Earlier this year, Dubai Chamber opened an international office in Ghana, its second such office in Africa. Why is Africa such an important market for the Chamber and its members?
HAMAD BUAMIM: Africa is considered one of the highest growth regions in the world and it also has close proximity to us here, from Dubai. It’s been growing quite well. We can expect the growth to continue. If you look at the numbers, the non-oil trade between Dubai and Africa has one of the highest growth rates. It’s grown from $10bn in 2008 to $30bn in 2014 and we expect this growth to continue going forward.
We have a great infrastructure already in place between Dubai and several African countries and cities in terms of air connectivity and the ports connectivity and all these elements make a lot of sense for our business community to focus in Africa.
Who are Dubai’s main trading partners in Africa?
HAMAD BUAMIM: In Africa, when you look at the north, we have Egypt, our largest trading partner with close to 16bn dirhams ($4.4bn) worth of trade and we see quite a good growth going forward because of the positive momentum and developments happening in Egypt.
In the south, we have South Africa around close to 10bn dirhams ($2.7bn) and again, we see the momentum will continue because of the region in South Africa. Also, we have Sudan with close to 9bn dirhams ($2.5bn) worth of non-oil trade. The non-oil trade between Dubai and Africa is around 118bn dirhams ($32bn) and has a great potential of growth going forward.
What upcoming initiatives do you have planned relating to African markets?
HAMAD BUAMIM: We’re planning to have a third office in Mozambique; that country has a lot of opportunities for us here in Dubai. That will be later this year. Also, we’re planning to update our business intelligence application that we launched last year, African Gateway. Toward the end of this year, we’re planning to re-organize our main event, African Global Business Forum 2015. It’s a great opportunity for business to meet, to debate, and to discuss the new opportunities and the challenges in the continent.
The African Global Business forum is a main platform for us to connect Africa with the world and connect the world with Africa, and of course Dubai sits in the middle of that. We try to connect the opportunities and talk about the challenges and connect businesses and investors from both sides.
Africa has a big Muslim population and Dubai positioned itself as the Capital of the Islamic Economy and we see a lot of opportunities that can be worked around Islamic finance, halal foods, and Shariah compliance services. So that’s one area of opportunity.
How have the economic relationships between Dubai-based and African-based businesses developed and matured?
HAMAD BUAMIM: The relationship with Africa used to be mainly a commodities business focused a lot on importing the African commodities.
If you look at the numbers, the non-oil trade between Dubai and Africa has one of the highest growth rates. It’s grown from $10bn in 2008 to $30bn in 2014 and we expect this growth to continue going forward.
The relationship started to evolve going from commodities business in the past more and more into industries and financial services. We start to see more investments going from GCC to Africa in different sectors such as tourism, financial services, especially in Islamic Finance, private equity, and consumer finance, consumer goods.
What role is Dubai playing in facilitating further GCC investment in Africa?
HAMAD BUAMIM: We are making Dubai as a platform, as a meeting point, to raise more awareness about opportunities in Africa, get it as meeting point between government officials and GCC investors, and also voice the challenges that many GCC investors face with Africa’s officials to be able to deal with that.
The lack of information and research on African markets is one of the biggest challenges. How is Dubai Chamber addressing the need for more awareness of the opportunities in Africa?
HAMAD BUAMIM: We realize that the whole world wants to do business in Africa, but understanding Africa is one of the biggest challenges, and this is why we launched last year an app, a smart application focusing on Africa and opportunities and more of the basic understanding. We understand that many businessmen who want to do business in Africa have to know these basics. We partnered with the Economist Intelligence Unit to update us with the content and give us a lot of what the businessman wants. This application is something that we’re planning to keep, we’re planning to update, and also increase the number of markets and countries in that application.
This application also has opportunities and a lot of the tenders. Our offices on the ground, between Ethiopia and Ghana and hopefully Mozambique, also contribute more information and try to assist the businessmen with these markets.
Also in the application, we have case studies about UAE businesses that have business in Africa and with the successes and the challenges they face.