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Aviation and fintech help Irish exports soar to record $532m

Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) International has signed a contract to operate the new airport at The Red Sea Development Project in Saudi Arabia
  • Business increased by 18% in Middle East, India and Africa
  • Exports ranged from fintech and aircraft technologies to equestrian feed
  • Fintech apps downloads in the UAE rose 183% in first half of 2022

Ireland reported record levels of exports to the Middle East last year, with aviation and financial technology (fintech) among the standout sectors that helped Irish companies to achieve over half a billion dollars in sales in the region.

Enterprise Ireland, the Irish Government’s trade agency, said the companies it supports in India, the Middle East and Africa saw business increase by 18 percent year-on-year to a record €1.45 billion ($1.42bn).

Of this, Middle East exports amounted to €545 million ($532m). Exports to the UAE increased seven percent to €139m ($135m), while exports to Saudi Arabia increased 13 percent to €185m ($180m).

“We deal with such a variety of sectors, it’s everything from equestrian feed, aircraft technologies, over the counter baby products, precision engineering. It’s a very broad church of companies that are active across the region,” Conor Fahy, regional director for the Middle East, India and Africa at Enterprise Ireland, told AGBI.

“I think it’s obviously the sectors that we’re doing very well in from the pandemic. So, we have a significant offer in IT-related solutions, whether it’s in the fintech-based payments… All that kind of technology around ecommerce, and then obviously life sciences. We’ve got a significant play in life sciences in this region.”

Fintech is one of the region’s fastest growing sectors, with San Francisco-headquartered digital advertising services firm AppsFlyer reporting that the number of fintech mobile apps downloaded in the UAE rose 183 percent year-on-year in the first half of 2022.

Between March 2021 and February 2022, in-app purchases on fintech apps in the UAE increased 277 percent year-on-year.

Irish fintech companies have made efforts to capitalise on this rapid growth and in March the Irish Fintech Innovation Showcase event, organised by Enterprise Ireland, was held in the Dubai International Financial Centre.

“The UAE is a key priority for the Irish fintech sector who have the extensive expertise and innovative products to help meet the increasing demand for world leading solutions that we see in the country,” said Darragh O’Brien, Irish Minister of Housing, Local Government and Heritage.

Enterprise Ireland represents around 5,000 Irish companies around the world, with around 400 in the Middle East. It has 40 offices around the world, including Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the UAE and Riyadh in Saudi Arabia.

With Irish exports to Qatar up 16 percent year-on-year to €36m ($35.1m) last year, Fahy said he was currently “evaluating potentially” opening an office in Doha.

“I think there’s a significant opportunity there for us. Small market, but a market I think that strategically we can do quite well.”

Aviation is a key sector for Ireland in the region. DAA International, the overseas subsidiary of the Irish state-owned airport operator, manages airports in Cyprus, Beirut, Riyadh, Manama, Doha, and Muscat.

Recently, DAA International also won a multimillion-euro contract to manage Jeddah Airport in Saudi Arabia for the next five years and it was also awarded the contract to manage airport facilities at The Red Sea Project, one of Saudi Arabia’s key megaprojects.

“Ireland’s footprint in aviation is way beyond the size of the economy… At Dubai Airshow we had 30 companies on our stand,” Fahy said.

“It ranged from interiors, so we do interior fit and aircraft, [and] technologies that go into the aircraft that enhance the experience for the customers: in-flight entertainment, safety instruction, technologies that enhance the communication between the pilot and the variety of different people they interface with on the ground.” 

In terms of transport, Enterprise Ireland earlier this year also signed an agreement with Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority (RTA). 

“We’ve been here 20 years plus in Dubai. We’ve been over 30 years in Riyadh. A lot of what we do here is kind of partnership long-term. [The RTA agreement] is a bit sensitive because it’s related to a discussion,” Fahy said.

According to the Enterprise Ireland press release the RTA agreement will “bring Irish innovation and best practices to Dubai’s transportation sector”.

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