Dubai: The UAE’s future food security lies in Africa, UAE Minister of Economy Sultan Bin Saeed Al Mansouri told delegates at the Africa Global Business Forum.

In his keynote speech at the forum, being held at the Atlantis Hotel, Palm Jumeirah, Al Mansouri pointed to a long trading history between the Gulf and sub-Saharan Africa, particularly East Africa.

The continent has 1.1 billion people and a growth rate between 4 and 4.5 per cent, he said, representing great opportunity for investors, with significant developments in industry, infrastructure and investment. “We understand how important Africa is,” he said.

Yet “the UAE investor has challenges in Africa. I must be honest about that,” he said, citing concerns over rules and regulations. He hoped many of those would be resolved in meetings at the two-day forum, attended by more than 20 African leaders as well as Gulf and African business people, officials and trade experts.

“We were at the Cape before the Europeans,” he said. “The trade routes were established before the European came. We understand how important Africa is.

“It is critical for us in terms of food security. We have looked around the world and we feel the solution is in Africa” because of its location and natural resources, he said.

Earlier Majid Saif Al Ghurair, Chairman of forum organiser Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said Dubai’s non-oil trade with African nations reached $32 billion in 2014.

The Dubai Chamber already had offices in Ghana and Ethiopia, he said, and planned to open offices in Mozambique and Kenya soon. “We are one of the few Chambers in the world with offices in foreign countries,” he said.