Gaza calling: ringtone exports evade blockade

Fri Jan 22, 2010 7:58am EST
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By Nidal al-Mughrabi

GAZA (Reuters) - Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip not only restricts imports to the enclave but has also crushed traditional exports like fruit, flowers, furniture and ceramics.

But a year after a war between Israel and Gaza's Hamas Islamist rulers that left over 1,400 dead and the 4-year-old blockade firmly in place, some Palestinian entrepreneurs are turning to the Internet to gain access to new foreign markets.

Haitham Abu Shaaban of Tatweer Business Services, working with a local recording studio, has a new contract with Dubai telecoms company du to make personalized cell phone ringtones that he hopes will sell well across the Arab world.

The deal, which Abu Shaaban expects to go into production in a few weeks, will develop an existing business in Gaza that offers customers tailor-made musical jingles for their mobile phones by, he hopes, creating a wider customer base throughout the Middle East and greater levels of customization and service.

"The fact that Gaza has been under siege has stopped us from developing exports. But we thought there was a way around this," said Abu Shaaban, who has partnered with Mashareq Studios in the deal with du. Gaza singers are lining up at the studios to record ringtone songs in a variety of styles, from rap to jazz.

"We have taken forward the export of services through contracting local companies to export their work to other companies in the Middle East through the available tools, which is mainly, currently the Internet," Abu Shaaban told Reuters.

Servicing a growing market for interactive computer games and finding wider outlets for cartoon film producers working in Gaza are among other sectors with potential for export, he said.


<p>A female Palestinian uses her mobile phone during a campaign rally in Khan Younis refugee camp south of Gaza January 22, 2006. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah</p>