Ahead of the 2nd Africa Global Business Forum in Dubai, Hamad Buamim, president and CEO of the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the event’s host organisation, discusses this year’s themes and the role of Dubai, the chamber and the GCC with regards to Africa.

How do you think Dubai and the wider GCC can best capitalise on the global flow of trade?

“Dubai, as you may know, is an east meets west location and an ideal international gateway for the investment flow and smooth trade between Africa and the rest of the world.

“The emirate’s modern infrastructure, connectivity, government support, banking and financial services, profit repatriation facilities, ambitious future projects, investor-friendly laws and diverse business environment are all factors that are leading us towards enhanced trade ties with African countries and its global trading partners.

“Regarding GCC companies, their interest in developing ties with African countries has been driven by the recent experience of Gulf countries in the development of many of the same basic sectors that are now of critical importance to African countries, including oil and gas, infrastructure development, logistical services, hospitality and telecommunications.

“Foreign investment in Africa has also grown by 4% in 2014 to reach $57bn, according to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development – reflecting the immense potential for overseas investors. We fully expect this growth to continue to rise in tandem with the rise of Africa’s middle class – a demographic forecast to pass 1.1 billion people by 2060.”

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African infrastructure and trade are both key themes in this year’s forum. What message about Dubai’s role in these sectors would you like delegates to take away from the forum?

“No doubt, the African governments and economic entities are making efforts to identify investment opportunities in infrastructure and trade, but there is a need to enhance and raise awareness, and both topics will be the focus of extensive discussion in the forum.

“Dubai’s developed infrastructure and logistics facilities are strong attractions for African companies, which can benefit from the strength of the emirate’s trade, tourism, logistics, and financial services, as well as its supporting sectors such as retail and real estate.

“We want the delegates to take away the selling points of Dubai which include the benefits of the emirate’s connectivity both in terms of African countries reaching out to do business in the world and for global businesses looking to enter the continent through the emirate.

“Dubai’s initiative in creating new connections with the world’s promising markets are also many – from the opening of representative offices, to its nurturing of relationships old and new, its ability to organise major global events like Expo 2020, and the promoting of the emirate as a capital of the Islamic economy – and all of these things are factors that will appeal to the forum’s delegates.

“We are confident that delegates to the forum will become our ambassadors, carrying back the message of Dubai’s investment potential with them.”

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Dubai is an entrepreneurial city, and Africa is increasingly an entrepreneurial continent – how do organisations like the Dubai Chamber help facilitate motivated companies?

“Dubai Chamber, one of the largest chambers in the region, strives to connect Dubai with external economic entities by organising economic forums, trade delegations, and preparing up-to-date research and studies that reflect the investment opportunities available.

“We also work hard to enhance competitiveness of Dubai’s business environment through initiatives like our setting up overseas representative offices and the hosting of global events, like this forum, that drive trade activities between the emirate’s business community and their global counterparts.

“In its strategy of expanding into the African continent, Dubai has become a major trading partner for the region, with the emirate’s non-oil trade with the continent increasing by 141%, from $10.3bn in 2008 to $24.9bn in 2013.

“Dubai has also grown to become the hub for several African companies trading with the world, and the number of African companies registering in Dubai as Chamber members rose from 2,914 companies in 2008 to 7,906 companies in June 2014 – an increase of 171%.

“The chamber is meanwhile pursuing a strategy of international expansion that supports our African connection. We have a presence in Ethiopia and plans for a second office in Ghana later this year, as well as plans for Mozambique, South Africa, Kenya, Uganda and Angola.”

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