Covid-19 presented immense opportunity for African businesses: GBF Africa experts

Dubai - The sixth edition of GBF Africa is the first of three Global Business Forums organised by Dubai Chamber in partnership with Expo 2020 Dubai


Rohma Sadaqat

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Published: Thu 14 Oct 2021, 3:29 PM

The Covid-19 pandemic proved to be a significant challenge for economies across the world, but it also presented an immense opportunity for strengthening trade relations and investments in new technologies, experts said at the sixth Global Business Forum (GBF) Africa in Dubai.

Organised by the Dubai Chamber under the theme ‘Transformation Through Trade’, GBF Africa 2021 is being held at the Dubai Exhibition Centre at Expo 2020 Dubai under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE, and Ruler of Dubai.

Dr Constantino D.N.G. Chiwenga, vice president of the Republic of Zimbabwe, said that the pandemic was supposed to be a challenge, instead, it presented an opportunity to “restart Zimbabwe.”

“We re-engineered our investment to rise to the occasion,” he asserted. “In no time, we found ourselves producing PPEs, sanitizers, medicines, and we progressed to the point where we are now producing medical oxygen for our own hospitals.”

He also noted that the movement of goods and services became slow during the pandemic, prompting the country to utilise its local abilities and opportunities. “All shop shelves are now full of local products. The pandemic was an opportunity for us to explore how we can utilise our capacities.”

The vice president also noted that Zimbabwe is endowed with natural resources, a good climate, fertile soil, and is centrally positioned within southern Africa, which facilitates interconnection with all countries. “There is no crop you cannot grow in Zimbabwe. We have done our research and found that every crop out there can be grown in Zimbabwe. The only way you can guarantee the production and productivity of crops is irrigation; we have the Zambezi River flowing through the country – it is the fourth-longest river in Africa – and we have 10,700 dams, making us the most dammed country on the African continent.”

“We started out looking to meet our strategic needs, but we will eventually be producing an excess of two million tons of grain; and we are working to revamp our horticulture sector, as well as to boost our livestock production,” he added.

Similarly, Paul Kagame, president of Rwanda, shared his views on the impact of the pandemic on the global economy and new technologies disrupting industries.

“No country or continent has been spared the damaging effects of the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said. “Africa is no exception. As vaccine distribution improves globally, the pandemic is becoming more manageable. Travel and commerce are beginning to recover. However, we are not going back to the same economy that we knew in 2019.”

Some of the changes, he noted, will be profound and lasting. “The crisis in international shipping and transportation is already generating new thinking. Manufacturing and supply chains will need to become more resilient to more local and more technologically advanced. Fourth Industrial Revolution, innovations in artificial intelligence and 3D printing, for example, are making it possible to make products almost anywhere at a competitive cost.”

This new economic paradigm would present Rwanda with many opportunities, he noted, opening the doors for various sectors of the Rwandan economy, as well as for the wider continent of Africa. “Lifesaving vaccines and other pharmaceuticals will increasingly be produced in a decentralised fashion, including in Rwanda, thanks to advances in engineering and more partnerships with companies like BioNTech and others.”

Kagame also highlighted the deep ties between Africa, Dubai, and the UAE. “The progress of African economic integration will mean more trade and investment between Africa and the rest of the world, not less. The UAE and Dubai, in particular, have long played a key role in linking Africa to the wider global economy. This interconnectedness has been mutually beneficial, and we wish to continue to deepen those collaborations.”

The Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry on Thursday announced that it has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Angola-UAE Chamber of Commerce and Industry, to facilitate knowledge sharing and cooperation between the two chambers. Announced on the sidelines of GBF Africa 2021, the agreement establishes a framework for developing stronger business relations between the parties and establishes cooperation procedures to enhance the achievement of their respective economic objectives.

Under the terms of the MoU, two chambers will promote trade in their respective countries, exchange information on trade opportunities and investment potential, organise prospective business missions, study trips, commercial events, trade fairs, exhibitions, seminars and training sessions for the mutual benefit of their members. In addition, the chambers will send and receive business delegations and encourage joint ventures among their members.

The MoU was signed by Hamad Buamim, president and CEO of the Dubai Chamber, and Bráulio Martins, president and CEO of the Angola-UAE Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Buamim described the MoU as an important development that will strengthen trade ties between Angola and Dubai and create new channels of business exchange. With four representative offices located in Africa, Dubai Chamber looks forward to providing all necessary assistance and support to ensure that Dubai-Angola business relations continue to flourish, he said.

“This agreement will lead to abiding bonds between the business communities of Angola and Dubai by promoting and facilitating economic and commercial cooperation in accordance with the relevant laws and regulations. In addition to fostering a favourable business environment, the agreement promotes joint ventures through - among other initiatives – the organising of business missions, study trips, seminars, training, symposiums and commercial events for the benefit of both our chambers’ members,” said Bráulio Martins.

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