What is the current scope of trade between Dubai and Africa? How important is Africa to Dubai’s future trade growth?

BUAMIM: Africa, it's a very important area for us. It is the growth of Dubai. We've been focusing in Africa for the last few years, as Dubai has been quite well-known as the gateway for the Gulf region, the gateway for the Middle East and we are positioning Dubai more and more to be the gateway of Africa. If you look at the past 10 years in terms of the exports of Dubai Chamber members to the whole world, you see that the size of Africa is the one that has grown the most. It used to be around 3% 10 years ago. Right now, it's almost $8bn. This is almost 10% of the growth of our members. I expect this to continue growing with a triple digit growth going forward. Of course, Africa is the home to the world's fastest growing economies. The middle class is growing, their consumption is growing, and they are importing a lot, and also there are more and more investments going on over there. So we realized this important fact, not only to be able to export more, but also to be able to add value for this important economic block close to us.

Of course, Dubai has the close proximity to Africa. We have the infrastructure in terms of the connectivity, and this is something we've been addressing quite well during all of the events that have been happening with Africa in the past number of years. When you look at Emirates Airlines for example, Emirates Airlines fly directly to more than 25 destinations in Africa. That is, by far, more than any other airlines around the world. So in terms of connectivity, Dubai has the air connectivity with Africa. In terms of the ports, through Dubai Ports, we have been managing a number of African ports, and this also is the connectivity in terms of the sea connectivity. So Dubai has what it takes in terms of infrastructure to do business with Africa. Also as I said, the opportunities are great. We are not only promoting our relationship with Africa to be able to enter their markets, but we also believe we can attract more investments to Dubai that have an interest in Africa through our connectivity, through our infrastructure that is located here in Dubai and addressing Africa.

What makes Dubai well positioned to act as a gateway to Africa?

BUAMIM: Dubai is well positioned for that because of the infrastructure, because of the connectivity in terms of air, in terms of land, in terms of sea, and also in terms of the business community. Our business communities are very close. We've been doing business with them for the last many years in terms of historical relationships, and it's been growing quite well. And this is not only covering the north of Africa, which is quite mature, or South Africa, but also sub-Saharan Africa, which has grown quite well and grown fast, and it is the future of Africa.

What is the Dubai Chamber doing to facilitate trade and economic activity with Africa?

BUAMIM: We are doing a number of things, and actually Africa has always been the focus of our international activities. For the last four years we've been hosting a major event here in Dubai called the Global African Business Forum, and this is an annual event. We host more than 3,000 people, coming from most of the African nations, who come to Dubai to be able to promote the investment opportunities in Africa. But we also promote these events to be able to attract investors from all over the world to meet the Africans in Dubai, to be able to understand more about Africa and the business opportunities in Africa. This is one.

Number two, we do a lot of studies and we've raised our awareness of what's going on in Africa because this one of the challenges that Africa has. The information and the research is quite limited, and we try to do a lot of awareness with that. The third point is that we started establishing a Dubai Chamber presence in Africa to be able to facilitate more of the relationship, because many of the African markets are still closed and are still developing. We want to be able to open up more and connect the business community. We have big plans with South Africa, with Kenya, Uganda, Angola, and a number of other growing and emerging African markets. So we have our own presence over there, and through that we position Dubai as a place to be in and especially for our foreign international investors where we tell them, come to Dubai, we'll take you to Africa through our presence over there.

Transport infrastructure is one of Dubai strengths and one of Africa’s weaknesses. What lessons can be learned from Dubai’s success and implemented in Africa in this regard?

BUAMIM: Dubai invested a lot in infrastructure and we have a world class infrastructure when it comes to supply chain and logistics. This is what made Dubai an international city, the connectivity. We are connected. When you look at Emirates Airlines, for example, and Dubai International Airport with more than 210 destinations around us, and this is a lesson that Africa can also learn in terms of connecting cities. When you look outside our ports, Dubai Ports, there are more than 50 ports around the world and most of the sea lines come to Dubai and this supports the trade in Dubai in terms of the connectivity with the trade business community. These lessons, there is always something to be learned.

We promote Dubai to Africa as a connecting point through all the infrastructure we have, and we ask them to utilize our services to be able to connect with the world. And of course Dubai also invests a lot in the African countries, when it gets to this infrastructure with the experience we have. This has always been an area of discussion in all of our international events that we host here in Dubai.

What would you say are the major barriers to business that still exist between Dubai and Africa? How are these barriers being addressed?

BUAMIM: I think one of the misconceptions many investors have with Africa, is that they deal with Africa as one country, but it's very important to know that Africa is more than 50 countries. This is very key for us; to raise more information about Africa, raise more information about the opportunities in Africa. It's not only what we are trying to do this to benefit Africa, but what we're trying to do is to benefit our own business community as well, and we believe that will also benefit all the investors that have interests in Africa.

So information in terms of research and economic studies is very important. We're also trying to address this through a number of the services that we do here at the Dubai Chamber, to be able to identify more opportunities, open more foreign markets for our own members to benefit from in Africa. The other big issue is the infrastructure. Of course, Africa has been growing only recently and it will require many years to be able to build the infrastructure. But this has always been a barrier to entry, and we believe that it will require longer years to be addressed. But this is also an opportunity for our business community to invest in the infrastructure of Africa, to benefit in the long run.