A recent agribusiness conference in Nairobi highlighted the desire of United Arab Emirates officials to expand trade with African nations and how leaders from Dubai are looking closely at continuing to expand trade with East African nations, including Ethiopia.
Dubai imports 85 percent of its food from beyond its borders, and much of that comes from Ethiopia, according to Informa Middle East.
The Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry's Ethiopian International Office-organized roundtable in June was attended by Abdul Razak Mohammed Hadi, UAE's ambassador to Kenya, and Omar Khan, director of International Offices at the Dubai Chamber.
In an interview with the Gulf News Journal last week, Khan expounded on the prospects for trade between the UAE and East African nations.
“Dubai Chamber considers Africa, particularly East Africa, to be an important trading partner.” Khan said. “Dubai’s 2015 non-oil revenue with the members of the East African community was almost $3.5 billion, a nearly 10 percent increase from 2014. We want to sustain and encourage this growth.”
Khan said that with a rapidly growing population, the UAE stands to gain by enhancing trade partnerships with other nations. The UAE, he said, will need an increasing supply of fresh food, especially in the Dubai area.
Khan cited forecasts expecting food sales to increase by nearly 30 percent by 2019, and the retail value of packaged food sales to rise from approximately $4.4 billion in 2015 to approximately $6.3 billion by 2019.
“Dubai Chamber seeks to promote bilateral ties and work with suppliers in Africa to break down barriers to trade in order to facilitate increased business and enable Dubai businesses to leverage opportunities in Africa and enable African companies to expand into Dubai," Khan said.
The initiative with Ethiopia, Khan said, is only part of a broader project to increase regional trade. Citing three satellite offices existing in Addis Ababa, Accra and Maputo, Khan said Dubai is also planning to open a forth office in Nairobi.
“Having localized offices on the ground enables us to be closer to the regional African business communities, and thus offer better business opportunities to our member network.” Khan said. “These satellite offices organize events across a variety of industries, whenever relevant opportunities arise. Earlier in June, we organized a roundtable on halal cosmetic certification in Ghana, which is a major producer of shea and cocoa butters. The roundtable presented information on the criteria needed to certify products as halal, and highlighted Dubai’s position as a center for Islamic business.”
Khan said many more Africa-focused events are planned, from conferences and trade missions to another Africa Global Business Forum, which will take place next year in Dubai and bring together key representatives from the private and public sectors across a variety of industries to share knowledge and experience and to collaborate to boost trade.