UAE ready to boost investment in Africa

The UAE is priming itself to tap expanding trade and investment markets across a variety of sectors in the continent.

Djibouti men and women dance during the opening ceremony of Dubai-based port operator DP World's Doraleh container terminal in Djibouti port, Saturday, Feb. 7, 2009. (AP Photo/Adam Schreck) *** Local Caption ***  XKJ505_Dubai_Port_Empire.jpg *** Local Caption ***  XKJ505_Dubai_Port_Empire.jpg
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The UAE is seeking to expand its trade and investments with Africa, especially in the west and centre of the continent where it has no significant presence. Giving a keynote speech at the second conference on Africa and the Indian Ocean, organised by NYU Abu Dhabi Institute, Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi, the Minister of Foreign Trade, said the Emirates already had some investments in east, south and north African countries and was planning to expand its reach.

She said the African continent's population was estimated to rise to 2 billion within the next 20 years. Sheikha Lubna said the UAE would seek to collaborate with Africa on tourism, infrastructure, oil, gas, mining, energy, transport, logistics, ports services and the IT and mobile phones sector, noting that "Africa has one of the fastest-growing number of mobile phone users in the world". However, she cautioned that Africa would need to increase the quality of its goods and services for trade relations to be mutually beneficial.

"Product competitiveness will be very important," she said. "So African products will need to be able to compete with other products from elsewhere." A high-level delegation from the UAE visited nine African countries last year to explore further investment opportunities with the continent. According to the WAM news agency, the government is looking to invest in the energy, agriculture, food and infrastructure sectors in Zambia, Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Malawi and Tanzania.

A number of UAE companies have made significant investment inroads in the continent. DP World runs the port of Dakar in Senegal and own ports in Mozambique, Algeria and Djibouti. Dubai Investment Group owns 35 per cent of Tunisia's Tunisie Telecom. Istithmar has invested in aviation in the Horn of Africa and hotels and other facilities in Rwanda, Tanzania and other places. Etisalat owns 82 per cent of Sudan's Canar Telecom, a 51 per cent stake in Tanzania's Zanzibar Telecom (Zantel) and 50 per cent of West Africa's Atlantique Telecom operating in Benin, Burkina Faso, Togo, Niger, Central African Republic, Gabon and Ivory Coast.

The conference is seeking to promote better trade relations between the Emirates, Africa and the Indian Ocean nations. The conference also highlights and examines the major aspects of relationships among different Indian Ocean nations, other African nations and Gulf countries.