Dubai Chamber of Commerce has invested AED100 million ($27.2 million) in the last five years, in raising awareness of trade and investment opportunities on the African continent, the international trading arm of the Dubai government announced on Thursday.
The huge investment aims to promote Dubai as an attractive business hub for African companies, said Dubai Chamber President and CEO Hamad Buamim on the second day of the Global Business Forum (GBF) on Africa in Dubai.
Buamim said their efforts have given a major boost to UAE-Africa trade ties by facilitating cooperation between businesses and investors on both sides.
The largest event of its kind to be hosted outside of the continent, GBF is dedicated to exploring investment opportunities in fast-growing African markets, and this year attracted four African heads of state.
Goolam Ballim, Chief Economist at the Africa’s largest financial services provider Standard Bank said Dubai Chamber held the conference to help bridge the information gap between investors and African companies, so they can tap the continent’s massive potential.
“Africa’s growth has been the second fastest after Asia. So while only fifteen years ago, Africa was regarded as a dark continent, the last decade and a half has brought Africa to the fore because of this rapid economic growth of some nations offering enormous economic opportunities like Kenya in the east.”
“Maybe not the whole continent, but various African countries are in rapid catch up phase. Along with Kenya, South Africa, Dubai can be that gateway into African opportunities, and I suspect the Dubai chamber has realised it,” Ballim said.
“They’ve put investment and money into this platform of the Global Business Forum to be able to create that dialogue and to reduce information asymmetries. People just want to know more.”
Dubai-Africa non-oil trade has grown steadily to exceed AED700 billion over the last five years, Buamim said.
As governments steer their economies away from commodities, the continent is rife with opportunity.
“Nigeria is drawing an astonishing level of interest on the back of incremental reforms, [while] in southern Africa the gas opportunity in Mozambique has the lure of a certain type of Qatar gas experience,” Ballim says.
The Global Business Forum on Africa was launched in 2013 to provide a platform to explore business potential in Africa, with participation growing significantly in recent years.
Over the last five years, the Chamber has stepped up efforts to strengthen economic ties between Dubai and Africa by opening four representative offices on the continent.
The UAE appears to be playing a leading role in sussing out opportunities. It was the second top investing country in Africa by value of capital investment in 2016, accounting for $11bn of capex (capital expenditure) giving it a 12 percent market share. It was second only to China, which had a 39 percent share and accounted for $36.1bn of capex in 2016.
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