Vice President and Prime Minister of U.A.E. and Ruler of Dubai, His Highness Shaikh Mohammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum, on Tuesday met with Heads of State of six member countries of West African Economic & Monetary Union (UEMOA) participating in the inaugural West Africa Investment Forum at Madinat Jumeirah, Dubai. Image Credit: WAM

Dubai: Eight heads of states from the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA) and the head of West African Development Bank (BOAD) on Tuesday addressed an investment forum in Dubai seeking more investments from the region.

The high profile event was attended by His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and Shaikh Maktoum Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai.

Addressing the Forum, Reem Al Hashemi, Minister of State and Chairwoman of the Emirates Competitiveness Council (ECC) said the UAE and the Gulf region are committed to investments in the fast-growing African economies, especially the UEMOA region with which the UAE has a growing trade partnership.

“Currently, various Gulf entities together have more than $30 billion [Dh110.17 billion] in investments in Africa. Dubai fully recognises the huge opportunities in Africa and the UEMOA region and looks forward to a great partnership with the region,” said Al Hashemi.

Investment Corporation of Dubai (ICD), the Dubai Government owned holding company yesterday invested $300 million by acquiring a 1.4 per cent stake in Africa’s leading cement manufacturer Dangote Cement.

ICD investment in West Africa is seen as the beginning of more investment flows from the UAE and GCC into that region.

The fast-growing West Africa region with a population of more than 100 million and a fast-growing economy that is growing at the rate of 7 per cent is seeking more than $20 billion in infrastructure development and an additional $8 billion in public-private partnerships.

While the UEMOA region faces infrastructure bottlenecks, its public finances are in good shape with combined public debt estimated at less than 40 per cent of the GDP and fiscal deficit less than 4 per cent and inflation projected below 3 per cent in 2015.

“Sound economic fundamentals and investment friendly reforms are expected to attract more investments into the region. We expect more GCC investors to participate in these opportunities,” said Cheike Hadjibou Soumare, President of the Commission of West African Economic and Monetary Union.

Heads of states who spoke at the forum yesterday said UEMOA is committed to institutional reforms to facilitate more public private partnerships in the region.

Although the recent outbreak of Ebola epidemic has come as a setback to the region, officials said its impact on economies is limited and temporary.

“We are working closely with World Health Organisation and various government agencies to contain the outbreak. The impact will be short term and global investors are attracted to the longer term investment opportunities in the region,” said Boni Yayi, President of Benin.