As Africa Day 2012 was celebrated in the UAE this year, increasing trade and potential for future growth was the focus of discussions for UAE and African officials who attended the event yesterday. Dubai World Trade Centre, a sponsor of the Africa Day celebrations in the UAE, highlighted the surge in trade visitors and African exhibitors exploring import and export opportunities at its events. Dubai World Trade Centre is the region’s leading destination for exhibitions, conferences, and events and has experienced an impressive year-on-year spike in event related regional and global traffic.
Africa Day is the annual celebration of the establishment of the African Union (AU) 49 years ago. Events are held across the globe to commemorate the day and this year the event was celebrated in the UAE at the Abu Dhabi Inter-Continental Hotel. Dr Tarek Ahmed Al Heidan, the UAE Foreign Minister's Assistant for Political Affairs, and His Excellency Hamid Chebira, Ambassador of Algeria and Dean of African Ambassadors to the UAE attended. Members of the diplomatic and consular community, government officials and influential business people from the UAE and Africa also participated in the event.
Officials said the Africa Day celebrations highlighted the growing relations between the UAE and Africa was an opportune time to further those relations for the future as it was one of the few events that brought together North, South, East, Central and West Africa.
“Dubai World Trade Centre organised events are witnessing a considerable increase in African companies wanting to do business in Dubai, the region’s leading trade hub strategically located within four hours flying time to one-third of the world’s population. This is due to Africa’s potential for re-export to the Middle East and Asian markets as well as the growing interest among African companies to expand their business across the borders to keep up with demand,” said Trixee Loh, Senior Vice President, Dubai World Trade Centre.
The Middle East imports 90% of its food needs and therefore represents an important export opportunity for producers from Africa. Recent export initiatives from Algeria, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Morocco, South Africa and Tunisia have included participation at events such as Gulfood, which provide an excellent platform to facilitate bilateral trade and export growth. The recent edition hosted more than 200 African companies who saw high demand for fruits, vegetables, juices, nuts, sugar, tea, coffee, fats and oils. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit, this trend is likely to continue as the Middle East expects food imports to increase by 105% from USD25.8 billion in 2010 to USD53.1 billion by 2020. There is also growing interest in the speciality market with many of finest African foods showcased at The Speciality & Fine Food Festival, and Seafex, a dedicated seafood show taking place from November 19-21 at Dubai World Trade Centre.
Besides export, Dubai’s importance as a re-export hub also attracts thousands of African importers sourcing rice, cereals and pasta from around the world. This year Gulfood hosted more than 4,500 buyers from Africa, representing 6.5% of the event’s 68,000 global attendees - a 21% increase since 2011. As bilateral free trade agreements are established and more flight connections improve both passenger and freight logistics between Africa and the UAE, future food trade prospects between the regions are set to witness further growth.
The ICT industry is another area of rapid growth in the African continent as illustrated by the 20% jump in visitors from Africa at GITEX Technology Week 2011, the MEASA region's premier Information and Communications Technology (ICT) event. This year the event continues its focus on Africa, specifically looking at target markets in Kenya, Nigeria, Morocco, Tunisia, South Africa, Egypt and Libya. Last month, GITEX organisers embarked on a successful roadshow in Africa, spanning 12 countries across East, West and North Africa. They met with key government organisations, industry associations, embassies, and leading ICT companies to discuss the dynamic opportunities available to companies in Africa looking to expand their businesses across boundaries. According to global market research and consulting company International Data Corporation’s (IDC) top 10 technology predictions for 2012, ICT spending by the government sector in the Middle East and Africa is set to increase by 15% year on year in 2012 to reach USD7.41 billion.
As African companies seek to increase their export reach and grow their businesses across a range of sectors, Dubai World Trade Centre continues to see an increase in the number of exhibitors from the continent and provides them a platform for growth.