Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum at ‘6th Global Business Forum Africa 2021’ at Expo 2020 Dubai on Wednesday Image Credit: @DXBMediaOffice/Twitter

Dubai: Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of the Executive Council of Dubai, on Wednesday attended the ‘6th Global Business Forum (GBF) Africa 2021’ in Dubai, a high-level business conference organised by Dubai Chamber in partnership with Expo 2020 Dubai.

Sheikh Hamdan said: “Against the backdrop of a rapidly evolving global environment, the UAE and Africa have a unique opportunity to usher in a new phase of growth in their economic relationship. The [GBF] provides the ideal platform for both sides to explore ways to tap fresh synergies and add new dimensions to their ties.”

‘Dubai well-placed’

He added: “The countries of the African continent represent some of the world’s fastest growing markets, and as a leading global commercial and trading hub, Dubai is well-placed to offer them the infrastructure, connectivity and expertise required to expand their worldwide reach.

“The UAE and Dubai seek to serve as a bridge between markets to enable countries across the world access new opportunities. We look forward to working closely with African nations to explore new avenues of cooperation and development that will contribute to accelerating the momentum of global recovery and growth.”

Distinguished delegates

Accompanying Sheikh Hamdan at the event were Sheikh Ahmed bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Chairman of the Dubai Media Council; Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, President of the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority, Chairman and Chief Executive of Emirates Group, and Chairman of the Expo 2020 Dubai Higher Committee; Sheikh Mansoor bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum; Reem Al Hashimy, Minister of State for International Cooperation and Director General of Expo 2020 Dubai; Mohammed Ibrahim Al Shaibani, Director-General of HH The Ruler’s Court of Dubai; Abdulla Al Basti, Secretary-General of The Executive Council of Dubai; and Abdulaziz Abdulla Al Ghurair, Chairman of Dubai Chamber; in addition to director-generals of government departments and other dignitaries and senior officials.

Several top officials from the UAE and Africa attended the forum Image Credit: @DXBMediaOffice/Twitter

Top officials talk trade

Held under the theme ‘Transformation Through Trade’, this year’s Forum is taking place from October 13 to 14 at the Dubai Exhibition Centre at Expo 2020 Dubai. The event is joined by two presidents, 45 ministers and high-ranking government officials and prominent business leaders from Africa to discuss trade and business opportunities in a post-pandemic world.

Highlighting the global economic recovery and the road ahead for Africa, GBF outlines a roadmap for the next stage of Dubai’s partnership with the continent and lays the foundations for a future where companies, businesses and investors can tap into the wealth of opportunities provided by the African market.

Welcoming the delegates at the opening of GBF, Hamad Buamim, President and CEO of Dubai Chamber, highlighted the resilience of commerce and trade between Africa and Dubai, despite the unprecedented challenges created by the pandemic.

Dh2 trillion plan

Buamim said: “What Dubai has done exceptionally well is transform global challenges posed by the pandemic into opportunities for growth. The emirate has adopted a new plan to boost its foreign trade to Dh2 trillion ($544.5 billion) as part its new five-year Dubai International Trade Roadmap, which will also establish new shipping and air routes to connect Dubai to more than 400 cities around the world. These new linkages will further improve the ease of doing business in Dubai and the wider region.”

10-year high

He added: “Judging by economic indicators, it is clear that our efforts in Africa are bearing fruit. Dubai’s non-oil trade with the continent amounted to $50 billion [around Dh183.66 billion] in 2020, reaching the highest level in a decade despite unprecedented challenges. Meanwhile, the number of African companies registered with Dubai Chamber has increased by over 15 percent since 2019 to reach 24,800 today, reflecting growing confidence in Dubai among African businesses and investors.”

Taking part in a session titled ‘Unleashing Africa’s Power’ were Reem Al Hashimy, Minister of State for International Cooperation and Director-General of Expo 2020 Dubai; and Félix Antoine Tshisekedi Tshilombo, President of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

(L to R) Reem Al Hashimy, Minister of State for International Cooperation and Director-General of Expo 2020 Dubai; and Félix Antoine Tshisekedi Tshilombo, President of the Democratic Republic of Congo Image Credit: @DXBMediaOffice/Twitter

Focus on recovery

Tshilombo said DRC is open for business and offers great potential in terms of international trade and commerce, as well as resource-rich lands and a young population. He elaborated on government efforts to rebuild and modernise the African country, expand infrastructure, diversify the economy and boost its appeal to foreign investors.

“GBF Africa highlights the recovery of African economies in the COVID-19 era, as well as new structures and policies that promote economic integration on the continent. Congo can learn important lessons from the UAE in building new capacities and leveraging the power of public-private partnerships to drive sustainable economic growth,” he added.

People-to-people connections

Al Hashimy noted that the UAE sees tremendous opportunity in Africa, not only in business connections, but also people connections, which she described as crucial in building cross-border partnerships that drive sustainable growth. She pointed to the wealth of opportunities in Congo, and the country’s infrastructure, logistics and mining sectors in particular, adding that digitalisation itself is expected to create exciting growth prospects in the African market.

In addition, she pointed out that all African countries are represented at Expo 2020 Dubai, which she described as an important platform for these nations to showcase their ambitions and potential to the world. Africa continues to see UAE as a base for exploring other markets around the world, she noted, adding that the UAE and Africa can learn from each other on how to tap into new digital opportunities and use technology to drive progress.

Role of ports, free zones

Joining a session titled ‘Partnerships for Prosperity’, Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem, Group Chairman and CEO of DP World and the Chairman of the Ports, Customs & Free Zone Corporation, highlighted the important roles of ports and free zones in facilitating economic growth. African countries can look to Dubai as a leading example of an economy that is reaping benefits from the significant investments it made over the years in building and expanding its logistics infrastructure and business parks, he noted.

“Africa has more growth and potential than any other market as it offers a lot of resources and people. DP World has long maintained a strong presence in Africa and adapted its ports and free zone model successfully in markets across the continent. Wherever we go, we need to build an investment park in order for the cargo business to really flourish,” said Bin Sulayem.

Three pillars

GBF Africa 2021 is focusing conversations around the three pillars of ‘Reset, Restore and Renew’, which take a closer look at policy and regulatory reforms, models for innovative, sustainable trade and technology, the resilience of the continent, workforce challenges and the role of government in providing an enabling environment for business.