“Our big dream is to create the common market of the Middle East, with more than 400 million people living in it.” Sharing a Zoom screen on a sunny Israeli afternoon, Dr. Raphael Nagel, head of the Dubai-based Abrahamic Business Circle, delivers an equally bright and optimistic forecast about the potential economic and social benefits of the peace accords between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.
A well-known global investor, lobbyist, author, and philanthropist, Nagel grew up in Germany and Spain and has been doing business since 2001 in Dubai, where he heads a private equity firm. In 2020, Nagel, who is Jewish, founded the Abrahamic Business Circle to create a global business network that is focused on the Middle East. The Abrahamic Business Circle is an inclusive business group that includes members of all religions and creeds from around the world.
“I have always admired the policy of the UAE in terms of how open-minded they have been,” says Nagel. He cites the Abrahamic Family House, a unique project under construction in Abu Dhabi that is bringing together a mosque, a church and a synagogue in three separate buildings in one location, as an example of the tolerance and diversity that exists in the Emirates. Members of the Business Circle hail from around the globe and countries throughout the region, including the Gulf states, Israel, Pakistan, Sudan, Morocco and Algiers. The group provides members with a global network of contacts to raise capital; buy and sell companies; and locate potential investments, joint ventures and new clients.
To that end, the organization sponsors business workshops throughout the year where members can meet, mingle and generate business with each other, as well as an annual conference that attracts between 300 and 400 attendees. These events serve to create business contacts between members. At the first Abrahamic Business Circle Workshop, investment advisor Tatiana Vishnevskaya and Faisal al Maazmi, senior advisor to His Highness Sheikh Juma Bin Maktoum Juma Al Maktoum, a member of the royal family of Dubai, signed a joint working agreement, with the goal of attracting $100 million in direct investment to the UAE over the next 12 months. The sheikh, who is the patron of the Abrahamic Business Circle, said, “The global members of the organization, including the Jewish and Arab business communities, have all shared a vision of tolerance, prosperity and economic peace that aligns perfectly well with the UAE’s cosmopolitan and multicultural environment.”
On April 5, the Circle will be sponsoring the first UAE-Israel Healthcare Workshop in Dubai, a sectorized meeting for hospitals, doctors, pharmaceutical companies, investment companies, financial institutions, health insurance companies and medical supply companies. More than 200 companies will be participating in the workshop, which is being co-sponsored by The Jerusalem Post, the Khaleej Times, and other leading companies and organizations.
“We are expecting approximately 350 people, which is quite a big event, considering that we are still in corona,” says Nagel. He adds that a number of guests from Israel will be in attendance, including personnel from Hadassah Medical Center and Schneider Children’s Medical Center, as well as visitors from the United States and around the world. For Nagel, the conference illustrates how the Abrahamic Business Circle is directly engaged and involved in the creation of a global business network.
The workshop will feature separate sessions on many different subjects, including investing in healthcare, the advanced quality of children’s medical care, medical tourism between the UAE and Israel, and digital innovation in pharmaceutical marketing, among others. An international roster of speakers from the US, South America, Israel and the UAE will be addressing attendees on a wide variety of topics. At the conference, a special award will be presented to the Israel-based Save A Child’s Heart organization, which since 1995 has treated more than 5,700 children suffering from congenital and rheumatic heart disease.
THE UAE-ISRAEL Healthcare Workshop, like the other activities of the Abrahamic Business Circle, is under the patronage of Sheikh Juma Al Maktoum. Nagel explains that having his support “show also that the politics of this country are open-minded to all the Jews globally, and to all the nationalities.” He adds that as a Jew, he has not experienced any prejudice while living in Dubai.
Nagel explains that cordial business relationships eventually can lead to close personal ties between peoples.
“At the Abrahamic Business Circle, we see economic diplomacy as a tool to create long-term relationships between populations of the different countries and religions,” explains Nagel. In his view, business relationships eventually lead to closer and more cordial human relations. “That is what we want to promote,” he says.
Nagel’s latest cooperative project is what he calls the “Digital Technology Hub,” which will encompass thousands of skilled entrepreneurs and scientists from around the world working together.
“We want to create a space where entrepreneurs and scientists from all over the globe can work together collaboratively. We want to create a technology campus here in Dubai, where people can live and work together – Jewish people, Indian people, Muslim people, everybody.” Nagel and his partners are actively looking for investors in his digital technology campus, and he is planning on beginning operations in 2021.
Nagel is actively encouraging Israelis to join the Abrahamic Circle and explains that membership can expand the business reach of companies.
“We really believe that every Israeli company should have an office in Dubai because we are the global hub to the world. At the moment, if you have a company in Israel, you are not able to export to Pakistan, for example, which is a market with a population of 212 million people. I’m able to serve them here from Dubai, but you cannot serve them from Israel. We have great logistics, and we have a fantastic banking system. I think that Dubai can be the door to the world or to a lot of countries where Israelis at the moment don’t have easy access.”
The Abrahamic Business Circle has several advisory board members from Israel, including Ms. Rena Riger, a businesswoman who was also the former director of foreign affairs to Prime Minister Netanyahu (2000-2003).
Nagel predicts that trade volume between Israel and the UAE will reach $5 billion annually.
“There is great potential here in a country like Dubai, where there are 205 nationalities living together. They’re doing something very right here since we live peacefully together.” He expects that the Abraham Accords will infuse a dose of Israeli hi-tech into the Emirates and make the UAE into one of the world’s technology hubs.
Nagel advises Israelis wanting to do business in the Emirates to be transparent and straightforward in their business dealings.
“Try to understand a little bit of our local culture and build a personal relationship,” says Nagel. He recommends that companies wanting to enter the market conduct the proper amount of market research beforehand.
Dr. Nagel is a big booster of the United Arab Emirates and what it can do, together with Israel, and he sees the Abrahamic Business Circle as playing a pivotal role in improving the business climate between individuals in the region.
“We would love to have more Israelis join the Abrahamic Circle. We want to have them in, because we see we see them as a bridge in terms of technology and the synergy that will be generated. If real business is going on, real relations between peoples will happen.”
This article was written in cooperation with the Abrahamic Business Circle.