As one of the leading international centers of business, Dubai has positioned itself as a major commercial hub globally. Entrepreneurship stands as a hallmark of distinction, and the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry has been a leading dynamic in enabling business growth, innovation and expansion, not only within Dubai, but worldwide.
Under the leadership of President and CEO H.E. Hamad Buamim, the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry has been instrumental in expanding relations between the world and Dubai, and this year in November 2019, it will host the upcoming Global Business Forum Africa (GBF Africa).
With more than 17,000 African companies already registered as members of the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the upcoming GBF Africa, under the theme of “Scale-up Africa”, seeks to play a critical role in bridging greater business ties between Dubai and Africa. With economic development poised to grow exponentially in the continent of Africa, GBF Africa will stand as the pre-eminent precursor to the Expo2020, enabling Africa to showcase to the world what it has to offer and how Dubai stands at the crossroads of being a partner with the continent.
The Exchange Managing Editor, Aly Z. Ramji had the opportunity to interview H.E. Hamad Buamim, the President and CEO of the Dubai Chamber of Commerce.
1. As President and CEO of Dubai Chamber, you lead the largest business organization in the UAE, representing nearly 240,000 members. In November 2019 you will be hosting the Global Business Forum Africa, aimed at expanding greater business relations between Dubai and Africa.
- Can you highlight your organization’s role as an anchor of doing business in Dubai?
Established in 1965, Dubai Chamber is a trusted partner to Dubai’s business community which also serves as a bridge between the emirate’s dynamic private sector and its forward-thinking government. The chamber’s efforts aim to enhance economic competitiveness, with its strategy supported by four pillars: promoting Dubai as a global business hub both in the UAE and through its international offices, ensuring a favorable environment within which large and small businesses can thrive, supporting the growth and development of commercial enterprises in Dubai and ensuring unrivaled excellence in its array of operations and practices.
Dubai Chamber has been instrumental in strengthening trade relations between Dubai and promising markets around the world. The Chamber’s growing network of international offices and its Global Business Forum series have fueled these efforts over the last six years. Currently, we are gearing up to host the fifth edition of the Global Business Forum Africa on November 18-19, 2019 in Dubai.
Organised under the theme “Scale-up Africa”,the fifth edition of GBF Africa has attracted high-level participation, including African heads of state, high-ranking government officials, prominent business leaders, entrepreneurs, industry experts and economists who will collaborate with their UAE counterparts and explore new avenues of economic cooperation.
As the largest event of its kind in the region, GBF Africa 2019 offers an ideal platform to showcase Africa’s business potential, while it also positions Dubai as a gateway that African companies can leverage to expand their global footprint.
- What specific programs are there for African entrepreneurs to engage in when looking to Dubai for expansion?
Dubai Startup Hub, an initiative of Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry, offers a wide range of programs and initiatives that support global startups that are keen to establish a presence in the Dubai market and expand their regional reach.Dubai Startup Hub members are provided with valuable knowledge, tools and useful resources needed to help them thrive, grow and capitalise on new business opportunities.
Dubai Chamber recently expanded the GBF platform by launching a new mentorship programme catering specifically to African entrepreneurs that offers innovative business solutions. The GBF Mentorship Programme provides a platform for UAE and African startups to create and benefit from cross-border mentorship, gain valuable market insights and expand their global presence.
The cornerstone of this programme is the mentorship element. By pairing high-potential startups from the UAE and Africa with the right mentors we are providing them with valuable support, guidance, and expertise that will help them develop their businesses and expand into new markets.
This is not your typical mentorship programme – it was designed by startups for startups with the aim of identifying the next big ideas and turning them into viable businesses. At the same time, it fosters co-operation between promising startups in different parts of the world that have developed innovative solutions that meet market needs and solve global challenges.
Among the biggest benefits for startups participating in the mentorship programme is the opportunity to showcase their businesses at the 5th Global Business Forum on Africa–which takes place this November in Dubai—while our mentors get a chance to expand their networks and use their knowledge and expertise to guide talented entrepreneurs and be part of their success. We are very optimistic about the prospects for the GBF Mentorship Programme and remain confident that it will be a rewarding and enriching experience for all of our mentors and startups.
Beyond that, Dubai offers plenty of startup focused programmes, funds, accelerators and incubators, including many that aim to attract promising startups from abroad that are keen to use Dubai as a test-bed for their cutting-edge solutions and technologies.
