UAE-Africa Ties Set to Grow

  • 12 August 2013

The UAE is working to expand economic and investment cooperation with Africa given the continent’s massive untapped potential and such an approach will benefit both sides, according to a Gulf economist.

“As part of its economic and humanitarian approach, the UAE has placed the strengthening of its relations with African countries as an item on its agenda,” said Mohammed Asumi, former chief economist at the Emirates Industrial Bank.

“It seeks to contribute to the development of their economies by forging economic cooperation based on mutual benefit and common goals.

Asumi said that while relations between the UAE and the Arab countries in North Africa are relatively advanced, ties with other countries of the continent need strengthening for the mutual benefit of the UAE investors and sub-Saharan African countries.

With this aim in view, the UAE Ministry of Economy, in cooperation with the Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development, organized the Emirati Investment and Trade Forum in both Tanzania and Kenya, toward the end of June 2013.

The Forum was attended by a 50-member trade and economic mission from the UAE, representing 25 public and private sector institutions of our country.

“The UAE initiative comes at a time when the country’s economic and trade relations with African countries is witnessing rapid growth,” Asumi said in an article published by the Abu Dhabi-based Emirates Centre for Strategic Studies and Research.

His figures showed trade between the UAE and Africa could surge by nearly 27 percent this year to Dh184 billion ($50bn) compared to Dh145 billion ($39.5 billion) in 2012.

Asumi, former adviser to the Dubai Executive Office, said the UAE has rightly chosen these two countries, as they serve as a convenient communication hub and corridor between countries of East Africa and the Middle East, and have more developed infrastructure than most other African states, in terms of ports and airports.

“Given the UAE's huge investment strengths and its strategic location, which connects African trade to many countries of the world, especially the Asian continent, the two sides can establish a strong partnership in many fields, such as transportation, particularly air transport and mining.”

Asumi said the UAE, the second largest Arab economy, plays a leading global role in the field of renewable energy and it can assist African countries in establishing renewable energy projects, such as solar and wind power.

“Today, the UAE is considered the largest transit point of trade for many African countries, including Kenya. With the expected application of a comprehensive tariff union among the GCC countries by 2015, this role may advance rapidly and provide significant support for GCC-Africa trade,” he said.

“Given the abundance of mineral resources in Africa and the rapid growth of the manufacturing sector in the UAE and the GCC, African countries may turn into major source of raw material needed by GCC industries, including aluminum and uranium (needed to run nuclear power stations that are being established in the GCC, in collaboration with the countries producing nuclear fuel).

Asumi said there is a “huge” scope for economic and investment cooperation between the UAE and Africa adding that the public and private sectors need to make the right decisions so that both the contributing parties benefit mutually.

“The enthusiasm and rapid response from both Kenya and Tanzania to the UAE initiative is a good reason for optimism,” he said.

“The sincere desire for cooperation between the two parties, which is based on strong economic fundamentals, forms the basis for building mutually beneficial partnerships not only for the three countries — the UAE, Tanzania and Kenya — but also to neighboring countries, such as the GCC and African states, particularly those neighboring Kenya and Tanzania, such as Burundi, Rwanda and Zambia. This promises to take cooperation between the GCC and Africa to new and promising levels.”