Dubai: Dubai Chamber has put Dh100 million into projects to raise awareness of investment opportunities in Africa and promote Dubai as a hub for business on the continent.
Hamad Bu Amim, President and CEO of Dubai Chamber, said the UAE’s non-oil trade with Africa exceeded Dh700 billion over the last five years, and 17,000 African firms were now registered with Dubai Chamber. It had also opened four representative offices in Africa, he added.
“There is a lot of room for growth in terms of industry in Africa,” he said. “Only 11 per cent of the continent’s combined GDP comes from industry, which is quite low when compared with Asia or Latin America.”
Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, President of Mauritius, called for greater focus on investing in Africa’s human resources rather than its minerals, particularly in the education and training of young people and women.
“It might be a bit too ambitious to talk about reversing the brain drain and attracting people to Africa,” she said, “but we can talk of brain circulation. What that is essentially is to have successful people who have made it in the West or China or elsewhere to come to Africa and mentor the youth, or, vice versa, we can take the young abroad to meet them,”
Mohammad Dewji, CEO of Tanzania’s METL Group, said Tanzania had instituted policies to expand its industrial sector over the last few decades. “These included imposing more tariffs on the import of finished goods than on raw material,” he said. “This, among many other policies, helped industrialise the country over the years.”
The forum also focused on the role of start-ups and entrepreneurship in Africa.
Joel Jackson, Founder and CEO of Kenya’s Mobius Motors, which manufactures a low-cost, easy to maintain SUV, said success relied on having the right systems in place, and said an “abundance of talent” had not yet translated into high-quality products.
Jackson was speaking at a VIP masterclass session of the forum, where fellow panellist Ashish J. Thakkar, Founder of Mara Group and Mara Foundation, said firms must understand the diverse nature of Africa’s consumers. “We can’t get carried away with copy-and-paste models; each country is unique. This is no doubt our time but we have to understand local realities and operate in a local manner.”