Mayor Boris pitches for London

Mayor Boris pitches for London

London’s Mayor Boris Johnson kept proceedings relatively informal during a small press meeting in Dubai on Tuesday and jestfully spoke of his first experience of eating camel.


Kelly Clarke

Published: Wed 17 Apr 2013, 8:53 AM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 7:40 PM

“We eat horse in the UK, so why shouldn’t we eat camel in Abu Dhabi.”

On a trade mission to the Gulf, with the UAE the first stop on the trip, a floppy haired Johnson used the ‘boom’ witnessed following the London 2012 Olympics as his main selling point to draw in investors from the region.

Describing his debut visit as “an interesting and rewarding trip”, Johnson said he was eager to cement relations and strengthen UAE-London links.

RIDING FOR LONDON.... Mayor of London Boris Johnson has announced plans for closer collaboration between London and Dubai’s thriving tech sectors.. — KT photo by Rahul Gajjar

Joining Johnson at the Jumeirah Emirates Towers Hotel were a number of representatives from City Hall, as well members from the business delegation.

Arriving a forgivable 10 minutess late to the question and answer session, Johnson’s chief economic advisor Gerard Lyons filled in for the Mayor saying the trip was “not about quick wins, but about strengthening relations” with business investors in the Gulf.

With the upcoming visit of the President, His Highness Shaikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan to the UK imminent, Johnson spoke of its significance: “We are very honoured to be receiving Shaikh Khalifa...David Cameron attaches great importance to UK and UAE relations...this is a relationship that is strategic, commercial, diplomatic...there are so many ways in which we want to intensify our cooperation and the president’s visit is key to this”.

Often referred to as the Mayor of the eighth emirate — due to the influx of Emiratis to the UK’s Capital during the summer months — Johnson praised the UAE’s current UK investment ventures, and said that 30 per cent of the medals won during the London 2012 Olympics were won in Abu Dhabi owned venues.

Speaking about the UK and the UAE’s aligned strategy and ambitious targets towards combating climate change, he said: “Most people in London are unaware that Abu Dhabi owns a clean energy facility in the city (owned by Masdar)...which generates power for 20 per cent of London households,” adding that this was a testament to the historically strong bilateral relations between the two country’s.

Johnson also praised the UAEs bull-headed business approach: “You have an idea. Back it. Then make it happen, no matter how difficult the vision looks at first.”

Keen to open doors for London businesses seeking to expand their operations to the Middle East and vice-versa, Johnson also announced plans for closer collaboration between London and Dubai’s thriving technology sectors.

The Mayor was carefully positioned in front of a backdrop of literature promoting the UKs Capital city, one of which read:

“London’s Tech City is the largest and fastest growing tech cluster in the Europe. For a world renowned location and stable investment, choose London.”

And with London’s impressive technology portfolio and Dubai boasting Dubai Internet City — the largest ICT business park in the Middle East — Johnson said there are huge opportunities to share expertise and build trade, with London “ripe for development”.

When questioned about what billion pound projects he has rubber stamped on his visit to the UAE, Johnson’s classic stutter reared its head: “...all I can tell you is there are lots of things in the pipeline”.

Although he failed to reveal any newly agreed upon business ventures, Johnson said an estimated one million people are expected to flock to London by 2021, putting huge pressure on the housing stock and transport infrastructure of the city.

The opportunity for investment in property and transport development would be key topics of discussion during his visit to the region.

During the session, former journalist Johnson strategically kept the media on side, by interluding serious business talk with humourous anecdotes.

“London was founded by a bunch of pushy, Italian immigrants called the Romans”.

The comment was made in reference to the importance of foreign investment and when asked whether he thinks Middle Eastern countries are buying up too much in London, Johnson replied: “London is an international city...It is a great international cosmopolis and that’s one of its secrets of economic strengths.”

He said there is plenty of room for investors, not just from the Middle East, but from around the world.

Referring to the Dubai Expo 2020, the Mayor said such an event will bring people together and offers the emirate a huge chance to show the world what it has to offer. He said London has witnessed a “post Olympic glow” following the successful event last summer: “My general view on this is if you get all eyes on your shop window, that’s great for your city.”

Johnson flew back to the UK after the morning session on Tuesday to attend the funeral of Baroness Margaret Thatcher which is taking place today, but he will be returning to the Middle East on Thursday, where he will be sharing expertise gained from his experiences from the Olympics with sporting officials in Doha, Qatar, as they prepare to host the 2022 World Cup.

Other ventures discussed during the meeting included airport development in the UAE — with Johnson saying that although Heathrow is currently the leading airport worldwide, Abu Dhabi and Dubai airports could change this in the very near future and he also touched on DP World investing in the Thames Gateway — the UK’s first 21st Century major deep-sea container port and Europe’s largest logistics park.

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