Oil-rich Kuwait is a tiny country nestling at the top of the Gulf. Flanked by powerful neighbours Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Iran, its strategic location and massive oil reserves make it the fifth richest country in the world measured by Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per head. It’s one of UK’s largest and most important trading partners and bilateral trade has doubled from £2 billion to £4 billion in the last 2 years.
Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Jaber al-Sabah has ruled Kuwait since January 2006, he served as foreign minister over a 40-year period during which time he was credited with shaping Kuwait's foreign policy and steering the country through the Iraqi invasion in 1990.
Over 100 UK companies, franchises and companies with agents are already operating in Kuwait. Examples include Shell, BP, PWC, Harvey Nichols, Boots, Amec, Atkins, Coffee Republic, Mulberry, Grant Thornton, Dundee University, Pitman Training, and Waitrose.
UK and Kuwait trade
Main UK goods exports to Kuwait include:
- Boilers, machinery and mechanical appliances
- Electrical machinery
- Pharmaceutical products
- Optical, photographic, cinematographic, measuring, checking, precision, medical or surgical instruments and apparatus
- Natural or cultured pearls, precious or semi-precious stones, precious metals
- Books, newspapers, pictures
- Plastics and plastic products
- Cereals, flour, starch or milk; pastry cooks’ products
The export of services is a growing area, particularly in consultancy and financial services transactions. Kuwait is one of the single largest investors in the UK with around £100 billion of official funds invested through the City of London.
Benefits for UK businesses exporting to Kuwait include:
- No taxation on personal income
- Growing diversification within the Kuwaiti economy
- Earmarked government investment of £71 billion on infrastructure projects
- Public Private Partnership (PPP) approach for infrastructure projects
- English widely spoken
Challenges of doing business in Kuwait
- Physical presence needed as long term relationships need to be formed
- Restrictions on company ownership by non-Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nationals
- Identifying suitable sponsors for initial entry into the market
- Finding an appropriate Kuwaiti partner for joint ventures
- Slow speed of decision making
- Tendering process can be difficult to navigate
- Extremely hot weather in summer season slows down outdoor activity.
The government’s new 5 year National Development Plan (2015 to 2020) focuses on economic reform and the implementation of several long-stalled mega strategic projects & privatisation remains an important priority of the Kuwaiti government.
The documents required to export to Kuwait are:
- Invoices – initiated by supplier
- Certificate of origin
- Bills of lading / airway bill
- Packing list
- Import licence and quality test certificates as applicable
- Original Islamic Compliant Slaughter (Halal) meat products
- Customs duty payment receipt
The accompanying documents must be legalised by the Kuwaiti Embassy and also certified by the Kuwaiti Ministry of Foreign Affairs upon arrival of the shipment. A licensed customs clearing agent is required in order to facilitate the customs clearance process and for practical considerations.
More: Gov.uk , BBC