How the Abraham Accords are transforming business 

Two years later, the Abraham Accords have had a positive impact on businessmen and investors in Israel and the Gulf.

The agreements created a pro-business environment in the region, and indirectly brought positive momentum to deals such as the maritime border agreement between Israel and Lebanon, driven by local economic interests.

Businessmen from both sides grew their businesses because of the agreements.

Normalization is happening at a steady pace despite the difference in how each side approaches business relations: The UAE is relationship-driven and there are no quick wins, in contrast to how many high-tech entrepreneurs of Israel operates.

Since the signing of the agreements, there have been notable steps in deepening economic ties between the two countries such as the Dubai International Chamber’s decision to open an office in Tel Aviv. The mission of this office is twofold; to help local Israeli investors navigate business opportunities in the UAE, as well as support Dubai-based businesses that want to thrive in the Startup Nation.

Commenting on this tremendous opportunity Hassan Al Hashemi, Vice President International Relations, Dubai Chambers noted: “Israel is a market of strategic importance to Dubai and by building on our bilateral business partnerships we can accelerate the competitiveness of companies in both countries and to compete better in the international arena.”

According to Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics, trade between Israel and the United Arab Emirates reached $212.6 million in August 2022, representing a 163% increase in trade from August 2021. For the first eight months of 2022, the bilateral trade was just over $1.62 billion, constituting a 121% increase in trade from the first eight months of 2021.

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Relationships take time, especially for countries like this that have never had diplomatic relations, but the actions taken by individuals, institutions and entrepreneurs who have stepped forward to build this future show how visible the vision of peace.

Public-private partnership

Entrepreneurs are not the only ones who create value. Once the agreements were signed, new organizations were hatched to facilitate business opportunities.

How Abraham Accords is changing business
The first Gulf-Israel Women’s Forum in Dubai, October 9, 2020. Photo by Madi2028 via Wikimedia Commons

An example of such a catalyst is Noa Gastfreund, VP of Business Development at UNIPaaS and cofounder of the UAE-IL Tech Zone. This organization was developed from The Hybrid accelerator program for Arab-led Israeli startups.

In the context of the Abraham Accords, the UAE-IL Tech Zone focuses on building bridges between the two regions through tech. The group boasts more than 2,000 members and has hosted delegations of VCs and growth-stage companies that have visited the Gulf. Other programs focus on people-to-people connections to build sustainable relationships.

How Abraham Accords is changing business
Noa Gastfreund of the UAE-IL Tech Zone. Photo by Omer Hacohen

As Gastfreund says, “Israel has a ‘global first’ strategy where companies penetrate larger markets. One of the reasons is that they cannot really enter the MENA region until this agreement is signed… and because of this, Israel is now partnering with the Gulf in technologies such as renewable energies, desert tech, food tech, agritech, digital health, fintech and more.”

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Another facilitating organization is the woman-founded DANA Accelerator in Abu Dhabi, which provides regional collaboration, innovation mentorship, community impact and funding to women-led startups in desert tech sectors including agritech, water solutions , food security, waste management and renewable energy.

DANA works with Emirati, Palestinian and Israeli businesswomen alongside government institutions to solve key challenges in the Gulf.

Building operations in the Gulf

For many Israeli founders, the idea of ​​opening relations between the two countries means more investors from the Gulf. There have already been notable investments in Israeli startups, such as the recent nearly $200 million round led by the Qatar Investment Authority in cybersecurity company Snyk.

However, what the Gulf more importantly has provided Israeli companies is a base of operations, and access to top talent.

One of Abraham Accords’ hopes is that growing Israeli companies will open offices in the UAE.

Israeli payment fintech startup Raypd has the largest presence of any Israeli company in the UAE, with less than 80 employees, and a goal to grow the office to 200 employees in the next three years.

Rapyd’s Dubai office, which opened more than a year ago as an engineering and product hub focused on relocating workers from around the world, is its second largest hub outside of Tel Aviv. The company has found it easier to recruit engineering talent globally as post-Covid Dubai has become an attractive destination.

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As CEO Arik Shtilman said, “It’s about recruiting. We believe that product and engineering should work together; Dubai has become a hub for expats to relocate during the pandemic and post-Covid as an attractive global destination for talent… much like what Singapore might have been in the past.

Consequently, Raypd set up offices in the Dubai Free Zone; the local government was able to expedite visa requests, as well as offer the company an unlimited number of visas. This springboard gives Raypd the ability to sell in the UAE, Jordan and Egypt.

Rapyd is also the first Israeli startup to receive a license from local UAE regulators to sell its fintech products.

With the promising possibility of Saudi Arabia normalizing relations with Israel, a base in the Gulf offers endless opportunities for B2B companies in the MENA region.

When that normalization happens, the region will present the Abraham Accords as the catalyst for strong economic ties.

Jonathan “Yoni” Frenkel is a content strategist and founder of YKC Media, a digital marketing agency working with the global tech/venture/startup community.



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