Hamad Buamim
Hamad Buamim, President and CEO of Dubai Chamber of Commerce & Industry and Chairman of the ICC’s World Chambers Federation Image Credit: Supplied


Businesses in the UAE are expanding their Africa focus as they eye growth opportunities emerging across the continent 

The fifth edition of the Global Business Forum (GBF) Africa comes at a time when UAE-Africa ties are rapidly expanding, supported by several important developments such as improved connectivity and business confidence, economic reforms and regional integration.

The expansion of direct flights between the UAE and major African cities, the signing of strategic cooperation agreements and the easing of visa restrictions are also important factors accelerating bilateral business exchange.

Recent analysis from Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry estimates that the current untapped potential of UAE exports to Africa is valued at $3.6 billion – a figure that reflects the vast potential of trade opportunities that companies in the UAE can capitalise on.

Dubai’s ongoing efforts to enhance its position as a gateway to African markets have played a crucial role in building new bridges of economic cooperation. The emirate’s trade and investment relationship with Africa has gone from strength to strength in recent years as more African companies have entered the UAE, while many UAE firms have expanded their presence across the continent.

The UAE is one of Africa’s top sources of foreign investment and the country is supporting the continent’s economic development in a big way by funding infrastructure projects and filling market gaps in fast-growing sectors of Africa’s economy, from transportation to power generation and telecommunications.

Such developments present a wealth of opportunities for UAE companies that have the expertise, capabilities, resources and investment needed to meet these demands and support Africa’s sustainable economic growth. Retail, real estate, tourism, logistics and financial services are among the key economic sectors where UAE companies are entering the African market.

Yet, we see tremendous potential to expand the scope of bilateral trade and investment to other areas and fields of mutual interest, such as fintech, artificial intelligence, digital transformation, blockchain and smart city solutions. Dubai Chamber and its representative offices across the African continent are well-positioned to support companies in Dubai that are keen to capitalise on business opportunities emerging across the continent.

In addition, the recent launch of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) will likely open up African economies further and boost UAE-African trade and investment flows. At a time of growing challenges for free trade, we see this as a positive development that can potentially lead to a new era of economic cooperation and integration.

As the largest event of its kind in the region, there is no better platform to examine Africa’s economic potential than GBF Africa 2019.

Beyond the high-calibre of speakers and participants, this year’s forum puts the spotlight on the important role that African startups are playing in fostering innovation, changing reality on the ground and reshaping the continent’s future. It has become clear that entrepreneurs alone cannot revitalise Africa as they require the support of large businesses and the public sector.

Realising this market need, Dubai Chamber has introduced a brand new element to the GBF platform with the launch of the GBF Mentorship Programme. We are very encouraged by the overwhelming response we have seen in the first cycle of this programme and we see it as a major step forward in developing the potential of high-potential UAE and African startups and creating new channels of bilateral cooperation.

Over the next few days, we look forward to connecting with our African partners, building on existing progress and showcasing what Dubai can offer as a global business hub that can help Africa unlock its economic potential and write the next chapter in its growth story.