By Daniel Hunter

The UK is to help Palestinian businesses break in to new regional and international markets in a drive to boost economic growth, International Development Minister Alan Duncan announced this week, during a visit to the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPTs).

Speaking to an audience of Palestinian business people at the Hebron Chamber of Commerce, Mr Duncan set out details of a new £15 million Palestinian Market Development Programme.

By helping Palestinian firms develop new products and target new markets, it will provide a business boost that is set to generate at least £40 million in additional attributable sales by 2019.

The announcement builds on the success of previous DFID support for the Palestinian private sector — the Facility for New Market Development Programme — which has helped hundreds of businesses turn over £80 million in sales and exports, enter 87 new export markets, develop 129 new products, create 3,400 jobs and increase their exports by 52%.

"I have seen first-hand the entrepreneurial spirit and resilience of the Palestinian people, who we already support to produce everything from soap to furniture, and smartphone software to chocolate," Alan Duncan said.

"It is economic growth and job creation that will allow Palestinians to lift themselves out of poverty and create a more prosperous, stable future — and this is something the British people can be proud to support.

"This latest boost for Palestinian businesses from the British people is set to generate tens of millions of additional sales in the coming years. Now I call on the Palestinian diaspora to help us go one step further, by seizing the opportunities available to them to open up new overseas markets, take advantage of inward investment opportunities and share both their business know-how and technology with the OPTs."

Specific initiatives under the new Palestinian Market Development Programme include:

- providing ‘matched’ grants equal to the investment from Palestinian firms and consortia in developing new products, services and processes and in entering new markets;

- market analysis to identify how specific markets operate, causes of underperformance, ways to address this and specific investment opportunities;

- support for promoting goods, commercial representation, consultation and training; and

- technical assistance to key market institutions, to encourage and support foreign and local investment.

The programme is specifically geared towards helping to reduce the risks associated with business development in a fragile context such as the OPTs and is a key part of the UK’s wider efforts to support Palestinian state building, tackle poverty and unemployment and boost stability.

It will also mobilise the Palestinian diaspora by creating member networks, helping to develop business-to-business outreach strategies and encouraging expertise sharing through mentoring initiatives and ‘start-up weekends’. UK funding for the programme is £11 million, with a planned further £4.3 million provided by the European Union.

'Open to Export' is a UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) initiative in partnership with hibu plc (formerly Yell Group).

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