Dubai: The UAE is working to strengthen trade ties with Botswana, especially in the diamond industry and in tourism, with representatives from the country now in talks with ministers from the south African nation.
During the UAE-Botswana Business Forum taking place in Dubai on Monday, officials from the UAE said there is “huge potential” to extend the scope of bilateral trade as the Emirates aims to capitalise on high-growth economies.
“[Most of] the trade now is on precious stones and mainly, diamonds, but if we introduce the potential to diversify our trade in goods between the two countries, I think we can double the trade figures easily,” said Abdullah Al Saleh, undersecretary of foreign trade and industry at the UAE’s Ministry of Economy.
Trade between the UAE and Africa reached $38 billion in 2016, with a growth rate of 15 per cent compared to 2015, Al Saleh said, adding that he expected that rate to accelerate in the future.
Non-oil trade between Dubai and Botswana specifically exceeded $1 billion (Dh3.67 billion) in the first nine months of 2017, and was dominated by trade of precious and semi-precious metals.
“The trade balance now is in favour of Botswana because of the diamonds exports to the UAE, but if we diversify trade, I’m sure there are a lot of opportunities of our industries to export to Botswana,” he said.
Also speaking at the Forum was Hassan Al Hashemi, vice president of international relations at the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry, who cited tourism, agriculture, health care, manufacturing, and information and communications technology (ICT) as areas where UAE-based companies can invest in Botswana.
He said Botswana also has the potential to leverage its position in Africa as a gateway for trade with other African nations, adding the Chamber’s efforts to boost ties with Botswana are part of its strategy to reach out to high-growth markets especially in Africa where the Chamber opened new offices.
“As one of the world’s largest producers and exporters of diamonds, Botswana can greatly benefit from strengthening its operations in the UAE, which has become a major re-export hub for diamonds. In fact, $10 billion worth of diamonds were re-exported from the UAE in the first half of 2017,” Al Hashemi said.
Botswana is the second largest diamond producer in the world after Russia, and the country has recently turned itself into a trading centre for diamonds rather than just a producer.