Brunei is the second richest country in Southeast Asia on a per-capita basis. But the oil-rich sultanate on the northern side of Borneo Island has suffered weak economic growth in the past decade, and leaders have realized the need to diversify the nation’s economy.
While Brunei’s oil and gas companies have a significant presence in ASEAN (The Association of Southeast Asian Nations), there is an increasing need for these types of businesses to push beyond the region.
Brunei Investing in Oman Startups
One such target for international expansion is Oman, which Brunei’s business leaders and government officials hope to use a base to grow into other parts of the Middle East and Africa.
“Oman is a very important platform for companies in Brunei to reach to other GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) countries and also Africa,” said Dato Ali Apong, Chairman of Brunei’s Economic Development Board, who attended a networking event held in Oman’s capital of Muscat.
Part of Brunei’s larger strategy is to help smaller companies enter into and prosper in Oman. Through the Enterprise100 Transformation Programme, the government seeks to assist local SMEs (Small and Medium Enterprises) with reaching 100 million Brunei Dollars (BND) in annual revenue.
“The purpose of this programme is to groom some companies whose (annual revenue) today is BND20 to 30 million and help them make BND100 million in five or 10 years,” said Apong.
Likewise, Oman has pledged to support development of other sectors in Brunei besides the oil and gas industry.
“Just as the Brunei government is investing in its nation and people, we too are committing further funds to transport, logistics, tourism, manufacturing, health, ICT, agriculture and fisheries and education,” said Sayyid Faisal bin Turki Al Said, director of marketing and media at Ithraa.
A joint-investment fund has been set up between the two governments of Oman and Brunei. The fund will not finance the development of businesses in Oman, but also those in the rest of the Middle East and Africa.
The chief executive officer of PEIE (Public Establishment for Industrial Estates) also invited investors and entrepreneurs from Brunei to enter a partnership with his company to study and implement strategic projects.
He noted that 2014 marked the 30th year since the start of bilateral relations between Brunei Darussalam and Oman.