With the opening of Mondelez’s major new facility in Bahrain, it has been a busy year in the manufacturing sector – and further announcements at a major event in the Kingdom earlier this month have meant it hasn’t slowed down.
First of all, we saw the inauguration of Italian water heater maker Ariston Thermo’s first manufacturing plant in the Middle East and North Africa region. The 7,000m2 plant, based in Bahrain International Investment Park (BIIP), will produce up to 250,000 electric water heaters a year for export across the region, and create high-skilled engineering and management jobs.
In the same week came the announcement that Power Root, the Malaysian manufacturer of Ali café beverages, is expanding into the MENA region and will be investing over US$14 million in a large production facility, also located in BIIP. The investment is expected to generate over 160 new jobs for the local workforce.
Both these announcements were made around Gateway Gulf, a major investment forum held under the patronage of His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, the Crown Prince, Deputy Supreme Commander and Chairman of Bahrain EDB.
As the region’s population expands, so too does demand for goods and services. And while these are two very different businesses, both their investments were driven by the same factors – the scale of the GCC opportunity and Bahrain’s ability to help them access it.
For companies based in Bahrain, one key advantage is the strong logistics links the Kingdom offers. Located at the heart of the GCC, Bahrain has invested heavily in transport and logistics infrastructure while implementing a number of key regulatory reforms. This means that businesses can move people and goods quickly and easily across the region from Bahrain.
Bahrain also offers a uniquely open, supportive business environment and some of the lowest operating costs in the region, allowing companies to set up and operate easily and profitably.
We are seeing evidence of these factors driving deals across all sectors. In 2017, in collaboration with its key stakeholders and partners, EDB Bahrain achieved a record level of international investment, attracting US$733 million and 71 companies. 2018 has seen this positive trend continue as businesses are drawn to the region by the opportunities being created.
As we look to the future, we are excited not only about what Bahrain offers businesses now, but how we can enhance that. We continue to invest in infrastructure – from an expansion to Bahrain International Airport to a second causeway linking Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. And we are also continuing to explore opportunities for regulatory reforms that can unlock new sectors and opportunities as the manufacturing sector evolves.
If there was one thing that struck all the people I have talked to who attended Gateway Gulf this month it was that there is keen and growing interest in the Gulf among international businesses. We want to ensure that this interest continues to translate to investment in the years to come.