Mediterranean nation has transformed its economy through innovation and ambition

Once just a magnet for tourists, Malta is now a thriving digital and high-tech hub for leading international companies and investors chasing solid returns

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Blending history and tradition, but with a sharp focus on the future, Malta has reinvented itself as a digital hub.
Blending history and tradition, but with a sharp focus on the future, Malta has reinvented itself as a digital hub.

Published: Fri 1 Dec 2023, 5:21 PM

For such a small country, Malta continues to make a major impact on the world stage, particularly when it comes to its huge popularity among international tourists and growing appeal for leading digital figures seeking a safe and supportive environment in which their high-tech firms can flourish and achieve their full potential. With a strategic position at the crossroads of three continents, a young, highly educated work-force and a pro-business and investment climate, Malta’s membership of the EU means it is a popular destination for overseas investors striving for a foothold in the lucrative trade bloc. Official data shows an impressive $4 billion of foreign investment arrived in 2022 alone.

Having recently marked the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Malta and the UAE, bilateral relations are extremely positive and focus on trade, cooperation and the application of democratic principles when making decisions.

Milestone for bilateral ties To commemorate the half century of diplomatic ties, Maltese President George Vella and several colleagues visited Abu Dhabi in June to meet his counterpart, His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan for face to face talks.

The two leaders held discussions on a number of geopolitical themes, including the need for more renewable energy investment and the strengthening of relations between the two states. “Our meeting wasn’t only focused on practical matters, but also delved into philosophical discussions about the direction our countries are heading,” President Vella reveals. “We explored the current global situation, particularly with regard to the ongoing war in Ukraine, rising prices, inflation and migration.

“My visit can be seen as the culmination of the latest trend of intensifying relations between Malta and the UAE, including the signings of important Memorandums of Understanding (MoU). “Additionally, we aim to explore future possibilities regarding which sectors are most suitable for opening up and maximising the benefits. Despite our small size, Malta always strives to excel and surpass expectations. We proudly hold a seat on the United Nations Security Council and continuously look towards the future, aiming to enhance our economy, while also being mindful of preserving the environment.”

As Minister of Foreign and European Affairs and Trade, Ian Borg has signed some of the aforementioned MoUs, including in research and innovation, space, cultural projects, counterterrorism and antimoney laundering. “Our economy is well integrated into the world economy,” he says. “We have turned our reliance on international trade and investment into an advantage for doing business in Malta. Our international trade-to-GDP ratio is the highest in the Mediterranean and in the top five globally.

“Malta has tended to support an open approach to trade which ensures a broad scope of market access for our exports and imports, particularly in view of Malta’s manufacturing sector, which is a significant contributor to our country’s export revenue.

“In the goods sector, key ex-ports include electronics, pharmaceuticals, security printing products and currency products, rubber and automobile goods.”

George Vella, President of Malta.
George Vella, President of Malta.

TradeMalta boosts exports As the public-private partnership dedicated to helping Malta-based businesses go global, TradeMalta provides local companies — especially small-and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) — with training programmes, trade missions, international partnerships, and funding programmes to promote and support export activities of products and services.

Ian Borg, Minister for Foreign and European Affairs and Trade.
Ian Borg, Minister for Foreign and European Affairs and Trade.

With exports of goods generating around 15 per cent of GDP, TradeMalta’s pivotal role in the nation’s economic well-being cannot be underestimated.

“As an organisation we have the unique advantage of wearing two distinct hats,” explains Trade-Malta CEO, Anton Buttigieg. “On the one hand, the government’s hat enables us to engage directly with governments and build fruitful relationships.

“On the other hand, our affiliation with the Malta Chamber allows us to wear the hat of the business community and to communicate effectively with them. “Our strategy revolves around establishing a long-term approach with the strategic markets we’ve identified. We visit on a regular basis, which includes technical meetings and trade delegations. “We nurture relationships with important institutions and networks, as well as government entities and the local business community. “Once we’ve identified a strategic market — and the UAE is one of them— we invest in capacity building. This paves the way for firms to engage effectively in these markets with us, irrespective of whether they join us on trade missions.”

One of TradeMalta’s key priorities is ensuring it is updated regularly about the various companies operating on this “relatively small, yet highly dynamic island,” Buttigieg highlights.

“We adopt a proactive approach by actively reaching out and engaging with these companies, essentially treating these companies as our clients,” he adds.

“As a country, Malta possesses a high level of confidence in a number of specialised and niche areas where we are also leaders.”


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