African startups can benefit from a wide variety of competitive advantages offered by Dubai, such as the city’s world-class infrastructure, state-of-the-art logistics facilities, attractive free zones, business-friendly environment, ease of access to emerging markets, 100% foreign ownership and long-term residency visas. Dubai’s logistics infrastructure and services have been instrumental in positioning the UAE as the leading trade and business hub for the Middle East and North Africa regions. It is these strengths which have made the emirate a preferred destination for businesses and investors from around the world.
With Expo 2020 fast approaching, it is an ideal time for African startups to explore business opportunities in Dubai and leverage the mega event as a platform to showcase their innovations to the world. Over 25 million visitors are expected to attend and Expo 2020 offers a prime opportunity to boost their global profile and forge new partnerships.
- Can you explain how the Dubai Chamber helps enterprises expand their footprint in Dubai?
Dubai Chamber offers a comprehensive array of convenient services to business communities in the UAE and abroad. It assists companies of every type and size–from homegrown startups to multinational corporations. We offer a wide variety of value-added services that can support companies with trade facilitation, international expansion, mediation, arbitration, credit rating reports, market intelligence, legal matters, and business matching, many of which can be accessed digitally.
The Chamber regularly organises business forums, seminars, networking events and trade missions that aim to familiarise our members with international expansion opportunities. In the first quarter of 2019, the Chamber received1,080 visiting delegations from abroad–an increase from 721 in the first six months of 2018.
In addition, Dubai Chamber’s international offices in China, India, Azerbaijan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mozambique, Ghana, Panama, Brazil and Argentina play an active role in identifying business opportunities in these markets for our members and providing them with valuable market insights that can help them make informed business decisions.
2. One of Dubai’s greatest achievements has been economic diversification. Under your organisation, you have put forward initiatives to improve the competitiveness of Dubai’s economy.Thousands of African companies have registered as members of the Dubai Chamber. In addition,the upcoming Global Business Forum Africa will bring business leaders from Africa to see the opportunities Dubai has to offer and aims to enable greater bilateral trade and investment.
- How would you characterize Dubai’s trade and investment relationship with African economies?
Dubai’s trade and investment relationship with Africa has gone from strength to strength in recent years as more African companies have entered the UAE, while many Dubai-based companies have expanded their presence across the continent. Dubai’s non-oil trade with Africa in 2018 reached $37.2 billion, up from $35.5 billion in the previous year. Among the top African products exported to Dubai last year were gold ($13.9 billion) and diamonds ($4.38 billion), while Egypt, South Africa, Guinea, Sudan and Angola were among Dubai’s top African trading partners.
The UAE is one of Africa’s chief sources of foreign investment and the country is supporting the continent’s economic development in a big way by funding infrastructure projects and filling market gaps in fast-growing sectors of Africa’s economy, from transportation to power generation and telecommunications.
- Please explain how the Global Business Forum Africa will serve as a channel to bring more African companies to Dubai?
The upcoming Global Business Forum Africa will explore prospects for expanding cooperation between African companies and their UAE counterparts in several economic sectors and areas. In the past, the forum has served as a catalyst for attracting African companies to Dubai and the 2019 edition is expected to have an even bigger impact with several African heads of state, 17 ministers, government officials, prominent business leaders and entrepreneurs already confirming their participation in the high-level forum.
As I mentioned earlier, the startups that have been selected to participate in the GBF Mentorship programme will get a unique opportunity to exhibit at GBF Africa 2019, network with potential business partners in Dubai and participate in sessions that offer them a platform to showcase their solutions to a global audience.
- What opportunities do you see for Dubai-based companies to expand into Africa?
We see tremendous potential in Africa which has largely remained unexplored by companies in Dubai. With business confidence returning to African markets and the recent adoption of the landmark African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement, there has never been a better time for companies in the UAE to benefit from business opportunities emerging across the continent. According to the World Bank, four fastest-growing economies in 2019 are in Africa, while the continent’s rising middle class and burgeoning youth population is driving up demand for goods and services.
All of these trends and developments present a wealth of opportunities for UAE companies that have the expertise, capabilities, resources and investment needed to meet these demands and support Africa’s sustainable economic growth. Retail, real estate, tourism, logistics and financial services are just some of the key sectors in Africa that offer the most potential for UAE companies. The expansion of direct flights between Dubai and major African cities, the signing of strategic cooperation agreements and the easing of visa restrictions are among the key factors that will continue to boost bilateral investment and trade in the future.