Dubai, UAE – Held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, the first day of the 4th Global Business Forum on Africa got off to a strong start as heads of state and government and business elite from the UAE and Africa came together to discuss opportunities and challenges in Africa.
The high-profile forum, organised by the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry, is taking place November 1st and 2nd at Dubai’s Madinat Jumeirah.
Bearing the theme “Next Generation Africa”, the two-day event aims to increase economic cooperation and strengthen trade and investment ties between the Middle East and the African continent.
“The Global Business Forum on Africa provides an ideal opportunity to bring all key public and private sector stakeholders together to network and exchange valuable insights,” said H.E. Majid Saif Al Ghurair, Chairman of Dubai Chamber, during his welcome address.
“This year’s theme – ‘Next Generation Africa’ – is timely as it encompasses several important trends and factors that are expected to drive Africa’s next phase of economic growth. Africa’s young and fast-growing population, along with its rising middle class, offer tremendous potential. The continent is experiencing an infrastructure boom, which is creating plenty of trade and investment opportunities,” he said.
Youth entrepreneurship is a key factor for maintaining Africa’s rise, H.E. Al Ghurair pointed out, adding that much like young UAE nationals, young Africans are incredibly entrepreneurial and have their sights set on developing innovative solutions to solve some of the continent’s most pressing challenges.
Dubai has strengthened its position as a global gateway for African companies in recent years, H.E. Al Ghurair explained, while he noted that the UAE continues to lead the GCC region in the volume of foreign investment flows into Africa.
Evidence of these trends can be seen by looking at the rapid rate at which the African business community has grown in the UAE. The number of African companies registering with Dubai Chamber has grown to exceed 17,000 today, up 41 percent compared to the last Global Business Forum on Africa which was held in 2015.
“We believe that Dubai’s strategic goals can be aligned with Africa’s ambitions as it enters a new phase of development. The emirate is keen to use its strategic location and status as a thriving business hub to contribute towards Africa’s future growth,” Dubai Chamber’s Chairman concluded.
H.E. Al Ghurair’s welcome address was followed by a session entitled “Next Generation Africa” which explored the opportunities and potential for growth across Africa, and tackled pressing challenges facing the continent such as obstacles to trade, investment and prosperity. The session introduced the topics and structure of this year’s event, exploring the role that Africa’s dynamic young entrepreneurs can play in resolving the continent’s challenges.
The second session, meanwhile, looked into the concept of leapfrogging, exploring whether technology and entrepreneurship are enough to unleash Africa’s economic potential. The third session of the day examined the role and limits of entrepreneurship in bringing about inclusive growth. In a subsequent session titled “For Africa by Africa”, guest speakers noted that remittances from the African diaspora have overtaken total foreign aid to the continent, discussing the opportunities that are opening up for partners as African development follows new models.
Other key sessions brought together leading figures from Rwanda, Estonia and Peru to look at how they are reinventing themselves as entrepreneurial hotspots. Estonia’s Former Prime Minister Taavi Roivas was among the speakers. Rwandan President H.E. Paul Kagame spoke in detail about what integration means for the future of Africa, while other sessions focused on the future of banking in Africa.
Day one carried on with two sets of parallel sessions: the first examined the issue of access to the power grid in Africa and its effects on growth, while the second highlighted key business opportunities and the economic and business realities in East African markets. Business leaders from the African and Emirati fintech communities discussed the opportunities and future potential of the emerging sector.
During a panel discussion, Gambia’s Minister for Trade, Regional Integration & Employment, H.E. Dr Isatou Touray, and Abdourahmane Cisse, Special Advisor to the President of Côte d’Ivoire, shared valuable insights on the economic outlook for West Africa.
H.E. Yoweri Museveni, President of the Republic of Uganda, also spoke during the Forum, leading a session on African economic integration, where he highlighted what he sees as the priorities for the upcoming generation of African leaders (pan-African trade, investment and tourism).
The first day of the forum concluded with the “Africa Live: Culture on the Terrace” event, which featured a combination of short talks, musical performances, speed painting, cooking demonstrations and exhibitions celebrating young African and Emirati cultural entrepreneurs.
Sponsors and partners for the 2017 edition of the event include: Dubai Islamic Bank (DIB) as gold sponsor, and Standard Bank – South Africa, Invest South Africa and Hamdan Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum International Photography Award (HIPA).
The Global Business Forum series, launched by the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry in 2013, focuses on Africa, the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and Latin America. To date, the series has hosted 10 heads of state, 74 ministers and dignitaries, and 5,400 executives, as well as a host of influential decision makers from 65 countries around the world.