Dubai: The COVID-19 pandemic has had the positive spillover effect of greater investment opportunities between the UAE and Israel, especially in the digital health and agri-tech sectors, panellists said during the second day of the virtual ‘UAE-Israel Business Leaders Summit’ on Tuesday.
Hanan Harhara Al Yafei, CEO of Abu Dhabi-based Hub71, told the summit (held on uae-israel-summit.com, on which registration is open) that the pandemic has led to “fast digitalisation” in the way governments are working. “We feel there could be huge opportunities for start-ups from all over the world, including Israel, to tap into this market in the UAE, but also for the start-ups here to tap into the sophisticated technology ecosystem in Israel,” she said.
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The summit, co-hosted by Gulf News and TheMarker, heard how both countries are seeking mutual investment opportunities following the normalisation of bilateral ties after the Abraham Accord in August. The UAE has a multibillion-dollar accelerator programme for start-ups, with Hub 71 as its flagship project. Over two-thirds of start-ups in the Middle East and North Africa are based in the UAE. Israel meanwhile has had a record breaking year for its tech companies, seeing investments of $10 billion, said Uri Gabai, co–general manager and vice president of strategy at Start-Up Nation Central, Israel.
Netalie Nadivi, Partner, Triventures Venture Capital Fund, Israel, said the global health crisis of 2020 has shown tech-led solutions have become “must-have” instead of just “nice to have”. She added that remote care and tele health are ripe for funding now. “We are interested in the verticalisation of healthcare, seeing fintech solutions for healthcare, changing how and where we pay for health care,” Nadivi added.
In another session, other panellists from both countries expanded on more areas of interest between the two sides.
Mansoor Al Marar, Director - Commercial Zone, Kizad, based in Abu Dhabi, said UAE companies are interested in the offerings of Israeli companies with regards to food security and agri-tech, which have been becoming especially strategic because of the pandemic. He also mentioned life sciences and pharma as part of the “success story that we would like to bring down to Abu Dhabi” from Israel.
“We have looked at expanding investment in these sectors. The tech is being developed across the world and we expand from there… but also the tech has to adapt to the climatic conditions within the UAE. Israel does have somewhat similar climatic conditions and they have raised the bar in food security. We have established contacts with agri-tech and are exploring the opportunities on the ground,” Al Marar said.
Fatima Al Hammadi, Executive Director of Industrial Zones, ZonesCorp, Abu Dhabi, also said agri-tech is part and parcel of the national agenda of Abu Dhabi, for which “we want to go to Israeli market and see the existing investment opportunities”. She added that the recent 100 per cent ownership law for foreign firms in the UAE and new incentive programmes for agri-tech and pharma in the UAE make the Emirates an attractive destination for Israeli investments.
Gateway to the UAE
Dr Ron Tomer, President, Manufacturers Association of Israel, said Kizad can be the gateway to the UAE for Israeli exports. “When I visited Abu Dhabi Port last week I wanted to see the logistical chain and I was very impressed by what I saw. This capacity can facilitate a lot of trade. We will do it top to bottom with Abu Dhabi Port and Kizad and other free zones and establish the connections. I hope they will come to visit us as well,” Dr Tomer said.