• Important talks held with Government and business leaders across aviation and transportation sectors
  • Multimillion-euro contract signed by daa International and Red Sea Development Company to operate new Red Sea airport in Saudi Arabia

Ireland’s Minister of State for Transport, Hildegarde Naughton T.D., has completed a visit to the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia (3-6 October) to boost Ireland’s trade links. 

Exports by Enterprise Ireland-supported companies to the IMEA (India, Middle East and Africa) have continued on an upward trend, rising 18% last year across the region with Irish exports now valued at €1.45bn. The trade visit signalled the huge importance placed upon collaborations between Irish companies and regional partners in the transport sector. The visit highlighted the huge value placed on innovative Irish companies, which continue to deliver world-class expertise in goods and services with local partners.

Coinciding with the visit of Minister Naughton to Saudi Arabia, an important multi-year operational and management contract was signed between Mr. Nick Cole, CEO of Irish company, daa International, and Mr. John Pagano, Group CEO of The Red Sea Development Company & AMAALA to operate the Red Sea International Airport. daa International secured the management and operational contract for the ambitious project, which currently employs 12 daa International staff and will hire hundreds of local people. The first flights are due to take off early next year and is set to accommodate over two million passengers per annum when complete.

Enterprise Ireland supported daa International is a great example of an Irish company sharing industry-leading expertise. During the visit Minister Naughton saw first-hand their work at Terminal 5 at King Khalid Airport (KKIA) in Riyadh. daa International prides itself on developing the next generation of Saudi aviation leaders. They also recently won a multimillion-euro contract to manage King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia for the next five years. Their commitment will play a pivotal part in Saudi’s National Transportation & Logistics Strategy to increase passenger traffic to 300 million by 2030.

Across all of daa International’s projects in the Kingdom it has been leading the way in female empowerment, and more than 20% of employees in Terminal 5 KKIA are women, many in frontline positions. Women interested in a career in aviation can also avail of a partnership between Dublin City University and Princess Noura University where they learn from aviation experts, gaining industry perspective and promoting the aviation industry as an option for women who want to further their careers in a globally dynamic sector.

A key feature of Minister Naughton’s visit was to hear from women leading in senior positions across government and industry, as Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 aims to boost female participation in the workforce to 30% per cent by 2030. The UAE is also seeing great advances in the number of women in the labour force, with over 30% now occupying senior leadership positions in decision-making roles.

Minister of State for Transport Hildegarde Naughton said:

“For many years Ireland has built important partnerships with the UAE and Saudi Arabia, its two largest trading partners in the Gulf. The strong links continue to be maintained and momentum is being built across industries, particularly in aviation and logistics. There are huge opportunities and great potential for Irish companies in the region, who have many innovative solutions to share with these forward-thinking economies.

“The visit was a great opportunity to see first-hand how Irish innovation is being successfully used in the region and see all partners sharing expertise and knowledge. With an increasing number of women employed in these sectors, I welcomed the chance to meet and hear directly from female senior leaders in industry.”

In the UAE, Minister Naughton helped to further boost trade collaboration between the nation and Ireland and was joined by Ambassador of Ireland, Alison Milton. During the visit to Abu Dhabi, she met with senior leadership at Abu Dhabi Ports, held a Women in Business Roundtable, and spoke with leaders from across Emirati and Irish businesses. Bilateral meetings were held with Dr Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, the Minister of State for Foreign Trade of the UAE and Ohood Bint Khalfan Al Roumi, the Minister of State for Government Development and Future to explore future collaborations on trade and investment.

On the second leg of the trip to Saudi Arabia, the Minister held an Irish Business Network Saudi breakfast, including meeting with leading Saudi female alumni, and made visits across aviation to the Riyadh Airports Company, the Red Sea Development Project, and Jeddah International Airport. She met with JEDCO who are managing and operating Jeddah Airport, and Jeddah Chamber of Commerce. Bilateral meetings were held with Eng. Saleh bin Nasser Al Jasser, the Minister of Transportation and Logistics Services, and H.E. Princess Haifa Al Saud, the Vice Minister of Tourism to discuss the huge potential and new opportunities across transportation and tourism in the country.

In Saudi, the Minister had the opportunity to meet with Enterprise-Ireland backed company WaterWipes, one of many Irish companies successfully operating in the region. With Irish products growing in popularity across the region, WaterWipes is now stocked in thousands of stores with sales growing 36% in the last year alone. The Minister also met with local distributor TAN Gulf, founded in 2015 and now made up of over 200 employees. The Minister spoke with founder and CEO Mrs. Al Sahsah who leads a hugely successful distribution company in food and beverages, and cosmetics in Saudi Arabia. 

Stephen Twomey, Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Enterprise Ireland said:

The Minister’s trip to the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia offered a fantastic opportunity to highlight the huge potential across both markets in the aviation, logistics and transport industries for Irish companies. Enterprise Ireland are leaders in connecting local partners with innovative Irish solutions across the transportation sector, from logistics to aviation.”

Alan O’Mahony, Senior Market Adviser at Enterprise Ireland said:

“The aviation and logistics sectors are thriving across the Middle East, with successful and innovative new projects being led by Irish companies in the UAE and Saudi Arabia. The Gulf remains a major growth market for our clients, with last year’s strong export figures being particularly seen across aviation. The trade visit has been a chance to bring together key leaders across the industries to discuss growing trade collaboration and exciting new opportunities.”