Arab states work with the world but not with each other, Davos hears

Alain Bejjani said, ‘This region (MENAP) doesn’t work together. It works with the world but not with each other.’ (Courtesy WEF)
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Updated 21 January 2020

Arab states work with the world but not with each other, Davos hears

  • Majid Al Futtaim CEO Alain Bejjani: I think you’ll be surprised when I tell you that only 16 percent of the trade in the MENAP region is within the region
  • Alain Bejjani: We forget sometimes employment is a result of economic growth — you can’t create jobs without economic growth

LONDON: Arab economies need to break down barriers and start to work together if they are to stand any chance of creating the millions of jobs they need to grow, the World Economic Forum in Davos heard.
Regional economies are estimated to have grown by just 1 percent for 2019 as a weaker oil price, geopolitical threats and the impact of global trade wars have hurt output.
But a panel of Middle East business leaders and ministers called for more efforts to break down barriers and slash red tape in order to create the sort of economic growth needed for meaningful job creation.
“We forget sometimes employment is a result of economic growth — you can’t create jobs without economic growth,” said Alain Bejjani, the CEO of Majid Al Futtaim Holding, the Dubai-based retail conglomerate that operates malls across the Middle East.
He said that most global growth was creates through regional trading blocs but that this model had not yet worked successfully in the Middle East.
“If you look at the ASEAN region as an example — it has 56 percent of its trade happening within the region. I think you’ll be surprised when I tell you that only 16 percent of the trade in the MENAP region is within the region. If you take oil out it is less than 5 percent. So in reality this region doesn’t work together. It works with the world but not with each other.”
Bureaucratic processes have also stymied growth according to Majid Jafar, the CEO of UAE-based Crescent Petroleum.
“Registering a company can take more than a year in some countries,” he said. “So how can we make that quicker? Look at what is standing in the way and how can we improve it.”
The Middle East and Central Asia is expected to record 2.8 percent growth in 2020, the IMF said on Monday. That was slightly lower than its October outlook and reflecting the latest move by the OPEC+ group of oil producers to extend supply cuts. It expects the region to pick up speed in 2021 with growth of 3.2 percent.


UAE agri-business firm Pure Harvest gets $100 million commitment from Kuwait’s Wafra

Updated 40 min 26 sec ago

UAE agri-business firm Pure Harvest gets $100 million commitment from Kuwait’s Wafra

  • COVID-19 crisis puts emphasis on need for fresh healthy, locally-grown food
  • Pure Harvest has raised $20.6 million in its Series A financing round, with the Kuwaiti asset management firm

DUBAI: Abu Dhabi-based agri-business venture Pure Harvest Smart Farms on Monday said it has secured a $100 million multi-year funding commitment from Kuwait’s Wafra International Investment Company, the biggest agriculture technology investment in the region.

Pure Harvest managed to raise $20.6 million in its Series A financing round, with the Kuwaiti asset management firm – which has $6 billion assets in its portfolio – the biggest financial backer with a $10 million capital injection.

Pure Harvest Smart Farms supplies tomatoes grown in an enclosed, environment-controlled farm to supermarkets – including Carrefour, Spinney’s and Waitrose – hotels and restaurants in the UAE. Proceeds from its initial fund-raising activity would be used to finance planned expansion activities in the Gulf region.

“The recent COVID-19 crisis and resulting supply chain disruptions further highlight the need for sustainable local-for-local food production capacity, especially for fresh, nutrient-rich foods,” Sky Kurtz, the founder and chief executive of Pure Harvest Smart Farms, said in a statement.

“Together with structured debt financing that we are simultaneously arranging, we will invest Wafra’s funds in growth, key hires, enhancing our technology portfolio, and ultimately to deliver our solution across the region – including in Wafra’s home market of Kuwait.”

Ghazi Al-Hajeri, chief executive of Wafra International Investment Company, meanwhile said: “The Arabian Gulf food system is undergoing a monumental shift toward a technology-enabled farming model in order to meet consumer demands for affordable, high quality foods.”

When you combine the local abundance of sunlight with energy and water-efficient climate management systems, the region makes a compelling case as one of the best places in the world for horticulture – a ‘contrarian’ thesis we believe in and that led us to invest in Pure Harvest. “

Pure Harvest recently signed a deal with the Alliances for Global Sustainability, which was founded by Sheikha Shamma bint Sultan bin Khalifa Al-Nahyan, to secure over 30 hectares of land in Al-Ain to expand its modernized farming facilities.

Now read: The American putting the flavor back in the tomato in the UAE and sharing it with Saudi Arabia