Friday, April 19, 2024

OABC CEO’s Strategy for US-Oman Trade Relations

OABC CEO’s Strategy for US-Oman Trade Relations


Rebecca Olson:

Rebecca Olson, hailing from Upstate New York, has over 20 years of experience in nonprofit and for-profit organizations across various locations. She holds a Master of Science in Communications and Global Business from the Rochester Institute of Technology. Rebecca founded Olson LLC in Muscat in 2013, specializing in writing and editing services. Joining OABC as Executive Director in 2017, she has since become CEO, doubling the organization’s membership and events, and is dedicated to facilitating trade between Oman and the U.S.


How does your past experience influence your outlook for 2024-2025, and what is the critical element in your strategy to guarantee the success of the Oman American Business Council?

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Upon joining the OABC team in 2016, I engaged in discussions regarding the organization’s overarching vision and the definition of success in my role. Our Chairman emphasized the importance of streamlining processes for businesses operating in Oman and enhancing the investor experience to encourage their continued presence in the country. Facilitating connections, sharing pertinent information, and supporting Oman’s SMEs through our network were highlighted as key objectives.

Whether it is through events, one-on-one advice, promotion of new companies and brands, or hosting high-level discussions with relevant stakeholders, as a nonprofit business association, our focus and future outlook is on strengthening commercial ties between Oman and the USA, promoting our members (who then help boost Oman’s economy), and supporting diversification. It is truly exciting to welcome companies and individuals arriving in the Sultanate for the first time, to watch as they discover Oman, and then choose to invest and remain here.

The critical element for success is what I call “friendly professionalism” – it is a mix of warmth, knowledge sharing, energy, and passion for making people feel both welcome and resourced. It is an understated thing at the core of every AmCham.

The critical element for success is what I call “friendly professionalism” – it is a mix of warmth, knowledge sharing, energy, and passion for making people feel both welcome and resourced.

Rebecca Olson
The OABC is described as Oman’s most active business networking group, with a membership of over 170 companies. How do you plan to leverage this diverse membership to promote economic interests and facilitate trade between Oman and the United States?

Rebecca Olson: There are undiscovered opportunities that exist as part of the US-Oman relationship. Despite the existence of a free trade agreement between the US and Oman, there are still untapped possibilities. The FTA does not just support US and Omani companies. For example, companies from within the wider region could manufacture items in Oman’s free zones and send them to the USA duty-free. As our network grows, I now connect companies and family businesses with U.S. entities, facilitating investments, partnerships, and access to new technologies.

While I appreciate the value of LinkedIn, which I believe is underutilized, there is a unique power in bringing everyone together in one space. This gathering, whether virtual – especially during the pandemic, where Zoom became the norm – or in-person, holds significance. The pandemic has transformed networking; people are more open to using Zoom now than they were before. 

As OABC, we often facilitate initial meetings between companies and the government or private sector, and once they have had a few calls, they can arrange in-person meetings. Overall, there is something transformative about uniting people and placing them face-to-face, and that is where meaningful business interactions can unfold.

The OABC joined a U.S. trade delegation to various cities in the United States in September 2023. Could you share some key outcomes or successes from this collaboration, and how do you plan to build on these relationships for future endeavors?

Rebecca Olson: When it comes to increasing the use of the U.S. Free Trade Agreement, I’ve found that there are two issues. Omanis sometimes perceive the U.S. as immense, and seemingly overwhelming, due to its 50 different states, which can feel like 50 different countries. On the other hand, some Americans have not yet heard of Oman. There is simply a lack of awareness.  
However, during the trip, I observed a notable shift. While many people were unfamiliar with Oman, when they heard about the growth and incentives and met the Omani delegates from Invest Oman and participating ministries, they exhibited genuine curiosity. There seemed to be a growing momentum for business in Oman, unlike anything I have witnessed before in my 10 years here.
I had spent time in the DC area during the summer as well, meeting with government stakeholders about Oman. The growing interest from both public and private sectors in the US extends beyond hydrogen technologies to sectors like tourism. This trip has raised awareness among Americans about Oman’s opportunities for companies. While some MOUs may be signed, the real outcome lies in the ongoing follow-up required to capitalize on these opportunities.
The challenge for Oman is considerable, given the stiff competition from formidable players in the region. Yet, during the trip, I witnessed Invest Oman effectively communicating the country’s differentiators. They highlighted aspects such as the quality of life, Oman’s strategic location, and more. It was truly rewarding to witness them share this narrative with my American counterparts.

Vision 2040 emphasizes economic diversification for Oman. How do you see OABC contributing to the country’s economic diversification efforts, especially in the context of your mission to promote trade and investment between Oman and the United States?

Rebecca Olson: Our role is essentially to support the goals of both the private and public sectors. We facilitate connectivity, enabling businesses to progress, develop, and contribute to Oman’s economic growth. It is inspiring to witness everyone aligning with this vision and sharing in the excitement. When new requirements are introduced by Oman, we make it a priority to disseminate this information to all our members. Whether it is Oman’s new Labor Law or ESG/Net Zero guidelines for companies, we host events to ensure that every detail of the new regulations is understood by all. Communication is key, and that is one of our primary functions.

We facilitate connectivity, enabling businesses to progress, develop, and contribute to Oman’s economic growth. It is inspiring to witness everyone aligning with this vision and sharing in the excitement.

Rebecca Olson

Moreover, we take pride in recognizing and celebrating companies that are making strides towards aligning with the vision, particularly in the realm of sustainability. By uplifting and connecting these companies, we contribute to the private sector, which is undeniably a vital component of Oman’s vision. The private sector plays an indispensable role, and OABC aspires to fulfill its mission, facilitating connections and fostering collaboration.

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