Five Reasons to do Business in the Gulf

02 November 2018

Tony Martin / Regional Director, India, Middle East and Africa More articles from Tony Martin

If you’re a Kiwi business looking to get maximum bang for your export buck, then choosing the right market is vital. While every market has its opportunities and challenges, one option to consider further is the Gulf States.

Wealthy, strategically located between Asia, Africa and Europe, and already possessing a positive opinion of New Zealand, this region continues to undergo an almost unrecognisable transformation, both social and economic, presenting enormous opportunities for our companies - and not just large corporations, but the kind of small and innovative businesses New Zealand traditionally produces.

So what is driving the decision on why – and when – you should do business in the Gulf?

1) Growth and Changes

Fifty years ago Dubai was a sleepy fishing village on the Arabian Gulf. Now it’s a thriving global metropolis, home to 2.5 million people, with more than 200 nationalities represented. This kind of growth isn’t limited to Dubai by any means, with the pace of change across the entire region accelerating - both physical (such as massive investment in transportation, housing and infrastructure) and social, including the liberalisation of local markets, a growing tourism sector and the opening up of Saudi Arabia to foreign businesses.

Combined, this has already created two-way trade standing at NZ $4.3 billion and only set to grow further as the region moves away from fossil fuels and turns to the kind of innovation and skills that New Zealand companies are increasingly associated with in order to diversify their economies.

2) Gateway to Other Markets

As well as the local markets, the Gulf also places you within a four-hour flight of more than two billion potential customers, and eight hours from two-thirds of the world’s population, making it the ideal location for an export or logistics hub.

It doesn’t end there – tax incentives, free zones which enable enterprises to access the region, two huge ports that provide easy access to huge secondary markets like the African continent and India, an international airport that’s ranked as the second busiest in the world, and thriving Kiwi expat communities across the region. Plus, Abu Dhabi was recently voted the globe’s safest city, whilst both Dubai and Bahrain have topped lists of the best places to live and work.

3) Cultural Similarities

It may surprise you, but New Zealand and the Gulf states have some commonalities, including small populations that punch well above their weight on the world stage - but it goes much deeper than that.

The Arab and Māori cultures have deep ancestral links and respect for our kaumatua and connection to land and sea. Both share a culture of places to discuss, debate and share stories – in this case, the majlis of the Middle East and the wharenui in a marae, and both have similar, long-term philosophies of kaitiakitanga, or guardianship, and a belief in our responsibility to safeguard things for future generations. These similarities, plus the positive way New Zealand is viewed, help Kiwi companies stand out from the crowd and they shouldn’t be afraid to seek cultural guidance to make the most of it.

4) Expo 2020

As opportunities go, they don’t come much bigger than this one. Running from October 2020 to April 2021, Expo 2020 in Dubai is set to be the world’s largest business gathering, with 25 million visitors from 180 countries predicted to attend.

Considered the Olympics of the business world, World Expos are a chance for nations to showcase their capabilities and products to a global audience. Thanks to New Zealand’s early participation and prime location on site, this Expo presents a high-profile opportunity for our companies to leave a lasting mark on the region.

Get involved with Expo 2020


With presence in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Riyadh, Tehran, India and Africa, New Zealand Trade and Enterprise helps Kiwi companies establish themselves on the ground. What’s relatively unique, however, is the personal connection we help create; first by acting as a sounding board for new ideas and market entry strategies, then using our network of in-market contacts to introduce you to potential customers, clients, distributors, business partners and like-minded companies.

As well as hosting events where exporters can meet key influencers in their sector, NZTE also has a group of experienced, private sector advisors called Beachheads on hand to provide in-depth expertise, perspective and key insights on the local market, with the aim of helping Kiwi companies move successfully into the region.