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AD Ports in talks with Congo over trade hub

Crowd, Person, Adult AD Ports Group
Congolese minister Denis-Christel Sassou Nguesso and Mohamed Juma Al Shamisi, managing director and group CEO of AD Ports Group, sign on the dotted line
  • Abu Dhabi Ports CEO visited the president in the Republic of Congo
  • UAE is keen to increase non-oil trade with the Central African nation
  • Head-of-terms agreement for New Mole Port was signed in March

Abu Dhabi Ports Group is in talks to invest in a new trade hub in the Republic of Congo as the UAE seeks to ramp up non-oil partnerships with the Central African country.

President Denis Sassou Nguesso of Congo held discussions last week with Mohamed Juma Al Shamisi, managing director and CEO of AD Ports, about the New Mole Port development.

Their meeting in Congo followed the signing of a head-of-terms agreement for the proposed port in Pointe-Noire, the country’s second city and commercial centre. 

Over the past decade, the UAE has emerged as the largest investor in Africa among the GCC members and the fourth largest worldwide. Saudi Arabia has also made significant investments in energy and mining projects, and in agribusiness.

In 2018, the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development financed projects in 28 African countries, valued at $16.6 billion, according to law firm White & Case.

The law firm also said in a recent report that AD Ports is searching for more projects in Africa as it follows in the footsteps of Dubai’s DP World, which operates seaports in Angola, Djibouti, Egypt, Morocco, Mozambique, Senegal and Somaliland.

Under the Congo head-of-terms agreement, which was signed in March and is valid for one year, AD Ports has the exclusive right to invest in the development, operation and management of the New Mole Port.

Congo wants the terminal to become a hub for trade and commerce in the region, connecting the country to global markets. 

Al Shamisi said: “We are confident that with the right resources and support, and with our expertise, we can support the ambitious development plans of the Republic of Congo.”

Last year the two countries recorded bilateral non-oil trade of $2.3 billion, an increase of 13 percent on the previous year. Cars and refined petroleum were the biggest UAE exports while copper, diamonds and gold dominated exports from Congo.

In March Dr Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, the UAE’s minister of state for foreign trade, met Denis-Christel Sassou Nguesso, Congo’s minister of international co-operation and public-private partnership development (and the president’s son), to discuss deepening trade and investment co-operation.

Their talks focused on the transport and warehousing, ports and logistics, food security and natural resources sectors.

Al Zeyoudi said the republic, sometimes known as Congo-Brazzaville to distinguish it from its neighbour the Democratic Republic of Congo, was one of the UAE’s key trade partners in Africa. 

“We are keen to bolster our existing ties with Congo-Brazzaville and boost non-oil trade movement between the two countries in order to diversify investments in fields of mutual interest, as well as create new channels for our private sectors to explore,” he said.

The UAE and Congo signed three agreements in March, covering double taxation avoidance, investment promotion and protection, and air transport.

Claire Matheson Kirton, a partner with White & Case in Dubai, said China’s retrenchment from Africa in recent years was creating opportunities for increased investment from the UAE and the GCC as a whole.

She told AGBI: “We've seen a huge amount of investment, whether it's private company trade or whether it's at the government level. A huge amount of money has been flowing into Africa from the GCC and it really has knocked some of the traditional players off the leaderboard in terms of investment…and I can't see that changing at all.”

The New Mole Port proposal is part of the Congolese government's National Development Plan, which aims to diversify and expand its economy. Similar to some Gulf states, the oil sector accounts for about half of Congo's gross domestic product and 80 percent of its exports. 

The World Bank estimates that economic activity in Congo increased by 1.5 percent in 2022, compared to a contraction of 2.2 percent in 2021. However, this was not enough to reduce the poverty rate. Just over half its population lives below the international extreme poverty line (less than $2.15 a day).

Congo's GDP is forecast to grow at a rate of 3.5 percent this year and 3.6 percent on average in 2024-2025.