Bahrain on charm offensive to expand ICT ties with Hong Kong

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on whatsapp

Head of the Bahraini investment champion compares the island nation to Hong Kong with an eye to bring the two financial centres closer together.

(Photo: Mr Khalid Al Rumaihi, Chief Executive of the EDB)

Following former Hong Kong investment champion Simon Galpin’s return to the city to promote Bahrain in September, his colleagues follow in his wake – this time in search of collaboration opportunities on the information and communications technology (ICT) and Fintech fronts.

The Bahrain Economic Development Board (EDB) has recently led a government and business delegation to Shenzhen and Hong Kong to showcase its rapidly growing startup industry. Established in 2000 as a public agency tasked to drive investment into the island nation, the EDB set up a local office in Hong Kong in September and arranged a series of meetings on 18 November with accelerators and incubators in Hong Kong.

“Simon Galpin has spoken to me a lot about the successful experience of Hong Kong, and we’d like to collaborate [with Hong Kong] ,” said Khalid Al Rumaihi, Chief Executive of the EDB. “We think that the dynamism of Hong Kong’s economy and the experiences that this city have developed around startups are relevant to our startups in ICT initiatives.”

Before arriving in Hong Kong, Mr Al Rumaihi’s team have signed three Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) with InvestShenzhen, Shenzhen Capital Group and electric vehicle company BYD respectively on the sidelines of the Bahrain-Shenzhen Business Forum and attended the Shenzhen Hi-tech Fair on 16 and 17 November.

“I see complementary roles that Shenzhen and Hong Kong play, just like we see complementary role Bahrain plays with Riyadh or the eastern provinces of Saudi Arabia,” Mr Al Rumaihi stated. He added that Bahrain is well positioned as the prime spot for foreign investment and business development in the US$1.5 trillion-worth market of the Gulf region, with a number of advantages in terms of its geographical location, liberal regulatory environment, low business and living costs as well as its skilled and highly educated local population.

The kingdom, less than two-thirds the size of Hong Kong, is also home to about 400 Islamic financial institutions. According to the EDB’s latest report, its non-oil sector grew by 3.6% in the second quarter of 2016 and now accounts for more than 80% of GDP.

“The Gulf is a very interesting region right now given the affluence of the population, its technological savvy and high per-capita income,” Mr Al Rumaihi concluded.

Accompanying Mr Al Rumaihi were three Bahraini startup entrepreneurs: Fatema Ebrahim, founder of social media payment platform ValoPay, Zaman AH. Zaman, CEO of queue management system Skiplino, and Mohamed Anwar, founder of online 3D rendering services provider Mr Anwar, in particular, has already reached out to a number of Chinese simulator vendors for possible deals in his brief stay. Mr AH. Zaman, meanwhile, is looking into expanding its software to Asia through Hong Kong.

From left: Mr Zaman AH. Zaman; Ms Fatema Ebrahim; and Mr Mohamed Anwar.

“Shenzhen is very hardware-oriented while Hong Kong offers a lot of insights into the software side,” Ms Ebrahim said. “We have learnt a lot from the different startup ecosystem here and would like to see how we can bring it to Bahrain.”