EXPORTS to the Arab world could create thousands of jobs in the next two decades, according to a new report.
Research from the Arab-Irish Chamber of Commerce found that Ireland could treble its exports to these countries by about €9bn, creating some 12,000 new jobs.
According to the report from the consultants DKM, Irish trade with the Arab world is currently worth about €3bn – roughly the same as China – but is limited to a small number of countries.
The Arab-Irish Chamber says that by expanding the Irish presence in the region, exports could increase by €6bn and this would see the 8,000 jobs currently in companies that trade with the region increase to 20,000 over the next 25 years.
If all went according to plan, most of those jobs would come early on, especially if exports were to grow by as little as 8pc a year.
The chamber's incoming chairman, Joe Geoghegan, said the Arab world was a "major international market for Ireland".
He continued: "This is a market characterised by proximity, high import demand, high incomes in many countries, rapid population growth and large-scale infrastructure plans.
"(This report) found that Ireland has a very positive image in the Arab world. Planned investment on infrastructure and other areas in the Arab world over the next decade is so enormous that it warrants serious consideration by any substantial Irish enterprises in the construction, education, health and ICT sectors."
Currently, Ireland does the majority of its trade with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Kuwait. The UAE, in particular, is a trade hub between the West and the rest of the Arab world.
Much of the potential growth comes from the exploding population of Arab countries. It is currently a little less than 350 million but that is expected to almost double to 620 million by 2050.
The Arab world is one of the fastest-growing regions on the planet when it comes to population.
The level of Irish exports going to Arab countries is also coming from a low base, at just 1.7pc of this country's total exports.
Of the opportunities that are available there, the chamber believes that most of the growth will come in food, ICT, finance and medical services.
Countries involved with the chamber take in food imports worth about $74bn (€56bn) as it is. That figure is only going to grow, says the report, with agrifoods highlighted as a potential area of expansion.
The other big foods for potential growth are soft-drinks concentrate and baby formula.
Soft-drinks concentrate – basically the syrup that goes into Coke and Pepsi – already represents a third of Ireland's merchandise exports to the region, while baby formula and dairy exports to the region are worth about €320m.