Israeli water tech sees opportunities in the United Arab Emirates

The UAE-Israel Business Council, which has been pioneering partnerships in the Gulf, helped foster this new relationship.

An aerial view of Nad Al Sheba Desert in Dubai (photo credit: REUTERS/KARIM SAHIB/POOL)
An aerial view of Nad Al Sheba Desert in Dubai
Israeli water treatment technology is being sought after in the United Arab Emirates in the wake of the Abraham Accords.
Thani al-Shirawi, deputy managing director of Oasis Investments, says that “after normalization, with Israel being advanced in the water filtration business, it was a no-brainer to look for a partner in Israel to use the know-how they have achieved instead of reinventing the wheel.”
A new memorandum of understanding was agreed to this month between the Israeli company and Oasis.  
Shirawi’s Oasis Investment already had acquired a company in water filtration which was growing slowly. Israeli technology could benefit the UAE and the company there.
In Israel, Fluence, a company that focuses on decentralized wastewater treatment solutions, had success with a unique technology they had developed.
“Our wastewater packaged plants are based on Membrane Aerated Biofilm Reactor technology, which is the most advanced in the wastewater market,” says Fluence general manager Yaron Bar-Tal.  
Fluence went public on the Australian stock exchange in 2015 and had grown out of Ron Lauder Water and the Israeli start-up Emefcy. The company has found success in China and other markets and sees its technology as exceptionally suited to the UAE.
The UAE is also a hub for the region, which can be a bonus for companies.
“Fluence is a company that wants to grow,” Shirawi says. “Our water filtration company wants to grow and not reinvent the wheel, so we both have the same goal. The reach in the UAE in comparison to Israel is that we are a logistics hub; after a few years, we believe we can go outside the UAE and tap the region. It is a win-win situation for both of us.”
The UAE-Israel Business Council (UIBC), which has been pioneering partnerships in the Gulf, helped foster this new relationship.
“I am thrilled that the UAE-Israel Business Council was able to bring together this significant venture,” says Fleur Hassan-Nahoum, deputy mayor of Jerusalem and council co-founder. “We are working on a variety of partnerships in different verticals, and this deal represents the best of Israeli water tech, sustainability and impact business that is good for the region and the planet.”
DORIAN BARAK, the Israeli-American investor and UIBC co-founder, says that he was familiar with the Israeli company and saw the region opening up after the peace accords. That would mean Israeli companies could openly work in the Gulf.
“The Al-Shirawi Group, which is a diversified Dubai based industrial group, wanted to grow their water business and access leading Israeli tech,” he says.
“Based on my strong relationships and trust with both sides, in the UAE and Israel, we were able to bring these two amazing groups together and to bridge what I hope will be a really promising relationship,” Barak says. “This is what our business council seeks to achieve – and I hope the MOU signed between Fluence and Al-Shirawi Clear Water will be repeated many times. This is one I’m very proud of.”
Shirawi is excited. As a promoter of peace and normalization, he sees it as cementing ties.
“It’s a model for the future, this synergy of hub and start-up. We can help start-ups to ‘scale up,’” he says.
He points out that the existing Fluence footprint meshes well with the UAE, which is close to India. With a flight to Mumbai taking only an hour and 40 minutes, the Emirates is well placed as a hub.
“Mumbai is a commercial center. We are the closest to Indian cities, and the east coast of Africa and UAE have been trading partners to Tanzania, Uganda and Ethiopia and Kenya. And while Israel might have a reach, UAE has stronger ties in these countries,” Shirawi says.
“They will need water filtration. Even in a country as developed as South Africa, water filtration is a must,” he says. “If we can tap the African market and Indian market with their population, that is enough.”  
The new memorandum relating to water technology is only one of many new partnerships and deals being discussed between Israeli companies and counterparts in the Gulf. At the recent, massive GITEX technology event in the UAE, there were more than 130 Israeli exhibitors out of 1,200 who came from all over the world.
From organic food to medical technology, Israeli technology is creating a buzz in Dubai and around the Gulf. Investors from the region see many opportunities, as the water treatment memorandum indicates.