuwait City, Manama, Doha, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Jeddah, Riyadh and Dammam. The volume of offices that ServCorp has in the Middle East as well as around the world signifies the expansion potential of the MENA region and the benefits that ServCorp has had from its expansion to the Middle East.
University of Wollongong: Australian education in Dubai
Finally, the University of Wollongong, through its export of education services to the Middle East has been able to expand its service product. Unlike much of Australia’s education export which relies on foreign students coming to the Australia, the University of Wollongong set up its own campus in Dubai, allowing both Australian students and students from the UAE and around the world to study in the UAE. The campus has been running for 20 years and now has a student body of 4000, from undergraduate to doctoral candidates as well as an alumni network of over 7000 members. The duration of the University’s presence in the UAE market and the number of students across all levels of study is testament to the success the University of Wollongong has had in its expansion into the Dubai market. The opportunities that the establishment of a campus has given the University to broaden its product base and international exposure demonstrates the possibilities and many advantages of services exports to the Middle East.
Australia servicing the Middle East
There is growing demand for service exports to the Middle East, particularly as many countries in the region are diversifying their economies away from their reliance on hydrocarbon export (see our article on market diversification in the MENA region here). With an increasing need for construction, education and professional services requirements across the Gulf region comes increased opportunity for Australian companies. Australian companies enjoy a good reputation in the MENA region for service exports and as the market space is increasing, the Australian service industry should look towards the MENA region and capitalise on the opportunities there.
This increasing demand for services coupled with the success of Australian companies that have already exported their services to the MENA region present a compelling case for companies considering exporting their services. Opportunities exist across a multitude of industries and the possibilities of product and company development through exports to the MENA region presents exciting prospects for Australian companies to export services to the Middle East.
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Author: Hugh Dixson
Hugh is a student at the Australian National University majoring in International Relations and Arabic, specialising in international trade. He has a particular interest in Australia’s trade with the Middle East and Asia, focusing on trade and government relations in those regions. Hugh hopes to eventually work in international economic institutions, commodity and trade finance or international trade groups.