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UAE hosts largest African economic Conference

By Tajuddin
In BUSINESS
Oct 5th, 2014
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Dubai ( Agencies + DIPLOMAT.SO) – Under the patronage and presence of H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice-President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, Africa Global Business Forum, organised by the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry, opened today, bringing together more than 700 government officials and business leaders from across Dubai, the Middle East and Africa.

At the opening speech Hamad Buamim, President and CEO of Dubai Chamber said that he believes that dialogue is the first step to opening new doors and creating exceptional relationships. Dubai Chamber is committed to being a key partner and active contributor in promoting sustainable development across the continent.

The “Africa Rising – Leading the Continent towards Change” session saw three African Presidents contributing to the debate: Dr. Mulatu Teshome Wirtu, President of Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia;John Dramani Mahama, President, Republic of Ghana; and Paul Kagama, President Republic of Rwanda.

John Dramani Mahama, President, Republic of Ghana, said:

“As leaders, one of our major preoccupations is to attract investment in infrastructure – notably water, roads and healthcare. It is interesting that the audience today have also flagged legal barriers as an obstacle. Most of our countries are transferring from state dominated economies, and are shifting to allow more space for the private sector and to create an enabling environment for these companies. Additionally, we are trying to align school curricula with skills required in the job market in order to manage the existing skills gap.”

In the opening session, titled “The inside story of the rise of Africa and Dubai”, HE Mohammed Al Shaibani, Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer, Investment Corporation of Dubai commented:

“We have been looking at Africa for a long time, across several countries, but we recognise it is a challenging environment with many unknowns. For investments in Africa having the right partner is key to kick-starting opportunities. We welcome our friends in Africa to use Dubai as a platform, and are proud to share our experiences and expertise.”

During the first half of this year, Dubai’s total non-oil trade with Africa reached a value of AED 60 billion (or around US$ 16.3 billion), according to Dubai Customs. The UAE is the main trading partner of Africa within the GCC, with approximately 80% of the UAE’s imports from Africa being primary products, such as food produce and beverages. In the last two months alone, Dubai’s two main carriers, Emirates and flydubai, have increased their connections from 31 passenger and cargo destinations in Africa in July to 38 different African destinations by the end of September.

Sultan Ahmad bin Sulayem, Chairman DP World, added:

“Africa is a very important market, and we have invested in a number of countries there over many years. We look at the opportunities and they are unparalleled. Infrastructure is vital, however there are challenges including effective and well applied corporate governance. The continent needs foreign investment, which will only come if there is robust legal, regulatory and physical infrastructure. No one country can develop in isolation from its neighbours and the wider region. Connectivity is vital to open markets, grow trade and thereby grow economies, benefitting communities.”

Roland Agambire, Group Chairman of Agams Holding and CEO Rig Communications Group, featured on second day of the Forum. After successfully executing some major contracts in West Africa, he is now looking at the construction of a $10 billion HOPE City project, an IT hub near Accra. During his panel session he joined a discussion on how to take advantage of the Dubai ecosystem and what the Emirate could do to position itself as the natural hub for African business.

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