COMMERCIAL TIES

Dubai 2016 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to HE Hamad Buamim, President and CEO of the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry, on business opportunities in Africa, its focus on innovation, and contributing to the development of the private sector.

HE Hamad Buamim
BIOGRAPHY
HE Hamad Buamim has been the President and CEO of the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry since 2006. He also serves as Deputy Chairman of the World Chambers Federation-ICC in Paris. Buamim graduated with honors, magna cum laude, from the University of Southern California in 1996 with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering. In 2002, he obtained an MBA with honors in finance from the University of Missouri. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the UAE Central Bank, a Board Member of Dubai World, Chairman of National General Insurance, and Board Member of Union Properties.

What opportunities does Africa's Tripartite FTA provide UAE businesses?

The formation of Africa's Tripartite FTA between 26 African states is expected to benefit economic cooperation between Africa and the UAE. As a major trading partner, and with increased Africa trade, more exports and imports will transit through Dubai. The development of African trade would drive up the rate of per capita income, which in turn will lead to the growth of services such as schools, hospitals, banks, and transportation. This will open up investment opportunities in which the UAE has a competitive advantage, like ports management, infrastructure, telecoms, transportation, and hospitality. Research by the Dubai Chamber highlights the benefits this agreement could have on most African countries in the medium term, like major economic and structural reforms. The projected increase in Africa's private demand and government development expenditures is expected to encourage more investment in Africa.

How would you assess the level of innovation in Dubai?

Dubai has always believed in the power of innovation and the need to be creative and adaptable. Becoming a smart city is a natural progression. The Emirate has long understood that being innovative is no longer a luxury, but a necessity for being competitive and surviving. The government put in place the Innovation Strategy in 2014, which includes 20 initiatives that will be rolled out by 2017 aimed at making the Emirate the most innovative city in the world. The chamber launched its innovation strategy in 2015 to stimulate innovation in the private sector based on three main pillars, including enablers of innovation, measuring innovation, and honoring innovators as the growth and development of innovation requires contributions from all segments of society. The chamber plans to invest AED100 million between 2015 and 2017 in innovative projects and initiatives such as the Dubai Innovation Index and the Dubai Chamber Innovation Lab, as well as applications that enhance the customer experience while strengthening Dubai's position as one of the best global business destinations. This investment is part of Dubai Chamber's strategy to invest AED500 million over this period to serve the business community and enhance its global competitiveness. The Dubai Innovation Index, created in collaboration with PwC, ranked Dubai 16th among the world's 28 leading innovation-driven cities, while the city ranked 11th in the world for its efficiency in innovation outputs. The Emirate ranked ahead of Beijing, Madrid, Milan, Mumbai, Sao Paulo, and Shanghai. In March 2016, the chamber collaborated with IBM to launch the Dubai Digital Entrepreneurship Hub, an online community that will support Dubai's technology and startup ecosystem. The hub will come under the umbrella of Smart Dubai Initiative, representing a unique partnership between the public and private sector to foster innovation and entrepreneurship.

What would you consider to be the chamber's most important contributions to private-sector development?

One of our major contributions has been our innovation strategy, as well as Tejar Dubai, which is designed to identify and develop nascent entrepreneurs amongst UAE nationals and their respective business ideas. With SMEs accounting for more than 90% of our private sector, this initiative is our commitment to foster and support entrepreneurship. Our research department produces over 100 business intelligence reports and economic bulletins. We also produced customized reports on Africa and the Islamic economy during our Africa Global Business Forum 2015. Our concentrated effort to identify new business opportunities through trade missions, international offices, and access world-class events has helped the private sector explore new markets and grow its business. Our international events, such as the Global Business Forum series, provide the private sector with a platform to network and gain first-hand knowledge about business opportunities in Africa, Central Asia, and Latin America. We have a multi-faceted approach to supporting the private sector, which has been our biggest contribution to the private sector's development in Dubai.