Secretary General of Arab - Hellenic Chamber
Boosting Arab-Greek business relations
How could you describe the profile of the Arab-Hellenic Chamber from its very beginning to the present day?
It has been almost four decades since the establishment of our Chamber, which was an Arab initiative, supported whole-heartedly, at the time, by the Greek side. Through all these years, the Arab-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce and Development has been truly playing an important role in bringing together the business communities from the Arab world and Greece and in opening new horizons for young entrepreneurs, Arab and Greeks alike.
Could you share with us a few words related to your position as Secretary General of the Arab-Hellenic Chamber and also the way you support the commercial agreements - arrangements between Greek and Arab entrepreneurs?
As the Secretary General of this chamber, my role is defined and through it I strive to extend any possible support and assistance to Greek businesses, especially the SME’s and explore with them the potential of establishing themselves or expand their businesses, in any form possible, in the Arab world. Having said so, my role extends to the other side, the Arabs, in order to make them see the potential that Greece offers in its business sectors or its investment opportunities, as much as possible.
What I have already indicated is the basic role of the administration of the Chamber, however our efforts as a whole never cease to promote Greek tourism and other sectors of related nature to the Arab businesses at large and, therefore, we feel that we are in the right direction and our role as a Chamber is increasingly recognized.
What are the common features that make the cooperation between two sides more effective?
Though the Greek economic crisis has definitely created difficulties to many people and its effect to the Greek society has been felt widely, one should admit that in one way or another the Greek business attitude has evolved to reflect a more positive outlook towards the Arab world. Therefore, we can say that, because of this attitude, the Greek businesses have succeeded to have a noticeable presence in the Arab market, and penetrate new markets and be competitive in terms of product quality and price. This positive business attitude has been met with the same degree of positiveness by the Arab side.
How difficult is it for a Greek entrepreneur to invest in the Arab market and also for an Arab entrepreneur to invest in Greece?
I wouldn’t call it “difficulties” but rather some bureaucratic obstacles in a greater or lesser degree. In the first case, even if there are good investment opportunities, investors will shy away. Take, for example, the case of the United Arab Emirates. They have created all favourable conditions and eliminated bureaucracy, and they have succeeded to make their country a hub and an attractive destination for investors in the Middle East. Their efforts have led to the creation of the desired diversity of the economy, thus becoming one of the most successful in the Middle East.
Greece, on the other hand, has a lot to offer to the Arab investors and entrepreneurs. Few sectors can be quite attractive for the Arabs to explore: tourism and real estate stand as number one, followed by building material, food-processing industry and solar energy. These sectors can be quite attractive, however one should not exclude, as in any business venture, the element of risk that is always present.
Which are the most challenging obstacles they need to overstep in order to proceed?
This is a good question. Bureaucracy stands alone as the number one obstacle.
There’s a mobility related to the export of Greek products. How does the Arab market feels about these products and how competitive are Greek products comparing to other markets products that show interest to enter into the Arab market?
As I have indicated earlier, Greek exports to the Arab world have seen quite a rise in volume. This is due to the positive approach by Greek businessmen, coupled with quality improvement and ability to compete, in terms of prices, with other products. Greek businesses have been quite successful in competing with similar products that are sold at the Arab markets and the Greek side has worked very hard to create a market share and to appreciate the value of a long-lasting business relationship. It is an attitude that has been met with encouraging signs by the Arab side.
With all modesty, the Arab-Hellenic Chamber has played a positive role in this respect. Through our events and on average during the last 5 years, we have hosted, I would say, around 160 Arab businessmen, on an annual basis. Let alone, the business delegations we have organized to Arab countries during the same period.
What is your opinion for the Arab investors and their willingness to invest in Greece and which way can someone get in touch with them?
The question is not how to get in touch. Investors know their way vis-a-vis the investment opportunities in any country. However, this is not by itself enough, unless there are flexible investment laws and a lesser degree of bureaucracy, if not zero.
Do you consider tourism industry as an investment product for United Arab Emirates?
The United Arab Emirates represent a success story in many aspects. UAE have successfully managed to diversify their economy from oil-based to other sectors and services by almost 70%. They have been able to create stability, outstanding rules and laws, a free market and, above all, they have built a unique infrastructure. These are some of the features of the success story in Emirates. Tourism stands as a major sector in the Emirates GDP and we can easily witness that by the millions of tourists visiting the country.