TBY talks to Ahmed Bin Sulayem, Executive Chairman of Dubai Multi Commodities Centre (DMCC), on the possibility of the Emirate becoming the leading international hub in diamond trading, and the Dubai Diamond Conference.

Ahmed Bin Sulayem
Ahmed Bin Sulayem is the Executive Chairman of the Dubai Multi Commodities Centre (DMCC). He joined DMCC as Chief Operating Officer at its inception, assuming responsibility for the organization’s operations. Prior to joining DMCC, he was a Director at ASTECO, the largest realty company in Dubai. Under his leadership, DMCC has attracted significant physical trade to the Emirate, helping to establish Dubai as a key trade hub and a vital link between the East and the West.

Dubai Multi Commodities Centre (DMCC) provides a platform for commodities companies to set up their operations and access the markets of the region. What makes Dubai attractive as a destination for companies?

As a Government of Dubai authority with world-class infrastructure and regulation, our members know they can trade here with confidence. Dubai is a global hub for the commodity trade that caters to local and international market demands. Businesses around the globe look for a place where they can expand, access new markets, and conduct their day-to-day operations in a secure, transparent, and modern environment. They look for the very best in logistical facilities, a stable political climate, and a favorable fiscal climate, as well as a high quality of life. Dubai is also located at the center of trade between producing countries in the East and consuming nations in the West. It has excellent air and sea links, which makes doing business here extremely convenient and efficient.

Will its trade relationship with Africa allow Dubai to overtake Mumbai or Antwerp?

It is important that we don't just look at this as a competition. At the same time, it is of course well documented that Dubai is perfectly positioned between producing and consuming countries. Yes, it is imperative to grow; that is essential, but it is also important to note that our trading partners are often complementary centers. India is a very large cutting and polishing center and a huge artisan trading center, similar to that of China. Looking at the diamond trade specifically, Dubai is the leading rough diamond trading center. Dubai serves as a central hub for goods as they are amalgamated, sorted, and sent on for cutting and polishing. We are seeing a number of polished goods coming back into Dubai, which is also growing as a polishing center, not just a jewelry center. Our mission is to establish Dubai as the global hub for the commodities trade, the overall growth of the global sector is therefore equally important to us. To give you an example of how we at DMCC cater to the Dubai trade, we focus on offering the infrastructure to increase the flow of trade through the Emirate, and as a result have seen the flow of diamonds coming through Dubai grow from $5 million a few years ago to over $39 billion today. The fact that Dubai and DMCC has facilitated this growth is testimony to that strategy. In fact, if you look at the rough trade, Dubai is the only diamond center in the world that has grown at this unrivalled pace.

What were your experiences at the Dubai Diamond Conference in 2013?

As you are aware, DMCC hosted the first ever Dubai Diamond Conference in the UAE in March 2013, which brought together delegates and keynote speakers from Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, including several ministers of mines and mineral resources from leading African producing countries. Being the only diamond conference in the UAE, it also provided a great opportunity to build relationships between companies and governments in producing and consuming countries. There was naturally a strong focus on the role that the Middle East plays along the trade route for rough and polished diamonds—also known as the New Silk Route. The delegates' broad range of experience fuelled dynamic discussions with many different views from African, Middle Eastern, European, and Asian diamond industry participants. It was really insightful; imagine a room with over 500 delegates and keynotes such as Hon. Susan Shabangu, Minister of Mineral Resources of the Republic of South Africa; Hon. Dr. Obert Moses Mpofu, Minister of Mines and Mining Development, Republic of Zimbabwe; Hon. Kitso O. Mokaila, Minister of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources, Republic of Botswana; Hon. Prof. Dr. Francisco Queiroz, Minister of Geology, Mines and Industry, Republic of Angola; and Hon. Isak Katali, Minister of Mines and Energy of the Republic of Namibia in attendance. DMCC's ability to bring together such key players from across the globe demonstrates Dubai's strength and position as one of the world's leading international diamond centers comparable to Mumbai, Antwerp, and New York. A key outcome from the Dubai Diamond Conference was that almost everyone agreed that as the center of gravity for the international diamond trade continues to shift eastward to MENA, India, and China, DMCC and Dubai's significance in the international diamond trade will only grow.