Africa Global Business Forum to become an annual event

GBFTo strengthen business partnership with the African continent and promote Dubai's position as an international economic hub, HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Ruler of Dubai, has announced that the Africa Global Business Forum would become an annual event

The Africa Global Business Forum 2013 was organised by Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry in cooperation with the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa’s (COMESA) Regional Investment Agency (RIA).

The opening ceremony was also attended by HH Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai; Sultan Al Mansouri, UAE minister of economy; Amelia Kyambadde, chairperson of the COMESA Council of Ministers; Abdul Rahman Saif Al Ghurair, chairman, Dubai Chamber; and Heba Salama, director, COMESA RIA.

Amama Mbabazi, Prime Minister of Uganda, said, “Countries in Africa could learn from the UAE experience of the public sector working with the private sector.

“The Dubai model is attractive and worth emulating.”

The Prime Minister also highlighted some of the ‘bottlenecks’ to Africa’s development, including lack of infrastructure, small-scale internal markets and under development in human resource, which he said were being addressed by governments across the continent.

Al Mansouri said the UAE, and Dubai in particular, had many skills and experience in key sectors that could be exported to Africa to assist with its future development. He highlighted logistics as one such sector, with Dubai the third largest export centre in the world and home to 150 different shipping lines serving various global markets. He added that Dubai could be a logistics hub for Africa.

Kyambadde said that African governments were working on improving the business environment, reducing barriers to trade and the costs of doing business, however more could be done to involve the private sector to help to drive economic growth and eradicate poverty.

Al Ghurair highlighted Dubai’s role as a gateway into and out of Africa and the objectives of the Forum to enhance cooperation between businesses in the emirates and the continent.

Salama said, “Africa is a continent transformed,” adding that the opportunities for increased trade and investment are huge and urged companies to act immediately. She said the continent’s young population and rising middle class were driving consumer spending, which is set to hit US$1.4 trillion by 2020, and providing numerous opportunities.

Salama also highlighted the strength of Africa’s agricultural and financial services sectors, which hold potential for further expansion. She said already Africa has 23 stock markets, 18 of which have been established over the past decade, and over 200 private equity firms.

In a session on government initiatives and business prospects in African, Reem Al Hashimy, minister of state, UAE, highlighted the potential opportunities of Expo 2020 for African business.She said that, if successful, it would be the first Expo to held in the Middle East and African region. She said an increasing number of young African entrepreneurs were engaged in global markets using Dubai as a platform.

“Dubai has succeeded in bringing the north and south and the east and the west together. Dubai is the best option for Africa in terms of connectivity and proximity and this can be leveraged to reach global markets,” Al Hashimy told delegates.

Gerald Lawless, president, Jumeirah Group, said the Dubai-based hotel brand was focusing on expanding into Africa with immediacy.

He said management contracts had been signed in Morocco and Egypt while discussions had taken place in Angola.

Ahmad Abdulkarim Julfar, CEO of Etisalat Group, said that the UAE telecoms firm was currently bidding for opportunities in five new African markets. He said the biggest opportunity in African telecommunications exists in mobile broadband and that his company was seeing success in mobile commerce, which it launched in Nigeria. Mr Julfar said Etisalat’s top three African markets were Egypt, Nigeria and Benin.

This session was followed by one titled ‘Breaking Barriers and Connecting Business’
Business leaders present at the session urged Africa to work with Dubai to harness the power of its key sectors.

Mo Ibrahim, Founder of Mo Ibrahim Foundation in Sudan, said, “We need a free flow of capital, goods and people. Following economic integration, Africa must focus on improving its infrastructure and address its power needs.”

Khamis Juma Buamim, chairman, Drydocks World and Maritime World, UAE, said, “Africa has lots of potential and governments have allocated significant money for infrastructural development. “Dubai is ahead of its time and can help in the process of port management, training programmes and transfer of knowledge,” Buamim added.

Jean-Luc Grillet, Emirates Arline’s senior vice president, commercial operations — Africa, highlighted the important contribution aviation makes to Dubai’s economy, counting for 20 oer cent of GDP and set to increase to 30 per cent by 2020.

He said the aviation sector employs 120,000 people, while Emirates alone has 6,800 staff. The airline plays an important role in Dubai-Africa connectivity, operating to 23 destinations across the continent with as many as 350 flights a week.

Grillet said that Dubai can provide strategic support to Africa to do business with the world, but governments across the continent should do more to reduce transit visa fees to help attract more passengers.

Saleh Abdullah Lootah, managing director, Al Islami Foods, UAE, during a plenary session on agri-business, highlighted the vast investment opportunities which exist for both Africa and Dubai. “Al Islami Foods already has a presence in the GCC countries and Libya; but Africa is a base for us to grow as the continent holds huge potential, but what we need is the right partners,” Lootah said.

Hamad Buamim, director general, Dubai Chamber, said, “We are already looking forward to next year, following instruction from HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum that the Africa Global Business Forum is to be an annual event.

“Our proximity and existing links to the African continent make us the ideal platform for African companies to reach out to the world. Both Africa and Dubai are partners in a mutually beneficial relationship – the forum has highlighted how we are both on an equal footing. We both need each other in order to prosper.”

The two-day event saw more than 4,500 attendees come together to discuss the exponential business opportunities in African continent, especially in agri-business, trade, logistics and financial services.

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