Is Africa the new frontier for the UAE?

Georgina Lavers
Georgina Lavers

A recently-launched app from Dubai Chamber that gives tips on African markets is proving that the continent will be a fruitful source of business for the UAE 

“Africa is the fastest growing continent in the world,” says HE Hamad Buamim. The President & CEO of Dubai Chamber can back up this claim with a pertinent statistic: about a third of the 54 African countries are seeing annual GDP growth of more than 6%, compared to a global world average of 3.7%. 

As to where the UAE fits in, HE Hamad Buamim states that other than the trade relationship, there is great potential for investment both in and from Africa by the UAE.  

The UAE is the main trading partner of Africa within the GCC, with approximately 80% of the UAE’s imports from Africa being primary products, such as food produce and beverages. In Q3 2014, Dubai’s total non-oil trade with Africa reached a value of AED89 billion, according to Dubai Customs. Total non-oil trade between Dubai and Africa has grown by over 700% over the last decade.

The fact is, it is generally easier and cheaper to get people and cargo around Sub-Saharan Africa via the UAE

Steve Gravenor, Area Director for Sub-Saharan Africa, Julphar

“Our member exports to the continent have seen 10% growth over the last 10 years, the highest growth amongst member exports,” states Buamim. “We expect that to triple going forward.”

However, despite there being such potential for investment, Buamim admits that access to the right information has proven to be a challenge.

“We are trying to fill that gap by providing on ground support in the continent,” he says: Dubai Chamber has representative offices in Addis Ababa and Accra (Ghana), with Abuja (Nigeria), Kampala (Uganda), Luanda (Angola), and Maputo (Mozambique) opening soon.

“To make it even easier to access the right information, we have launched an application that provides businessmen from the region and the world with exclusive and invaluable insights to expedite their entry into Africa, as well as make the transition for African businesses to Dubai much easier.”

The app provides tips for Dubai companies to reach out to African markets, as well as access to economic indicators for the six market economies (Angola, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania and South Africa), where several columns provide information on key data, political outlook, economy, key sectors, trade, foreign investment, business environment and UAE relationship including export and re-export opportunities.

Julphar Ethiopia
Ethiopia has the second largest population in Africa, and governmental aims centre around increasing healthcare access and affordability

Another highlight of the app is the case studies of UAE companies that have established in Africa; Julphar, a pharmaceutical company that has set up shop in Ethiopia, is one such success story.

“Although distributers have been selling our products in several African countries for many years, we decided to launch our first international manufacturing facility in Ethiopia in 2013,” says Steve Gravenor, the Area Director for Sub-Saharan Africa at Julphar (Gulf Pharmaceutical Industries).

Graevnor says that the facility is the result of recognition that Africa is a significant pharmaceutical investment opportunity – with demographic changes, increased wealth and healthcare investment, and rising demand for drugs to treat chronic diseases, the continent potentially represents a US$45 billion opportunity by 2020.

But while there are increased opportunities in Africa, the UAE is still touted as a primary point of contact for all things investment. “The fact is, it is generally easier and cheaper to get people and cargo around Sub-Saharan Africa via the UAE,” says Gravenor. “With world-class infrastructure, safety and lifestyle, its hard to beat the UAE as a hub for doing business across Africa.”