DUBAI’S aggregate non-oil trade with African nations between 2011 and the end of this year will reach Dh1 trillion ($272bn), as the emirate continues to build its economic ties with the continent to further diversify its economy.
Cumulative non-oil trade with Africa has already reached Dh926 billion for the 2011-2018 period, Majid Saif Al Ghurair, chairman of Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry told delegates at the fifth Global Business Forum Africa conference in Dubai on Monday.
‘Africa is a market of strategic importance to Dubai and Dubai Chamber,’ Al Ghurair said. ‘We have adopted an ambitious expansion strategy focusing on the continent, which is being implemented through our four representative offices in Ethiopia, Ghana, Mozambique and Kenya.’
The chamber, a business sector body that supports the growth of businesses in the emirate, is ‘closely monitoring developments and the business climate in Africa to identify growth opportunities available for our members,’ he said.
Developments such as the launch of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) earlier this year – a broadened African free trade agreement between 54 countries – offer huge potential to boost UAE-Africa trade and investment flows, Al Ghurair noted.
Dubai, as the commercial and trading hub of the Middle East, has long been regarded as a gateway of trade between Africa and the rest of the world, he said. The emirate can also offer expertise to African nations engaging with global markets in sectors such as logistics, infrastructure, retail, tourism and finance.
‘We believe Dubai holds the key to unlock Africa’s economic potential,’ he noted.
Africa, regarded as the world’s last frontier of growth, has a population of more than one billion people and is home to major economies such as South Africa and Opec members Nigeria, Gabon, Algeria and Congo. Africa’s economy is forecast to accelerate to 4 per cent this year, and 4.1 per cent in 2020, slower than that of India and China, but higher than other emerging and developing countries, according to the African Development Bank.
Africa presents investment opportunities across various sectors as countries look to modernise their infrastructures. Energy, renewables, health care, education, agriculture, rail and roads, airports, trade and logistics zones are areas open to investment. Several African countries are also trying to improve their oil and gas infrastructure and broaden their industrial base to diversify their economies.
The UAE is among the top ten source countries for foreign direct investment in sub-Saharan Africa, according to a white paper released by Dubai Chamber and Economist Intelligence Unit ahead of the conference.
The report highlighted the importance of regional integration initiatives such as the East Africa Economic Community, Single African Air Transport Market and AfCFTA in helping to remove trade barriers, liberalise investment policies and ease operational challenges related to international money transfers and payments.
‘Combined, these allow African SMEs [small and medium-sized enterprises] to expand operations across markets, creating attractive opportunities for [the Gulf] investors too,’ the report noted.