Dubai – MENA Herald: Leading Dubai-based investors and businessmen unanimously agreed that the African continent is an ideal destination for investments. Africa’s rising middle class, bountiful resources, geographical proximity and strong network of trading ties between Dubai and Africa’s business communities result in much potential and many opportunities for increased bilateral relations.

The investors arrived at the consensus that the untapped markets of Africa provide a fertile environment for UAE investments, especially since local companies with extensive experience in a wide variety of economic sectors are positioned to be key players in the economic future of the African continent.

H.E. Majid Saif Al Ghurair, Chairman, Dubai Chamber, stressed that the Chamber has succeeded in exploring some of the most promising markets of the world for UAE investors, and now it is for these investors to convert their discussions into strategic partnerships and cooperation after the recent Chamber-organised trade mission to South Africa and Mozambique.

Al Ghurair further stressed that Dubai Chamber vigorously pursues its expansion strategy of penetrating new markets for its members while promoting their competitiveness globally. This is part of the emirate’s strategy of economic diversification, which reinforces Dubai’s reputation as one of the world’s leading centres of business and finance.

H.E. Hamad Buamim, President and CEO, Dubai Chamber, added that the Chamber-organised trade missions and the opening of its international offices promote two-way trade and investment flows from Dubai to Africa, while also bringing more African companies to Dubai, which is a trade and investment gateway to the world.

H.E. Buamim informed that 3,356 of the 16,000 new companies which joined Dubai Chamber’s members last year were African, while 23%, or 839 of the 3,709 new members of the first quarter of this year were African. There are now over 12,000 African companies registered with the Chamber, which is in line with the goals and common interests of the business community in reaching out to target markets, he said.

Speaking about the importance of his company’s investments in the African continent, H.E. Essa Abdulla Al Ghurair, Chairman, Essa Al-Ghurair Investments L.L.C, said that South Africa is the jewel of the African continent, offering great investment opportunities, but that the presence of obstacles might lead UAE investors to other African markets.

H.E. Al Ghurair highlighted the need to overcome existing challenges, calling for easing up of the procedures of tourist visas, updated legislation and the opening up of new investment sectors for foreign investors. He called upon African companies to market their agricultural and food products through Dubai, which offers excellent logistics support through its world-class airports, ports and warehouses network as well as advanced aviation and maritime transport.

H.E. Al Ghurair also stressed the need to seek long-term investments in markets in East Africa including Kenya and Tanzania with the support of Dubai Chamber.

Rashed Bu Qara’a, Chairman, EduHub, lauded the Chamber’s role in supporting UAE investors’ search for diverse economic sectors in which to invest. He added that there are opportunities in education, construction and specialized free zones in logistics, technology and aviation. He described Mozambique as promising market with strategic locations, natural gas resources.

Bu Qara’a highlighted the many opportunities in the region for economic development zones, and noted initiatives which would bolster bilateral trade, such as increased government cooperation to attract investment and the launch of direct flights between Dubai and Maputo. He thanked Dubai Chamber for the opportunity to become more familiar with the region, and also expressed his desire to explore Latin American markets.

Ali Al Fardan, Managing Director, Al Fardan Group of Companies, said that the trade mission to South Africa and Mozambique has given a clear picture of the investment environment and the challenges of investing in these countries, as shown by the Chamber’s research and studies as well as the positive meetings with the public and private sectors of the two countries.

Al Fardan pointed out that South Africa is a prominent tourist destination, but has to modify its legislation for investors, especially in the area of obtaining licenses and transferring funds. He noted that Mozambique, with its large beaches, is a promising market, as the delegation held discussions with a number of businessmen from the country’s tourism sector.

Abdullah Sharafi, President, Gerab National Enterprises, pointed out that Mozambique would be even more promising as a destination if some of the challenges facing the country are resolved, such as power supply issues, inflation and slow administrative processes. There are ample opportunities in the area of petrochemical industries in addition to logistics and storage, he said.

Sharafi further stressed that Dubai Chamber plays a unique role in providing information while initiating a dialogue with the public and private sectors in these markets. He also expressed his desire to benefit from the Chamber’s network to explore new markets in Pakistan, Mexico and Uruguay.

According to Mohammad Al Suwaidi, SVP, Business & Government Relations, Majid Al Futtaim Retail, his company plans to expand its “Carrefour” franchise in South Africa and Mozambique within the next two years, once suitable locations have been identified.

Al Suwaidi described how opening outlets in these markets will benefit the local African business community, as the hypermarkets will each employ between 250 and 300 employees. He added that they will also stimulate the economy, since the company will buy 95% of the food products from local markets and even export to other outlets in foreign markets. The African market is full of opportunities for UAE investors, he concluded.