Dubai is helping African countries and companies unlock their vast economic potential and connect to the world by providing the right collaborative platforms to attract global investors and scale up rapidly despite the pandemic, according to Hamad Buamim, President and CEO of Dubai Chamber.
Largest event of its kind
Buamim’s comments came during the opening remarks at the sixth Global Business Forum Africa in Dubai. The forum, organised in partnership with Expo 2020 Dubai, is the largest event of its kind in the region dedicated to exploring new avenues of UAE-Africa economic cooperation. Organised by Dubai Chamber under the theme ‘Transformation Through Trade,’ the two-day forum was held on October 13-14 at Expo 2020 Dubai, under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.
From Ghana and Kenya to Mozambique and Ethiopia, and from logistics, healthcare and retail to tourism and digitisation, Dubai’s decades-long engagement with Africa has led to its current status as the continent’s preferred hub for trade with the rest of the world, Buamim said.
“This journey started about 10 years ago under patronage of His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai – who had vision to focus on emerging markets. Since then, our focus on Africa has only grown and the forum has drawn significant attention from governments, policy makers, entrepreneurs, and business leaders, Buamim said.
A clear indication of that lies in the fact that the number of African companies registered with Dubai Chamber have increased by 15.5 percent since 2019 to reach 24,800 today.
“Judging by economic indicators, it’s safe to say that our efforts in Africa are bearing fruit. Dubai’s non-oil trade with Africa reached $50 billion in 2020 despite the pandemic challenges, marking the highest level in the last decade,” Buamim said.
Focus on free trade pact
Buoyed by the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) – the world’s largest in terms of the number of participating countries since the formation of the World Trade Organisation – and the opportunities created by platforms such as GBF Africa and Dubai Chamber’s representative offices across the continent, African companies today are able to identify and leverage attractive investment opportunities from around the world.
“We believe that Dubai holds the key to unlocking Africa’s economic potential, as one of the world’s fastest growing city economies that can offer valuable expertise in key sectors such as logistics, infrastructure, retail, tourism and finance, in addition to the right level of investment needed to support African countries scaling up their economies,” Buamim said.
According to the top official, hosting the prestigious forum at Expo 2020 Dubai not only adds to its significance, but also opens new doors for companies from the UAE and other markets that are keen to explore untapped business potential in Africa.
“We urge African companies to fully explore the opportunities offered by Expo 2020 Dubai as well as GBF Africa – this will help usher in a new era of GCC-Africa cooperation,” Buamim said.
Global economies at critical juncture
The forum comes at a very crucial time when global economies are seeking to collaborate and rebuild in the wake of the pandemic.
“Just like with the successful handling of the pandemic, Dubai has always turned challenges into opportunities. That’s why the focus is on building Dubai’s GDP to Dh2 trillion in the next five years. The African continent is a big part of that plan, and close collaborations with Dubai are also helping African economies diversify,” Buamim said.
Dubai Chamber’s role in Africa
Elaborating on the roles of Dubai Chamber’s representative offices in Ethiopia, Ghana, Mozambique and Kenya in building bridges between UAE and African business communities, Buamim noted that over the last five editions of GBF Africa, interest in the forum and its overall impact has grown significantly as African and UAE business leaders leverage the event’s platform to explore business prospects and partnership opportunities.
“Dubai Chamber is fully committed in helping Africa grow. We are offering trade missions jointly with African companies that are coming to Dubai, and also supporting businesses from Dubai and the UAE going to Africa,” he said.
Speakers at later sessions of the forum confirmed the need to build solid infrastructure across the African continent, underscoring that it was the backbone of modern economies. Building strategic partnerships was another key focus highlighted for public and private sector stakeholders across Africa as they look to unlock new trade and investment opportunities.