Ambassador: "I’m sure UK firms will be interested in sectors such as health, agriculture, ICT, education in Azerbaijan"
- 04 February 2021
"The oil and gas sector is clearly the number one sector here. That’s been a huge advantage for Azerbaijan since independence. But in the future it will be a disadvantage as tackling climate change means demand for oil will fall. The government recognises this, and has developed a diversification strategy to develop the non-oil economy. This is very much the right thing to do, and I’m sure UK firms will be interested in sectors such as health, agriculture, ICT, education," Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to Azerbaijan James Sharp said in an interview to APA.
Our commercial section, our trade investment section in the embassy is now shifting away from supporting British companies in oil and gas sectors, towards looking for more opportunities to support development of the non-oil sectors.
But it’s not just about identifying sectors. It’s also really important to look at the overall investment climate, particularly for foreign investors and for SMEs. Do they feel their investment will have sufficient legal protection? Do they feel decisions on eg tax and customs duties are transparent and fair? What is the government’s approach to State Owned Enterprises? Do they want their SOEs to dominate the economy, or are they looking to promote private investment and competition?
And the other thing to look at is the human element, what we call human capital development, ie people. Education is crucial – giving people the right skills, new ways of thinking and looking at problems, and – if Azerbaijan wants to be open to the world – English language training. We’re already helping the country in all of these areas, and will continue to do so. British Council is involved in education reforms and English language teaching.
Don’t pay any attention to trade statistics! 90% of Azerbaijan’s exports are oil and gas, so when the price falls and production falls, exports go down. And whether the oil goes to the UK or Italy or somewhere else doesn’t matter much – it’s a very liquid global market. A lot of UK exports to Azerbaijan are of specialised machinery, so the need for that goes up and down too depending on at what stage the development of oil and gas fields is.
Bear in mind too that trade statistics don’t capture services, such as architecture and design, financial and legal services, education. This is especially important given that about 70-80% of the UK economy consists of services. And the statistics also don’t cover investment, where UK companies are in the number one spot in Azerbaijan. Investment is much more valuable for Azerbaijan since it brings extra capital, it creates skilled jobs, brings technology and management techniques, for example," noted Ambassador.