Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry president and chief executive officer H.E Hamad Buamim commented during the summary of this year’s Africa Global Business Forum, that ‘Africa is beyond commodities’, during a press conference earlier today.

Speaking on the second day of the 3rd Africa Global Business Forum, H.E Buamim offered a variety of insights into this year’s event, including the success of the Chamber’s meeting program which coordinated over 100 bilateral meetings.

Commenting during the conference, H.E Buamim, said, “This is the third Africa Global Business Forum and a lot has happened in Africa in the previous twelve months. Africa is still the fastest growing region in the world in terms of population and there’s more interest in business.”

Dubai’s trade relationship with Africa has certainly blossomed, representing 10% of the Emirate’s total trade volume, an increase of 9% in just a decade.

H.E Buamim went on to say; “People were sceptical in 2016, because of low commodity prices that Africa wasn’t attractive. Africa is beyond commodities. It’s going towards the service economy, including sectors such as tourism retail, logistics, which are important avenues for investors from different parts of the world.”

This year’s AGBF was also the venue for an MoU signed between the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry with Coface and National General Insurance Company (NGI) for co-operation in supporting Dubai Chamber members with trade and export into African markets.

Commenting on the agreement, H.E Buamim said, “This powerful synergy now allows Dubai Chamber to work diligently with experienced partners and stakeholders to provide a toolkit of practical solutions that can help boost real economic activity. One example is the SME business community of Dubai and their counterparts in Africa, who will be helped in tapping into underutilized SME trade finance funds available with many UAE Banks.”

Another area in which the Dubai Chamber have been providing greater awareness, is through the research and publication of studies, conducted in partnership with The Economist.

Having recently produced two reports, the first on Africa’s Islamic economy and the second entitled ‘Africa beyond commodities’, have both uncovered a data which will support and assist the decision making process for investors, when considering the African continent.

“From our Islamic economy study, we’ve found that while there are 250 million muslims in Africa, there will be approximately 400 million in 15 years. This is an interesting fact in terms of the development of Islamic finance. While Islamic finance currently exists in 21 different African countries, with the leaders being Kenya and South Africa, there are other economies which are beginning to expand, in particular Mozambique and Uganda. There is potential in two ways, firstly a growing population, of which 40% are below the age of 25 and secondly an increasing trend of consumer spending.”

Other discoveries included the development of the Halal meat industry, with H.E Buamim mentioning that South Africa is currently the fifth largest exporter of halal food in the world.

Relating to the ‘Africa beyond commodities’ study, H.E Buamim noted that the continent has shown resilience, withstanding the effects of the global recession and low commodity prices. With economic stability improving, a growing consumer market, and an improvement in business environment, Dubai’s businessmen are well positioned and experienced in non-commodity investments such as healthcare, retail, property and hospitality, to support this stage of African development.

By the same token, the UAE’s position as a travel and tourism hub, thanks to the success of its airlines including Emirates, Fly Dubai and Etihad, have allowed “the opening of doors”, making destinations in Africa more accessible.

Commenting on some of the challenges raised at this year’s AGBF, H.E Buamim expressed his concern for Africa to pay greater attention to the logistics, security and the regulation of financial products.
Celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2015, the Dubai Chamber’s prioritisation of Africa as a trading partner has been clear through its various initiatives, and while other regional business forums are in the pipeline for 2017, specifically with the CIS and Latin American countries, there is little doubt the 4th AGBF will return in 2016, and continue to stimulate Dubai’s clear position as a versatile trade and investment partner for the continent.