The Sultanate of Oman posted total non-oil exports of $9.87bn in 2013, a growth of nearly six per cent on the $9.33bn total for the previous year, and the country is now targeting 15% growth in non-oil exports for 2014 on the back of a focus on increasing trade with African markets.

Much of the growth in non-oil exports in 2013 was driven by exports to neighbouring countries UAE and Saudi Arabia, but the Public Authority for Investment Promotion and Export Development (Paiped) is pushing strongly for the development of exports into Africa.

“This year we are focusing on some African countries, starting from Ethiopia, West Africa, East Africa and Tanzania,” Emaad Khamis Al Shukaili, director of export facilitation at Paiped, told Muscat Daily. “We also need to focus on organising exhibitions and matchmaking meetings.”

In recent examples of Oman-Africa trade, March saw the Oman Fibre Optic Company (OFO), announce an “aggressive” expansion into West Africa, starting with Ghana and the Congo, while in October 2013, Oman’s Anvwar Asian Investments bought 35% stake in a South African iron ore mining project.

In reciprocal efforts, South Africa’s Embassy in Muscat hosted a bilateral trade seminar in March to highlight business opportunities between the two countries, advocating trade visits and praising both relations between the two countries, and Oman’s swift development of its free zones.

Al Shukaili added: “We also need to find support for the pharmaceutical sector, as it is an embryonic sector in Oman and needs support services from Paiped, the Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Ministry of Commerce and Industry in order to grow exports.”

According to National Center for Statistics and Information (NCSI) statistics, mineral exports accounted for 33% of Oman’s total non-oil exports in 2013, with total exports of mineral products growing by 27.6% to $3.32bn.

Other export sectors that have seen good growth in recent years include steel products, polypropylene, food and stone products. The export of plastic and rubber products increased by 14.4% to $750m, though the export of chemical products decreased by 25.6% to $2.08bn.