The UAE is to boost investment across Africa as a key plank in its efforts to diversify the economy.
Sultan al Mansouri, the Minister of Economy, announced the plan at the opening of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern African (Comesa) Investment Forum, which is being held in Dubai for the first time.
"UAE investment in Africa is expected to increase significantly in the coming years, with the UAE increasing its economic diversification efforts," said Mr al Mansouri.
"Comesa, with over 400 million population and total GDP of over US$360 billion [Dh1.32 trillion], remains the largest economic bloc within Africa, offering enormous opportunities for investments and a huge market for varied goods and services.
By the year 2015, the Comesa market is expected to have an estimated 500 million consumers."
Members of Comesa include Kenya, Egypt, Libya, Sudan, Rwanda and Madagascar, among a total of 19 countries.
Dubai has already invested substantially in Africa. Dubai World operates ports in Djibouti and Senegal through DP World.
It also pledged to invest in tourism projects in countries including Rwanda, but some of these plans have been put on hold.
Mr al Mansouri said the forum represented "a milestone" in the increasing business engagement between Africa and the Middle East.
"The UAE is particularly interested in developing key sectors in African countries such as tourism, infrastructure, oil, gas, mining, energy, transport, logistics, ports, IT and mobile communications. Dubai, being the chief distribution hub and source market for Africa, has strategic importance in this expanding trade profile."
The location of the Emirates was also helping the country to develop its position as a hub and a gateway into other markets, he said.
The UAE's trade with six non-Arab African countries alone - Angola, Kenya, Nigeria, Ethiopia, South Africa and Tanzania - reached $6.2bn last year, according to the Ministry of Foreign Trade.
"Today, the UAE is determined to act as a catalyst for global growth," said Mr al Mansouri. "Our economy reached a Dh1tn GDP mark in 2010 and the IMF predicts our economy to grow 3.2 per cent in 2011."
He said that as the UAE drafted new laws and modified existing laws, governing areas including competition, foreign investment, arbitration and small and medium enterprises, it would increasingly be able to integrate itself with other economies.