‘Sector Champions’ to help diversify Omani economy

A number of sector flagships created by the Omani government to drive investment and development in strategic areas of the economy have been mandated to support the country’s economic diversification goals, according to a key official of Oman Investment Authority (OIA), under whose broad umbrella all of these flagships were brought recently.

Dubbed ‘sector champions’, these flagships are essentially holding companies of government-owned assets in strategic economic sectors, notably logistics, tourism, aviation, mining, food, fisheries and Information Technology, among others, said Muneer al Muneeri, CEO – Rakiza, an infrastructure-focused fund operating under the ambit of OIA.

The Authority was formally established last month as a result of the integration of a number of Omani sovereign wealth funds, government holding companies and state-owned enterprises previously administered by the Ministry of Finance.

Participating in a webinar hosted recently by The Business Year (TBY), Al Muneeri said the sector-specific flagships created by the government in recent years but now placed under the remit of Oman Investment Authority, have been designated as ‘Sector Champions’.

“These entities focus on different sectors – logistics, mining, tourism, aviation, food and so on; they are sector champions – they have the mandate to develop and execute a strategy for their respective sectors. These are the sectors that the government is pushing hard to diversify based on demand and supply (market economics),” Al Muneeri noted.

Notable examples of ‘sector champions’ operating under the remit of OIA include: Asyad Group (focusing on the logistics industry), Oman Aviation Group (aviation, airports management and air-cargo), Omran Group (tourism and hospitality), Mineral Development Oman (mining and mineral processing), Oman Food Investment Holding Company (food sector), Fisheries Development Oman (fisheries and aquaculture), Nama Group (electricity) and Oman ICT Group (Information and Communities Technology).

The official noted in particular Oman ICT Group’s role in promoting the Sultanate’s digital transformation. “The idea behind the establishment of this group is to hold all of the assets previously held by the State General Reserve Fund (SGRF) and other government entities in the ICT sector. Its mandate and vision is to work on a framework to support the country’s development when it comes to technology. Digitisation of the economy and government entities is part of their mandate.”

Oman ICT Group, said Al Muneeri, had recently signed a contract with US computer tech giant Oracle for the establishment of the first private cloud-based service within the country. The move marks the start of the implementation of a strategy under development over the last year, he noted.

Asked about Rakiza’s plans to leverage high international investor interest in gas infrastructure assets, such as pipelines, the CEO stated: “Our strategy at Rakiza is to invest in all infrastructure projects, and electricity is certainly a core infrastructure area, similar to gas pipelines. We are indeed looking at different projects today in Oman, with regard to electricity, as well as infrastructure related to the midstream oil and gas industry. We are inviting investors to come along with us through Rakiza – either to invest in Rakiza itself or in the opportunities we have in hand. At the same time, we can also go along with strategic investors in these industries itself. We are here to add value to investors that have an interest in Oman.”

Rakiza, a first-of-its-kind fund, was launched in 2018 to enable foreign equity investors to explore opportunities in Oman’s broader infrastructure sector.  Areas of strategic investment interest include: Renewables, Oil & Gas, Social Infrastructure, Power and Water, Telecommunications, Transport & Logistics, and the Environment.