Political instability hinders exports to North Africa. Business opportunities are great but many North African countries are still unsafe.
A forum on business opportunities for our small and medium-sized enterprises in North Africa and the middle East was held by Confindustria Vicenza and Padova. The event focused on the exports to the 'Arab spring' countries, which have recently been at the forefront of social unrest as in Libya and in Egypt. Indeed, Vicenza's firms are doing significant business in the area. In 2011 Veneto's exports to the Middle East amounted to € 2.7 billion. In particular, exports to Tunisia grew by 2.9% by the end of last year.
"Domestic demand is slack as well as that from a few markets we traditionally export to - says Walter Fortuna, Vice-President of Confindustria Vicenza and head of international affairs - so we have to look to other non-conventional markets, which nevertheless keep growing and offer interesting business opportunities. For instance, we will see how the political course of events in Libya will evolve, as this country is very rich but it is also scarcely populated and industrialised. Moreover, the economic recovery needs to go hand in hand with the need to rebuild a country destroyed by the war". Among the speakers at the forum on North African countries was Biagio Matranga, director general of Ubae Banca, one of the leading banks in the Arab world, who introduced the business opportunities available in the Middle East. "I don't believe the events of the past few days in Libya will degenerate - he says confidently - also because Al Qaeda is not operating there. Anyway, Libya has to cope with hot issues such as security and bandits. I would advise Italian firms to deal in commodities rather than contracts and infrastructure projects. In addition, Italian entrepreneurs should do business there through guarantees and letters of credit. Of course, the countries of North Africa and the Middle East have to commit themselves to becoming democratic regimes".
The forum was also joined by entrepreneurs from mechanical, food and rubber and plastic industries. "North Africa and the Middle East, we believe, can become potential markets for our exports, especially when political tension will come to an end - says Alfonso Santili, head of the Foreign Department of Banca Popolare di Vicenza -. Our mission is to provide companies with guarantees to allow them to do business safely". He thinks that the countries which are already safe and reliable to do business with are the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, especially for our building companies. " Libya may also be another country to do business with, considering that reconstruction is on the way - says Santilli - and we cannot even lose the chance of dealing with Iran, whose business opportunities will be huge once the embargo will be lifted".
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