During our February 16 webinar "Cross-Border Business Development; Palm Beach & Bahrain" we were honored to have so many diplomats and professionals speak about the evolving relationship between the business and educational communities of Palm Beach and Bahrain, including Redha Karim, Business Development Manager - Bahrain Economic Development Board (EDB)
Greetings for everyone on the panel, to the esteemed guests, thank you very much for having me on. My name is Redha Karim – I'm the head of the America's business development efforts for the Economic Development Board here in Bahrain, company called the EDB.
We are chaired by His Royal Highness The Crown Prince. So we do get support from the very top. I like to say that we are the face of Bahrain to the world. The EDB focuses on inward investment. We're an inward investment public agency. A lot of really important points were touched on, especially by the Deputy Chief of Mission. Thank you for that.
For those who are less familiar, although we are a small island, 1.5 million, 52% of that are expats. When we talk about Bahrain as an attractive destination, a lot of it is, Bahrain as a gateway to the Gulf. I think that's where a lot of FDI finds value in Bahrain as a gateway to the Gulf. We are strategically located. We're the closest nation to Saudi Arabia, the biggest market in the region. We are within a three and a half to four hour flight to massive population centers in Europe, in Asia, India, China, as well as North Africa.
One thing about Bahrain is that when we make a plan, such as the plan to diversify away from oil and gas about 25 years ago, we achieve our plans. And that's because a lot of our plans are both attainable and realistic – it's measured and it's reported on. Our oil and gas sector is now just under 18%, about 17.7%, and that has really given birth to a lot of other sectors. I'm encouraged to hear the opening remarks by the Mayor that really highlights a lot of similarities between Palm Beach and Bahrain. The fact that you guys have a lot of airports nearby. We are a small island, and we've got an airport. As a matter of fact, that's what makes our logistics value proposition particularly very attractive. Our seat of air corridor is only 2 hours at optimal time, and that matches Singapore. If you're familiar, that's what made Singapore successful over the past few decades as being a hub for Pacific Asia. It now takes only 2 hours to bring products in and through Bahrain. It also makes our manufacturing industry particularly attractive to manufacturer goods and distributed all around the world, or at least around the region.
Mary from AmCham was nice enough to mention Mondelēz manufacturers from the United States. We have seen them successfully invest in Bahrain, and not only that, but achieved such success, they have continued to invest to manufacture their line of products and distribute it around the region. Here in Bahrain, we focused on all sectors but we have highlighted a few key sectors. Financial services is our strong suite. Similar to what Mayor Weinroth mentioned as Palm Beach. Citybank is a massive presence here in Bahrain and they are growing, Mondelēz food from the manufacturing and logistics section. Bell helmets as a manufacturer of the world's leading race car helmets – most of the formula one drivers were Bell helmets – they've moved their manufacturing to Bahrain. They have achieved such success that they have decided to move their regional RND into Bahrain as well. More recently, we were successful in getting AWS Amazon web services to establish a data center here in Bahrain. From our education and healthcare cluster – Barnes announced ambitious national strategic development plans. One of which includes a healthcare cluster. To really be a pioneer in the region in the space of healthcare.
From the education sector, we've attracted some American universities, American University of Bahrain for example. We are seeing the growth in that there is an emphasis of the American curriculum here in the Kingdom – and as well as in the region. And we are seeing a population from the neighboring countries, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia coming over to Bahrain for this particular American curriculum, education.
We are also seeing a lot of executive education, whether it's corporate or managerial programs being extremely influential over here. Lastly, I'd like to highlight an Apple Training Center that's being finalized and signed off at this moment and that's particularly exciting.
The free trade agreement is something I'd like to highlight that will make Bahrain particularly attractive to United States. We were the first country in the Gulf to have a free trade agreement with the United States. There's only two — it's Bahrain and Oman. This allows the United States not only for obvious reasons Trade freely with Bahrain but also allows these American companies to be treated as local Bahraini companies in the region. And that's a tremendous advantage to have.
My name is Redha Karim. We can help support your entire journey. Whether it's understanding the value proposition of Bahrain supporting through feasibility studies, registration and licensing, with the government, finding a co-investment partner in the private sector as well as the aftercare. I hope my contact will be shared after this webinar. If not, I will certainly drop my contact in the chat to everyone. Can I have my contact and feel free to reach out? I would love to discuss the value proposition of Bahrain and how we can achieve mutually beneficial arrangements.
Thank you very much.
— Redha Karim
Business Development Manager - Bahrain Economic Development Board