Muscat recently hosted the 4th EU-GCC Business Forum – while an important event, no doubt, failed to attract enough numbers of state officials or business leaders, especially those doing business with EU countries. Despite dozens of invitations sent out by the Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry to its members, particularly SMEs owners, attendance was relatively poor.
The Forum raised many issues of potential support to the existing EU-GCC relations, including those related to the role of modern technologies in the education sector and in providing future skills, the legal framework for technology, and its role in the logistics, manufacturing and e-commerce sectors, the 4th Industrial Revolution witnessed worldwide and how to prepare for it, and the role of women in the field of entrepreneurship and technology.
The role of education is imperative in transforming business models and making a profound impact on career choices in the coming years, in addition to its impact on business and industries, increasing the productivity of individuals at work, and widening skill gaps.
Such forums open horizons for GCC citizens through the strengthening of policies promoting the diversification of income sources, utilising modern technologies in conducting more bilateral commercial and industrial projects and enhancing investment and cooperation with GCC private sector institutions. This was stressed by Mikel Cervone Dorso, the European Union’s Ambassador to GCC States, who emphasised the need to strengthen relations in the aforementioned areas. He also highlighted the importance of the Sultanate as a major maritime hub through which both Asia and Europe can be linked to Africa, which represents a major market for various commodities and products.
Trade relations between GCC states and the EU are constantly growing, and the future holds numerous bilateral opportunities if properly utilised. With such open bilateral relations and ease of access for GCC businessmen, students and tourists, especially SMEs owners, through the Schengen Visa regime without many obstacles or requirements, many GCC business owners and students will head to Europe to benefit from educational services, modern technologies, mechanization and industrial know-how more than any other continents.
Accordingly, the public is all for widening the horizons for EU-GCC relations, which requires officials to exert more effort to overcome difficulties and tackle challenges facing bilateral cooperation.
All these issues require the government and private sector to re-imagine strategies, business models and operating principles. The Fourth Industrial Revolution creates enormous changes in a world that seeks new innovations at tremendous speeds, giving rise to productivity in manufacturing industries, promoting industrial growth and changing the competitiveness of companies and industrial regions. Meanwhile, e-commerce had a significant role in EU-GCC growth and communication during the past period.
GCC states have strived during the past years to improve the business environment and issue legislation and laws to attract more international investments The Sultanate recently issued several laws aimed at boosting foreign capital inflows.
These laws offer investors many facilities and benefits, and ensure them work in various specialised projects, including technology and knowledge transfer, in addition to their significant impact in diversifying sources of income, expanding and consolidating the role of the private sector in various fields, in addition to facilitating the establishment of investment projects, improving methods of disclosure and transparency and the speedy completion of investment-related procedures.
The 4th EU-GCC Business Forum was the product of the EU-GCC dialogue on economic diversification. Speakers and experts addressed existing and ongoing initiatives and planned investments in their countries, with the need to focus on the challenges faced by entrepreneurs as well as women in the areas of modern technologies.