In a session entitled ‘Beyond the Gate – Making Infrastrucuture Work for Business’ with HE Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem, chairman DP World, shared his Africa insight with moderator John Defterios, emerging markets editor for CNN, at the 2nd Africa Global Business Forum.
Defterios raised the question of China’s two decade head start in Africa, and given a poll of the VIP delegate audience suggesting that China would lead investment into Africa by 2025, where the opportunities lie for companies like DP world and the Gulf’s wealth funds.
HE bin Sulayem highlighted the extraordinary rise of Dubai’s port and logistics infrastructure, noting, “Jebel Ali would have remained a very small port if we’d listened to the consultants,” and that part of the struggle lies in identifying unconventional openings for business.
On logistics, he noted if you import a car from China or Japan into central land-locked Africa, that the container from the port will cost $5000 – an elevated cost that need to be reduced, but which also highlight the immediate need for finance alongside enhanced infrastructure.
Raising the topic of DP World’s operations in Djibouti – a relationship that goes back to the year 2000 – Defterios said, “You’ve invested $1.5bn, which is going into arbitration. What happens in a situation like this?”
HE bin Sulayem responded: “Firstly, we’re working in Djibouti, we’re running the port. We reject the accusations, and I hope they will find these accusations to be false. Anyone who knows what it takes to be listed will know that we can’t afford to not be transparent.”
Touching on Dubai’s cordial relations with Senegal, DP World’s chairman noted that the company appreciated of the “smooth transition of government in the country,” and revealed that DP World is also looking to develop a free zone in Senegal.
He added: “Today we’ve spoken about Nigeria – we’d love to find an opportunity in Nigeria. They have plans to build new ports, we know how to do it. The route from Tanzania, Burundi, through South Sudan and Uganda also needs railroads and roads, which will help build cities.”
Questioned by Defterios on the potential pitfalls of oil and gas in Mozambique, HE Bin Sulayem added: “We have been in Mozambique for 7 years now – it has been one of our best experiences and we’ve never had an issue with government.
“Maputo is a big port, and today we are supplying Durban in South Africa, and Zimbabwe. The gas will be a blessing, and they have beautiful beaches.”
While admitting the occasional obstacle in Africa, HE Bin Sulayem noted that DP World’s experience developing ports and other infrastructure had been overwhelmingly positive, and he called on other UAE and GCC companies to seize the moment and follow suite.