Dubai: The Minister of Economy told UAE company executives at a forum in Dubai on Tuesday that the government will support their expansion into new markets.

The inaugural Highflyers forum, organised by the Ministry of Economy, brought together executives from UAE companies, including Crescent Petroleum, Dana Gas, Air Arabia and flydubai, to discuss strategies of operating overseas.

Sultan Bin Saeed Al Mansouri said as part of a new strategy the government will support and protect UAE companies who are looking to trade and invest in Latin America, Central Asia and the Pacific.

He said UAE foreign investment has played a role in consolidating the global economy, pointing out that the number of UAE foreign projects have increased by 26.5 per cent to 220 projects, compared to 174 in 2011.

In recent years UAE companies have made large overseas investments through projects and purchase orders. Emirates, Etihad and flydubai have all recently placed record orders for aircraft that will be assembled in countries such as France and the United States. Meanwhile, Dana Gas has invested $3 billion in Egypt’s and Iraqi Kurdistan’s energy sectors, the company’s Executive Director Rashid Al Jarwan said.

Al Mansouri, who also launched the Highflyers mobile app that details information on the UAE companies operating overseas, said he wanted the local companies to educate the next generation of Emiratis through “integration, acquisitions and partnerships.”

Challenges abroad

UAE companies speaking at the forum expressed their concerns of foreign governments not honouring contracts. Al Jarwan said the UAE government had to intervene when the Egyptian government failed to pay Dana Gas. He added that although the Egyptian government has since paid $50 million, a further $300 million is still outstanding.

A representative from the Egyptian embassy said the government was working on new legislation to create an attractive environment for foreign investors.

Corruption, bureaucracy, security issues and occupational health and safety standards were just some of the other challenges highlighted by companies operating overseas.

Sanzar Kakar, Chairman of Afghanistan Holding Group, said uncertainty was the biggest hurdle in attracting UAE investment to Afghanistan. He said a signed agreement to keep foreign soldiers in the country and smooth elections, scheduled for later this year, will ensure a better foreign investment environment.