Interview: Hamad Buamim

To what extent is Dubai positioned to facilitate African companies’ growth into the global market?

HAMAD BUAMIM: African firms can use Dubai as a base to expand or trade in Middle Eastern, European and Asian markets. Also, the emirate is home to an extensive infrastructure, banking and financial sector, and modern legal system, which operate to international standards. The hosting of the fourth Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa Investment Forum in 2011 and the Africa Global Business Forum 2013 has positioned Dubai as a gateway to the continent.

How can investor protection be enhanced in Dubai?

BUAMIM: The government supports the private sector via legislation that provides protection and modern governance. At present, there are several key laws under study including the draft federal law related to maritime, environmental protection and development, foreign investment, arbitration, insurance brokers registration and profession, and partnership between the public and private sectors in the emirate. The Companies Law is the main piece of legislation likely to be enacted in the short term and will make it easier to set up a business and strengthen the protection of shareholders. The law also outlines a framework for governance of public companies and ensures more transparency, the disclosure of financial data, in addition to efficiency and integrity of the board of directors. This will improve the economy’s competitiveness and performance as well as attract investment.

What are some significant trends for Dubai businesses in terms of international trade patterns?

BUAMIM: We are working to strengthen trade between Dubai and the GCC, which is one of the emirate’s biggest export and re-export markets. Saudi Arabia is the largest GCC trade partner, accounting for 27% of our members’ total exports and re-exports in 2013, followed in the GCC by Qatar, Kuwait and the UAE. We also see opportunities for enhanced trade with MENA countries, as well as Iraq, which has overtaken Iran as the largest non-GCC export destination. Dubai must expand into new, untapped markets.

How is the DCCI supporting the development of Dubai’s small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)?

BUAMIM: The SME sector in Dubai comprises over 90% of businesses, while contributing 30-35% of GDP. The DCCI has been supporting this sector through cooperation with National Bank of Abu Dhabi to provide finances of up to $100m to our members from the SME sector, as well as Tejar Dubai, an entrepreneurship development programme, which aims to help young Emiratis transform their business ideas into reality.

This programme will allow participants to meet business leaders and to learn from their experiences, as well as offer classroom learning alongside practical guidance and support. Meanwhile, the DCCI is engaged in helping SMEs expand into new markets through our own international expansion. We now have three overseas offices, one in Azerbaijan, another in Ethiopia and a third in the Kurdistan region, which are dedicated to local businesses exploring opportunities in these emerging markets. We plan to open around 20 offices worldwide over the next three to five years.

How is the “Made in Dubai/UAE” brand working on the psyche of the corporates?

BUAMIM: Dubai is not a major production centre, however we are seeing an increasing trend by multinationals to produce and market products with the Dubai/UAE label. A number of large government-owned industries produce Made in Dubai/UAE products, which are exported and distributed in the local, regional and overseas markets. The authorities are keen to support the production of indigenous products and are encouraging homegrown manufacturing industries.

Other areas using the Made in Dubai/UAE label include clothes and fashion ware, perfumes, toiletries, steel, construction material, and paper products.