Turning the Page

Cyprus recently turned a new page in its traditionally good trade relations with Kuwait, inaugurating the Cyprus-Kuwait Business Association.
106 aCyprus recently turned a new page in its traditionally good trade relations with Kuwait, inaugurating the Cyprus-Kuwait Business Association.
The Association, like many other similar Associations operating under the auspices of the Cyprus Chamber of Commerce and Industry, aims to promote business relations and encourage trade and business relations between two business communities. Gold talked with Association President Demetris Tsingis, who has personal ties to the Kuwaiti business community: 40 years ago, his father was exporting shoes from Cyprus to retailers in the Gulf country, about the Association, its goals and the next steps forward, as well as the potential that the Kuwaiti market presents for Cyprus.
The Association currently has 25 members, but aims to open up its scope in order to have as many members as possible. “Our primary aim is to offer members value for their €200 membership fee, which we treat as an investment,” Tsingis said, “and this is one of the goals we have set following our first meeting.
” Cypriot companies have been active in Kuwait for many years. Construction companies in particular have been building and carrying out a great deal of infrastructure work. “In fact,” Tsingis noted, “an inter-nationally recognized company recently sponsored an exhibition there on real estate investment in Cyprus.” As for Kuwaiti companies active in Cyprus, Tsingis acknowledged that they are limited to some investment funds, with very few companies operating in other sectors. “We had been discussing the idea of setting up an Association with various groups and officials for about eight months,” Tsingis recalled, “and the process was concluded during President Anastasiades’ visit to Kuwait in October 2014.” Kuwaiti students want to have a European/Western education, and Cyprus has the ability to offer this option A lot of work has already been done and a parallel Kuwait-Cyprus Business Association – necessary for improving trade relations – is also in the process of being set up.
Members of the Kuwaiti business community with whom the Association wants to collaborate and hopes to see working with Cypriot businesses have already been identified and contacted. “In order to enhance cooperation, we plan to organise an annual trip to Kuwait that will coincide with a ministerial visit and give us the opportunity to meet with like-minded entrepreneurs and business people, to trade and promote business relations. It is not just a question of exchanging information and knowledge or networking but going a step further and achiev-ing tangible business results” Tsingis said. He was keen to stress that “We do not want such a trip to be simply an opportunity for our members to wine and dine.” The Association President went on to say that the Honorary Consul of Cyprus in Kuwait , the Ambassador of Cyprus to Kuwait, Panicos Kyriakou, the Kuwait Chamber of Commerce and the Kuwaiti Embassy in Cyprus have been pivotal in opening channels of communication that will satisfy the needs of each Association member.
Cyprus naturally wants to attract Kuwaiti investment into Europe through Cyprus. Tsingis cited the way certain Israeli companies have done this as a good example: “Using Cyprus as a conduit to Europe, they have set up their operations primarily in Limassol and I believe we can persuade Kuwaiti businesses to do the same,” he told Gold. He clarified that the Association is not looking for a major fund that will invest in Cyprus – at least not yet – but for “collaboration at the grass roots level, where it is easier to take decisions.” Trade volume between the two countries currently stands at €40-50 million per year. How-ever, Tsingis and the Association believe that if Cyprus taps into the Kuwaiti tourism market – not the most important area of interest but one of the four identified by the Association as having potential – this figure could soar.
“There are three direct flights from Kuwait every week and Cyprus could be a very safe and appealing destination for some of the 800,000 Kuwaitis seeking to escape the scorching summer heat and looking at destinations other than those traditionally preferred, such as Syria, Egypt and Lebanon. Attracting some of those tourists is one of our focus areas,” he stressed. Several local universities have joined the Association members because they are interested in attracting students from Kuwait and so they wish to gain ac-creditation from the Kuwaiti authorities. “Kuwaiti students want to have a European/West-ern education, and Cyprus has the ability to offer this option,” he explained. A third area of potential co-operation is the services sector.
“There is a big investment com-munity in Kuwait, and we want to cater to its needs by making Cyprus a portal to the EU for Kuwaiti businesses,” Tsingis said, adding that this is the sec-tor of greatest interest to the Association. The Cyprus economy,” he clarified, “depends on the services sector – banking, legal services, accounting services – by about 50% to 60%” The fourth sector identified by the Association as having good potential is the real estate/ construction sector. “Given that the euro is so cheap to Kuwaitis right now (their currency is pegged to the US dollar), properties in Cyprus are an attractive investment option,” Tsingis stated, recalling what he described as a “traditional interest in Cypriot property” from the 1980s, when many Kuwaiti citizens purchased property, primarily in Larnaca, which they sold for a significant profit a decade later.
“We are willing and able to assist with private investment interest in the sector,” he added. As for the Association’s next steps, on 20 May an exhibition is being held in Kuwait where Cypriot producers and business people will have an opportunity to present their products and services in sectors as diverse as agriculture, tourism and real estate. “We are optimistic that our efforts will be successful,” Tsingis said. “We need to understand certain differences in culture in order to be successful and to go through the process and effort required for making initial contacts but there is definitely scope for Cypriot and Kuwaiti businesses to work together.”
27 June 2017