DUBAI CHAMBER

Dubai 2020 | ECONOMY | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Hamad Buamim, President & CEO of Dubai Chamber of Commerce & Industry (Dubai Chamber), on GBF Africa, global expansion, and Expo 2020.

How do you assess, thus far, the impacts of GBF Africa 2019, and what are the takeaways from the event that you are most excited about as Dubai Chamber enters a next phase of collaboration the Continent?

Held in Dubai, Global Business Forum Africa (GBF Africa) is the first event of its kind that was launched under our flagship GBF event series in 2013. Since then, it has become one of our largest and most successful forums that has seen growing interest and participation from heads of state, policymakers, business leaders, entrepreneurs and industry experts from across Africa and the UAE. Over 2,500 delegates from 76 countries attended the fifth edition of forum GBF Africa in 2019, marking a 67 percent increase in participation compared to the previous edition of the forum. We also recorded a 75 percent increase in the number of bilateral business meetings that were held during GBF Africa 2019, compared to the previous edition in 2017, which tells us that the forum has truly become an important platform for African and UAE companies to discuss concrete business prospects and explore partnership opportunities. Among the key takeaways from GBF Africa 2019 was the launch of the “Be Part of Dubai” initiative that will grant long-term UAE Golden Residency Visas to prominent investors. We see this initiative as a mechanism to attract prospective investors from Africa to Dubai and position the emirate as a preferred hub for African companies that are keen to enter the market or expand their reach in the Middle East and Asia. During GBF Africa 2019, Dubai Chamber announced its role as an Official Partner to Expo 2020 Dubai. In its capacity as a business facilitator, Dubai Chamber is preparing to host the largest and most comprehensive GBF Africa to date at the mega event, in addition to more than 30 other business forums. We expect that the Expo 2020 Dubai platform will only add to significance of GBF Africa and elevate Dubai's position as a global business hub. We look forward to welcoming African nations and the world to Dubai in 2020. Another major highlight for GBF Africa 2019 was the GBF Mentorship Programme. Following the launch of the programme in early 2019, several UAE and African startups went through an intensive mentorship and training program – the results of which came to fruition at GBF Africa 2019. During the forum, the selected startups used to platform to pitch their businesses to prospective investors, while participated mentors shared their insights on existing potential within startups communities in the UAE and Africa. We were very encouraged by the overwhelming response and successful results of the first cycle this year – which is why we are delighted to announce our plans to launch the second cycle of the program in 2020.

The focus on startups that we saw at the GBF Africa 2019 forum extends across Dubai Chamber's work. How is Dubai Chamber taking a leading position in building the start-up ecosystem in Dubai?

Supporting entrepreneurship is a key focus of Dubai Chamber's strategy and the Chamber offers a wide range of programs, initiatives and services to Dubai's startup community through its Dubai Startup Hub platform. More than 3,000 start-ups have joined Dubai Startup Hub since its inception in 2016, with more than 7,000 start-ups benefitting from its various programs and initiatives such as Co-Founder Dubai, the Dubai Smartpreneur Competition, and Market Access. In addition, we have launched various series that provide an opportunity for the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Dubai to network, learn about best practices and address key challenges. Such efforts are designed to meet the changing needs of Dubai's diverse and growing startup community and guide entrepreneurs throughout their journey. We have also stepped up efforts to attract promising startups to Dubai, by promoting the emirate at various international roadshows and opening our programs and competitions to startup communities outside of the UAE. More than 25 startup ecosystems, including Moscow and India, were covered by Dubai Startup Hub in 2019 to highlight the competitive advantages that Dubai offers startups. In addition, including 16 of our startup members were given an opportunity to exhibit at GITEX Future Stars 2019, the largest event of its kind in the region, and meet with several international business delegations. Going forward, we will continue to work with our partners in the public and private sectors to ensure that our efforts support the emirate's ambitions as it pushes ahead with its development plans for the next 50 years. We believe that Dubai has everything it needs to cement its position as a top entrepreneurial hub and launch pad for the region's next unicorn startups.

Dubai Chamber continues to rapidly expand its presence in various regions of the world. Are there specific markets where you anticipate higher contribution to growth rates and more growth potential?

