At the second Arab-Turkish Business Summit, held in the Turkish city of Gaziantep, local companies promoted investment in northwestern Syria for the first time.
Launched last week, the business summit was organized by the Association of Independent Businessmen and Industrialists, sponsored by the Turkish Ministry of Commerce and the International Business Forum (IBF). Around 1,300 Turkish and Arab businessmen took part in the summit, according to Turkish media.
The relative calm that has prevailed for nearly two years explains the participation of local companies from Idleb and northern Syria in general, the first of its kind in this year’s summit edition. This commercial activity has occurred in parallel with local and government calls for investment in northwestern Syria.
Yamen al-Shami, director of the White Room company, talked with Al-Souria Net about the experience of participating in the summit as the first private engineering company based in Idleb city. He also shared his initial impressions about raising the issue of investment in Idleb and its surroundings.
“There was an invitation to some of the leading companies in northern Syria to participate in the regional conference, including White Room, to represent their countries and regions properly,” Shami said about the summit’s beginnings.
“Our participation in the summit was through the reconstruction projects carried out by the company in Idleb city, as well as the promotion of some necessary investment projects for northern Syria,” Shami said.
“It was surprising to see so many companies from the region participating in the exhibition, given northern Syria’s dark reputation,” Shami said.
“Our successes encouraged Turkish and Arab delegations and officials to visit our pavilion at the exhibition, distinguished by testimonies from the conference’s organizers, participants, and Turkish officials,” he said.
“The words of Turkish officials during the summit hinted at the need to support investment and recovery in the region, such that it can become suitable for receiving Syrian refugees,” he said.
“Construction and housing projects”
“The projects marketed by White Room focused on the residential and urban aspects, based on the private sector focus of the engineering company,” Shami explained.
However, despite the company’s engineering orientation, Shami referred to “the company’s efforts, and those of participating delegations, to promote investment in strategic sectors for the region such as factories for sugar medicine, and agricultural inputs.”
Shami and his own company look forward to “taking advantage of the positive impressions of delegations and investors to communicate with them in the future. These communication channels will allow us to present project studies and plans and convert project ideas into realities on the ground.”
Opportunities and challenges
Manaf Qawman, an assistant researcher at the Omran Center for Strategic Studies, said there are real opportunities for investors, industrialists, and companies in Idleb. These parties can learn about the challenges, obstacles, required investment conditions, and capital available for investment.
“One of the most prominent investment constraints for investors and industrialists — whether in Idleb or Aleppo countryside — is the security issue. I believe we are beginning to see improved security indicators in the region. These conditions can attract high-risk investments — i.e. investors who typically invest in dangerous places,” he said.
Qawman specified various obstacles to investment. “There is a lack of credit available, given the absence of banks and financial institutions in the region. This restricts the flow of capital. In addition, there is no governance body adjudicating between different investors in the region — or, at best, those institutions are weak,” he said. “It is also important that economic stability exists in terms of currency value, inflation, and the availability of essential products.”
This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. The Syrian Observer has not verified the content of this story. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.