Organised in March 2016, the conference was designed to extend and develop the concept of working internationally by helping practices to discover the opportunities available within the Arabian Gulf (or Gulf Cooperation Countries (GCC)) its challenges and the help available to overcome them.
With over a 100 registered to attend, the Lands of Opportunity seminar was aimed at providing delegates with an insight into some of the main elements to successful working within the region such as: building lasting relationships, the challenges of doing business, identifying the opportunities, and dealing with the legal bureaucracy.
Why the Gulf? The GCC is a regional political organisation comprising Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. These countries represent a population of some 50 million and a GDP of around $1670 billion; major construction and infrastructure spending is still planned for the coming years despite the current issues created by the low price of oil. However these countries are none the less still wealthy with healthy financial reserves. These relatively young and politically stable countries have a strong desire to upgrade and improve their built environment and infrastructure in the coming years.
In addition, as pointed out by Mr Abdesalam El Idrissi from the Arab British Chamber of Commerce, the region generally favours British goods and services and as such is a major contributor to the UK economy. The GCC accounts for some £15 billion pounds worth of exports (excluding arms sales) across all sectors, this is more than the UK exports to India and China combined. It also represents around 14% of international fee income for UK architectural practices.
The RIBA is encouraging and supporting its members to work around the world through organising and promoting events, raising awareness and creating opportunities to gain new international contacts, business opportunities, and develop skills and connections.For this year's event we chose two different formats to enable delegates to gain a deeper understanding of this complex region. The day was therefore split into two distinct parts in the morning and afternoon. In the morning session there was a series of introductory presentations outlining some of the key facts and figures, the opportunities and challenges and some real life experiences form fellow architects with experience of working within the region.
The RIBA has a strong group (chapter) of members within the region. We were therefore delighted to have two prominent group (chapter) members: Sumaya Dabbagh from Dabbagh Architects and chair of the Gulf chapter and Rohan Thotabaduge from Atkins International. Both joined us and shared their first hand experience with delegates.
In the afternoon, all the speakers were available for 1-2-1 individual discussions. This format enabled delegates the opportunity to discuss specific issues pertinent to their own situation. In addition to this we also arranged a series of three mini workshops covering the critical issues of communications and relationship building, navigating the legal system and dealing with issues of payments, bonds and cash flow.
Feedback from delegates has been very positive, comments have included:
- 'I wanted to say thank you for a great seminar! I found it very informative, the speakers were really good and I met some really great contacts for the future.'
- 'Congratulations on a very full day that made architects aware that - there are opportunities out there; - it's hard work to get commissions; and - help is available if required.'
- 'The quality and diversity of your guests were superb'
We are very grateful for the fantastic support provided by our partners in helping us organise this event specifically UK Trade and Investment and UK Export Finance, along with Trowers and Hamlin for the legal advice and of course the Arab British Chamber of Commerce, thanks to them all without whose help, the event could not have been staged.
Pictures of the day can be seen here.
Speakers' presentations videos are available to view and download in the Member Login Area / members offers page on our website.