International expansion and outreach remain key areas of focus for Dubai Chamber as our members increasingly look abroad for new growth opportunities. In 2019, the Chamber opened representative offices in Shenzhen, China, and Buenos Aires, Argentina, two markets where we see tremendous potential – while plans were announced to open an additional office in Mexico in the near future. The Chamber participated in 109 outbound missions to promote Dubai as a global business hub, and received a record number of visiting delegations. Our 11 representative offices around the world are actively exploring business potential in promising markets and attracting companies to Dubai. At the moment, we are looking at several markets in Latin America, Africa and Eurasia that offer trade and investment potential for UAE companies. These regions are in the midst of change as they push ahead with reforms, shift towards regional economic integration, expand trade links and attract foreign investment. In an effort to more effectively promote and position Dubai as a global business hub, we took the Global Business Forum series abroad for the very first time in 2019. We hosted the third edition of GBF Latin America in Panama and the response was overwhelmingly positive –which signals a growing awareness and confidence in Dubai as a global gateway for Latin American companies.

With all eyes on Dubai, how do you foresee Expo 2020 impacting trade and Dubai's economy?

There is no denying the significance of the business opportunity presented by Expo 2020. Dubai's skyline and infrastructure have completely transformed in preparation for the event. Major projects and initiatives linked to Expo are creating far-reaching economic and social benefits, many of which will build on Expo 2020's legacy and remain long after the mega event is over. Take District 2020, for example, which will comprise of around 80 percent of the Expo site. The district, designed as a community that fosters innovation and collaboration between different stakeholders, is expected to support the UAE's long-term growth and development. Various sectors within the UAE's economy have already begun witnessing the Expo effect, including trade, logistics, tourism, construction, finance, retail and real estate, with the economic boost expected to be recorded during the six month event. E&Y recently estimated that Expo 2020 Dubai will contribute USD33.3 billion to the UAE's economy by 2031. As the first-ever World Expo to be held in the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia region, Expo 2020 Dubai offers tremendous trade potential for many countries in the region that are leveraging the event platform to showcase their economic potential, boost their global profile and expand their trade links with other nations. Dubai's foreign trade will likely get a significant boost during the six-month event, while the millions of tourists from around the world visiting Dubai for the Expo are expected to fuel momentum behind key economic sectors such as tourism, hospitality, and retail.

As an official partner of Expo, what specific impacts is Dubai Chamber looking to achieve through Expo 2020? What is the significance of your collaboration with Expo 2020 for Dubai Chamber?

We see Expo 2020 Dubai as an ideal opportunity for the UAE to expand its trade links with other countries around the world and build new bridges of cooperation between different business communities. Dubai Chamber is capitalizing on that opportunity in its role as an Official Expo 2020 Dubai Partner that will provide the right platforms for UAE companies to connect with their global counterparts during the event and explore business partnerships. Dubai Chamber will bring together government and business leaders from around the world as it hosts 33 business forums and seminars and runs on-site Expo 2020 Dubai Business Connect Centre during the event. High-level events organized by Dubai Chamber include the largest-ever Global Business Forum Africa (GBF Africa), GBF Latin America, the inaugural GBF ASEAN, the World Chambers Congress 2021, 30 country focus briefings, while the Chamber is extending its support to other premier conferences such as The Retail Summit 2020 and the Global Islamic Economy Summit.

How does Expo 2020 align with your strategic priorities for Dubai Chamber as we look beyond 2020 and into the next decade?

Expo 2020 Dubai's theme of “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future” and strong focus on building partnerships are very much aligned with Dubai Chamber's mission, vision and strategy. As a business facilitator, Dubai Chamber plays an active role in fostering cross border collaboration and expanding Dubai's trade links with other markets. Dubai Chamber is among the most active organizations promoting Dubai on a global level through its vast networking of representative offices, Global Business Forums and the various trade missions organized every year. These efforts are a testament to the importance we attached to building bridges of cooperation between business communities around the world. Beyond trade facilitation and international outreach, the Chamber is also stepping up efforts to foster a culture of innovation within Dubai's business community. Given that the World Expo is among the most important global platforms for showcasing the latest innovations and technologies, we are looking to leverage this opportunity to share our experiences with the world and learn from other countries that are harnessing mobility, sustainability and opportunity to drive economic progress and create a brighter future.