Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), the financial and business hub connecting the region’s emerging markets with the developed markets of Europe, Asia and the Americas, hosted “Integrating MENA into Emerging Global Supply Chains: Building on Dubai’s Infrastructure and Logistics” supported by Dubai World Central, as part of the annual DIFC Economics Workshops series.
The workshop addressed various facets of the topic including Dubai as a logistics hub, innovative project financing options, key elements to facilitate regional integration, and infrastructure and reconstruction opportunities in the MENA region. The event also provided a platform for financiers and business leaders to network, share knowledge and discuss the latest trends and developments in infrastructure and logistics in Dubai and the region.
“Dubai’s investments in infrastructure and logistics have enabled it to diversify, achieve greater openness and transform its economy, changing its position in global economic geography, said Dr. Nasser Saidi, Chief Economist at DIFC. ”But infrastructure investment requirements are growing as a result of the Arab Spring. We will need to focus on new approaches to infrastructure and logistics investments through greater private sector participation, financing through local currency debt and Sukuk issues, as well as new region-wide institutions.” Dr. Saidi also stressed the need for the creation of an Arab Bank for reconstruction and development.
The event opened with a session titled Dubai – The Region’s Trade, Business & Logistics Hub, which discussed how Dubai’s investments in infrastructure and logistics have transformed it into the region’s trade, tourism and business hub, allowing MENA to integrate into emerging global supply chains.
Participating in this session, Mohsen Ahmad, Director of Operation Development and Stakeholders Relations at Dubai World Central spoke about the current and future projects led by them, including latest developments to maintain Dubai’s status as a logistics hub. He also shared trends in trade and airport traffic with the audience, highlighting Dubai’s interconnectedness. The launch of the DWC’s Al Maktoum Airport was also among the points of discussion, with its benefits, including increased connectivity, outlined.
“Dubai World Central is positioned to cement Dubai’s leading position as a hub for trade and commerce. More than ever, speed and connectivity are increasingly becoming must-haves for global organizations. With the currently operational Al Maktoum International Airport at the heart and integrated logistics and aviation districts, DWC is the ideal platform for business looking to expand their reach into the dynamic MENASA region,” said Ahmad.
The session also discussed areas that require improvement, touching upon existing inefficiencies and steps to overcome them. Mohammed Al Muallem, Senior Vice President and Managing Director, DP World, UAE Region, highlighted the role of DP World in developing and maintaining Dubai’s status as a logistics hub. He also spoke about current and future projects of DP World, including latest developments, also highlighting the shift in focus to emerging market economies.
“DP World is at the frontline of connecting Dubai, the UAE and the region to the rest of the world with our flagship Jebel Ali Port serving as the largest and busiest logistics hub between Europe and Asia. Emerging markets account for more than 75% of our business and are the focus of our growth strategy. Our recent decision to increase the container handling capacity at Jebel Ali by 5 million TEU (twenty-foot equivalent container units) is in line with the growing trade flow between this region and the developing economies,” said Al Muallem.
The changes in financing options for the MENA region’s businesses was among the points of discussion, with the sectors of focus highlighted. In addition, the session identified the changing trends in the post- financial crisis world, and the changes post Eurozone sovereign debt crisis. The speakers also touched upon the role of Islamic finance as an additional source of financing, including current growth and its ability to provide access to untapped funds. An overview of the potential benefits of regional infrastructure integration, alternative sources of project finance, and innovative instruments used in other regions and their suitability for the MENA region were also points identified in the session.
Speakers also discussed the issues involved in financing, from a financial institution’s perspective, and the main challenges faced when financing infrastructure projects in the region. The discussion also aimed to identify how an integrated MENA region can play a central role in the larger global network, and the possible avenues for integration with emerging markets such as China and India.
This session was followed by another one titled Infrastructure: Expanding horizons through Regional Integration.This topic focused on the regional economic integration and how it can benefit from integrated infrastructure. Similarly, integrated infrastructure projects can enable and drive regional economic integration.
The workshop concluded with one final panel discussion titled MENA Infrastructure – Opportunities for Reconstruction & Role of Emerging Market Economies. It mainly focused on the fact that the Arab Spring and reconstruction requirements present a major opportunity for massive infrastructure investments that would foster economic growth and integration of Arab countries into new, emerging global supply chains.