Over the past decade, using export finance has become an increasingly popular tool for delivering projects in the Middle East.

Despite Washington curtailing the operations of its Export-Import Bank, other credit export agencies (ECAs), notably from Europe, have been busy providing financial support to projects. This has given project sponsors in the Gulf access to competitively priced financing, in return for making a certain percentage of the project’s content available to suppliers from the country the ECA represents.

While this has allowed projects to proceed, there have been some complaints from local suppliers in the region citing examples of projects on which they were unable to work because preference was given to suppliers from other countries supported by ECAs.

The playing field is now levelling, however, with Gulf governments establishing their own ECAs. The latest to do so is Manama, which launched Export Bahrain at 11am on 11 November last year to support Bahraini exporters in international markets. The ECA has already recorded its first deals in the GCC and India and, after a strong start, the government is confident more deals are coming.

Export Bahrain, like its European counterparts, has realised that small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are the ones that benefit the most from ECA support and, for now, Manama has restricted its activities to supporting the SME sector. This neatly ties in with the government’s economic diversification goals and helps develop the private sector.

As the programme generates momentum, it will also support Bahrain’s established exporting giants such as Aluminium Bahrain and become a fully fledged ECA, helping to conclude deals all over the world.