Bright prospects

Mohammed Al Naki, Chairman of Arab International Aluminium Conference (Arabal), talks about the growth prospects and challenges of the regional aluminium industry, in an interview with Muhammed Nafie

During the last three and a half decades, Arabal has evolved along with the aluminium industry in the Mena region. Can you talk about the conference’s role in the development of the industry in the region?  

Since its inception in 1983, the Arab International Aluminium Conference (Arabal)   has served as the leading knowledge-sharing and networking platform for the aluminium industry in the Mena. The event has been held for 34 years now thanks to the collaborative efforts of the member companies and the continuous support of our partners in the aluminium sector. This conference also forms an enabler for us to unlock the potential opportunities in our sector, share knowledge, and shape a sustainable future for this pivotal industrial sector. The strength and success of both Arabal and Mena’s aluminium industry has been driven by the enduring dedication and collaboration between all of the region’s primary aluminium manufacturers which has enabled production levels to reach 10 per cent of world production, excluding China. When we started it was hardly 2 to 3 per cent.

How is the aluminium industry faring in the GCC region today? 

Aluminium industry has grown exponentially during the last two decades, both in terms of production and the number of companies that include new smelters and refineries. There has been a substantial growth in the number of ancillary industries as well.  There are some amazing developments in process technology. Emirates Global Aluminium (EGA) has introduced its latest process technology which is expected to push boundaries of global aluminium industry. Ma’aden has started the GCC’s first alumina refinery a few years ago. Bauxite has already been extracted from Saudi Arabia. And or local products can compete with European and American products in terms of quality.

GCC is one of the largest producing regions, with output of 426,000 tonnes, over 70 per cent of which must find a market outside the region. There is strong demand from construction and transport sectors, but the region needs to build capacity downstream in areas like tyre and other automobile parts manufacturing to secure more of the GCC final demand market.

Has the oil price fall had affected the regional aluminium industry? 

The oil prices went down. But aluminium prices did not. The consumption of aluminium is on the rise. Industries which draw on aluminium as a raw material are growing.

How much of your produces do cater to the regional market?

To be honest, I don’t have figures with me. But I believe we are catering to at least 30 per cent of the demand in the regional market.

What is your future outlook? 

We are very optimistic about the future of the industry. You can make out the future of the industry from the enthusiasm of the delegates at Arabal. We started the event in 1983 and are still going on successfully with a growing turnout. It shows the international interest in the aluminium business in the region. But the governments need to take the right regulatory measure to attract more investors to the region.

The future is all about renewable energy. Migrating to renewable energy is getting more important for the companies these days.

What is unique about this year’s Arabal conference?

This year’s conference, the 21st edition, held in Muscat, has set a new benchmark for Arabal, both in terms of participation and the topics selected for discussion. Both the turnout and the quality of the discussions have been much higher than what we had expected.  I thank the organising committee and Sohar Aluminium for their efforts.

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