Feb. 3, 2016

Eng. Saed Alawadi

UAE, Dubai

Eng. Saed Alawadi

CEO, Dubai Export Development Corporation (DEDC)

"Our conventional markets, like Europe and the US, will continue growing."


Eng. Saed Alawadi is CEO of Dubai Export Development Corporation (DEDC) and a Member of the Board and CEO of the Export Credit Insurance Co. of Emirates Airline. Other positions include Vice Chairman of the Board at Msharie Venture Capital and Chairman of the Board of Aman Union. He holds a degree in Chemical and Petroleum Engineering, with a Master’s in Environmental Engineering, supplemented by an Executive MBA from Wharton Business School, University of Pennsylvania.

What investment opportunities are there between the UAE and markets in Africa?

Three years ago, we added two main regions to our plans—East and West Africa and Central Asia, although we cover the whole world. We are very strong in the conventional areas, but we want to open new areas for our private business, which are difficult for a single company to go to. We went on a trade mission to Kenya, Uganda, and now my team is in Rwanda. Because it is very difficult for a single company to go to these markets in terms of security and logistics, we gather a group. The opportunities in these countries are huge—there is demand for everything from consumables, finished products, raw materials, construction materials, and food products to confectionaries. All of these are strong in Dubai, either from manufacturing or from re-exporting. The growth rate in these countries for the last few years has been very high, not less than 5-8% a year. This is a large growth rate compared to the rest of the world. For example, DP World manages a few seaports in Africa like Senegal and Djibouti and there are a few more under construction. Another factor is that business and the tourists from East African countries coming to the UAE understand that Dubai is a regional hub, so when they come here they are also exposed to India and other GCC countries. From Dubai they can carry out bilateral trade, not only with us, but also with the rest of the world.

What strategy do you follow when opening offices overseas?

We are currently in the second phase of our plan. We have offices in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and India as part of phase one. And the second phase, which is finalized, is Russia to cover the Central Asian market, and Germany to cover Europe and Brazil. Brazil is one of the top economies in the world with a population of 200 million, so it is a big market for our private business. With these offices, we cover more than one-third of the world. The future plan is to cover Asia in China, Korea, Japan, Indonesia, and also Australia. We hope that, by 2016, we will finalize both Asia and Africa.

How is DEDC helping Dubai engage with key stakeholders and identify new areas for collaboration with the US?

Our conventional markets, like Europe and the US, will continue growing. We have several missions to Canada and the US, either by us as Dubai Exports, or the Ministry of Economy or Ministry of Foreign Affairs. However, because the main business with the US is mature, we are looking at different sectors, mainly innovation and creativity and high technology. We had a couple of visits with the Ministry of Economy to look at things like business incubators or innovation cities, so that we can develop some kind of technology transfer or learn from their experience to attract companies. We want innovation and creativity to be a part of our lives, not just in terms of technology, but also when it comes to management, education, healthcare, and beyond. We also have a mission in the US with the Dubai Multi Commodities Centre (DMCC) to attract US investment companies to Dubai to use the Emirate as a hub for the region. The DMCC covers commodities including gold, silver, and even tea, coffee, pepper, and saffron. We want to show US companies the capabilities of the DMCC and how to establish themselves in the UAE. We also organized a couple of missions with Fahad Al Gergawi, CEO of Dubai FDI, to the US to meet US companies in niche products that are not dependent on high labor. Most of the US companies are only looking at the US or Europe, so we want them to see the capability of Dubai and the region.

What will be the key elements contributing to the growth of halal processed food and what will be the potential export markets?

Halal production and halal food is more comprehensive than conventional food because everyone can eat it. Halal is not just a religious product; it is a high-quality, hygienic product complying with high standards and also with sharia. Halal is not just for Muslims. Dubai wants to be the capital of the Islamic economy. One part of that is halal manufacturing and halal food. Dubai now has fully fledged halal standards that cover the entire food spectrum in the manufacturing of food, which is published online so companies can learn exactly how to comply. We are promoting the halal industry as a whole, which includes Islamic finance, takaful insurance, and also halal manufacturing. We are getting suppliers from all around the world to come to Dubai. We want them all to come to Dubai to use Dubai as the halal hub for all these consumers, which include Arab countries, the GCC, Iran, Iraq, Central Asia, Western China, and beyond.

What are your expectations for 2016?

Based on the innovation and creativity initiative, we have also come up with an innovation in exports. The conventional market will continue to grow, but we want to promote innovation. We are exploring how to promote fashion out of Dubai, as well as cosmetics and perfume, mainly in terms of services rather than the product itself. We want to promote UAE companies dealing with these innovative services.