U.S. Commercial Service Specialist Represents West Bank at IFE
The West Bank isn’t at the top of the list for most U.S franchisors heading to the Middle East, however, franchises such as KFC, Pizza Hut and Domino’s are doing very well there, according to Issa Noursi, the U.S. Commercial Service specialist in the Jerusalem office.
“Most people (here) are aware of U.S. fast food. They see the advertising on TV, they visit other countries and are anxious to try it,” he said of the U.S. brands' popularity.
Noursi was one of 13 U.S. commercial specialists attending the International Franchise Expo this June in New York City to talk to franchisors about the franchise opportunities in their countries. The in-country specialists are the back-up band (who know all the players and do all the arrangements) that allows the U.S. officers to be the lead vocalist during their three- to four-year stint in the foreign posts. Although we’ve yet to meet a U.S. Commercial Service officer who doesn’t admit their staff is the true rock star.
For all the positives, the West Bank’s strategic location has earned it a tumultuous spot in history as a beacon of controversy for religion and politics—which can be a bit of a red flag when franchisors think of committing resources and capital to the area.
“Franchisors are always worried about coming to the West Bank,” Noursi said, “but the world is unpredictable. You saw what happened in France (and in Orlando, we might add).” Because of this, among logistical considerations, franchise training tends to be in Dubai.
There are 4.3 million people in the West Bank, of which 40 to 45 percent are 14 or younger, he said. Five children in a family is the average, Noursi said, adding that when they graduate from high school and even college, they tend to continue living at home since real estate is expensive to own.
Unemployment is high. “We don’t have big corporations to employ them,” he said of the youth. “We have 35,000 university grads who often are underemployed.”
With that being said, there are still pluses to partnering with local entrepreneurs—they’re just not a obvious as the West Bank’s oil-rich neighbors.
Noursi advises company execs to visit the West Bank to see it for themselves. “Once you’re there, you’ll change 360 degrees,” he said.