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Partnerships will unlock Africa potential, says DP World CEO

DP World Africa British International Investment
British International Investment is partnering with DP World to boost African trade
  • Investing in trading infrastructure is central to African economies
  • DP World and British International Investments develop ports

More partnerships are required to break down barriers to private sector investment in Africa, according to the CEO and chairman of Dubai trade enabler DP World.

Speaking at the second Dakar African Infrastructure Financing Summit in Senegal, Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem urged more collaboration to address the challenges slowing the continent’s development.

He said that the cost of moving goods domestically around Africa is five times higher than in the US. 

“Investing in the continent’s trading infrastructure, as we have in Dakar, is central to transforming African economies,” he said, adding that improving trade across Africa can boost local exports, create employment and reduce pollution.

“DP World strives for partnerships that go beyond financial contributions and enhance employment, local infrastructure and GDP, and aims to build institutional capacity for local communities to take control of their future,” he said.

DP World has invested more than $1.8 billion in Africa over the past decade and plans to invest $3 billion more in the coming years. 

The company will jointly be investing $837 million to develop the Port of Ndayane with the Port Authority of Dakar and British International Investment. 

Bin Sulayem stressed that partnerships need to be multi-dimensional and have a positive impact on local communities, such as enhancing employment and infrastructure.

One example is a new road transport centre for delivery trucks in Kigali that has reduced waiting times for land transport from weeks to days.

It has also lowered storage costs, making Kigali a major logistics hub in East Africa and facilitating connections between regional businesses and global markets.

Bin Sulayem’s call to action comes as trade between the UAE and Africa has registered steady growth in recent years, with the UAE investing in 71 projects in 2021 worth $5.6 billion, according to Knight Frank.

The UAE particularly seeks to capitalise on many high-growth sectors in African countries, including tourism, infrastructure, energy, transport, logistics and IT.

According to the Brookings Institute, Africa could have a population of more than 4 billion and a GDP of up to $16 trillion by 2050. 

Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem, CEO of Dubai DP World, urged more collaboration to address the challenges slowing development in AfricaReuters/Henry Nicholls
Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem, CEO of Dubai DP World, urged more collaboration to address the challenges slowing development in Africa. Picture: Reuters/Henry Nicholls

Over the past decade the UAE has emerged as one of the largest investors into Africa among the GCC states and is the fourth-largest investor globally, according to global law firm White & Case’s latest Africa Focus report.

Between January 2016 and July 2021, the Emirates invested $1.2 billion into sub-Saharan Africa alone, 88 percent of the GCC total during that period.

Saudi Arabia has also made significant investments in energy and mining projects, and particularly into Africa’s agribusiness in response to growing food security concerns in the region, the report added.

Claire Matheson Kirton, a White & Case partner in Dubai, said in a December research briefing that following a clear retrenchment from China – the region’s largest inbound investor in recent history – opportunities have arisen for increased investment from GCC countries.

“For the GCC nations, in particular Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar, the Middle East/Africa corridor has become an increasingly prominent investment strategy over the past few years,” she said.

“A multitude of African economies are in need of significant inbound investment, which can be serviced by a Middle East region with significant capital to deploy its own strategic policy aims.”

She added: “The sophisticated and well-developed Islamic finance market could be utilised for the burgeoning and under-serviced African Muslim population. This could be a perfect partnership.”

Growing business and trade ties

The ties between the UAE and Africa continue to grow as hundreds of new African companies have joined Dubai Chambers of Commerce in the past 18 months, reaching more than 26,000.

Dubai International Chamber maintains a strong presence in Africa as it operates four representative offices in Kenya, Ethiopia, Mozambique and Ghana.

These offices play a crucial role in facilitating trade and investment flows while they also identify opportunities in African markets that offer the most potential for UAE companies.

In December Dubai Chambers also supported the establishment of the Zimbabwean Business Council with a main objective of promoting commercial interests of Zimbabwean business in Dubai.

UAE imports from Zimbabwe reached $2.3 billion in 2021 while UAE exports to Zimbabwe totalled $209 million with the main products of trade being precious stones and metals.

The UAE and Kenya also announced plans last July to launch talks to form a free trade agreement to boost bilateral economic ties.

Such a deal would aim to remove trade barriers between the UAE and Kenya, for example by cutting import and export taxes on a range of goods and services. The agreement would be the first bilateral trade deal the UAE has sought with an African nation. 

In November Etihad Credit Insurance and the African Trade Insurance Agency signed an agreement to strengthen trade ties and boost exports by providing trade credit insurance and trade finance solutions to businesses.

Under the agreement both organisations aim to support joint Emirati and African ventures in their own countries as well as their collaborative initiatives in other countries.

Massimo Falcioni, CEO of Etihad Credit Insurance, said: “The UAE and Africa continent enjoy illustrious historic bilateral trade relations.

“This collaboration will provide UAE exporters with real confidence to access the African region’s diverse markets and resources with state-backed guarantees and safeguards against commercial and political uncertainties.”

Last year Etihad Credit Insurance partnered with Israel Export Insurance to provide buyer’s credit guarantees supporting a $147 million healthcare project in Ghana, which involves the construction of four hospitals and a central medical storage facility.

Etihad Credit Insurance, in association with its British counterpart UK Export Finance, also supported a $147 million initiative in Senegal to bolster its national emergency response capabilities sector. 

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