Africa New Gateway
When we think of the gateway to Africa it is often countries such as Ghana and South Africa, Rwanda or possibly Nigeria which come to mind as countries on the continent, but what about the UAE? The United Arab Emirates, or more specifically the city of Dubai? Known as a business hub with a lavish lifestyle of luxury shopping, ultramodern architecture, and for its nightlife and supercars, Dubai isn’t a city we associate with the African market. So how does a city in the Persian Gulf obtain the title the gateway to Africa?
The Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry has begun hosting the annual African Global Business Forum (AGBF) under the patronage of his Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, creating a platform for key leaders from various governments within Africa to explore new investment opportunities, encouraging international revenue flows into the African continent.
Why Dubai? Is possibly a question on most people’s lips, should the gateway to Africa not be on the African continent? And why is Dubai so concerned with Africa’s development? Where most Africans are concerned The city is traditionally a trading hub for Africa’s countries to source goods due to its location, but how this will serve the continent in terms of acting as a gateway is yet to be seen. We have seen Africa’s relationship with the world through its engagement with European colonialism, communist Europe, internationally via institutions such as the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and more recently China, so what does Dubai have to offer?
Dubai are offering a platform for African countries to showcase their wares to the world, its geographical location puts it in a position to do business with the rest of the world which it feels Africa can leverage. The contrast between Africa’s developing cities, and the city of Dubai is vast. Dubai is a city which has reaped the benefits of oil exploration and a blank platform to work with, therefore rasing the question as to what commonalities the continent and this city have.
According to real estate Businessman, and former Director General of the Dubai Department of Economic Development, Mohammed Alabbar, Dubai has been where some of Africa’s countries are, a developing nation with natural resources with potential for growth. Africa and the Middle East also share the experience of being continents which are usually “the bad news story” where the rest of the world is concerned. As a continent the image of Africa, and how we do business must be better understood, “Dont think you can sit in Dubai, have a meeting in Paris, and do business in Lagos. Go to Lagos my friend!” Alabbar is adamant that investors must both engage with, and embed themselves within the local African markets.
The fall in the price of commodities such as oil, geopolitical risk due to threats from Boko Haram in Nigeria, and Al Shabab in East Africa, the lack of information with regards to African markets all present a challenge to investors within the Continent. For those who understand and are prepared to manage the risks, Africa presents an opportunity for much larger returns than some other parts of the world.
The African Global Business Forum (AGBF) has received support from the president’s of Ghana, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Mauritius, and the Prime Minster of Uganda, alongside some of Africa’s leading CEO’s. The rhetoric of Africa rising has seen a new wave in terms of the scramble for Africa, the continent must have a clear understand of both what it is gaining, and what we are giving away, Africa must clearly understand it’s offering.
“Flights are a problem, flies are a problem, hotels are a problem, but that’s were the opportunity exists!…If you want to live on a 3% return go to London, or the USA, if you want to do the big stuff? Come to the Middle East, come to Africa!” Mohammed Alabbar.