His Excellency Hamad Hareb Al Habssi , UAE Ambassador to the Republic of South Africa, inaugurated the UAE pavilion at the Africa Big Seven 2012 exhibition, the foremost event for the food and beverage industry in Africa, which began at the Gallagher Convention Centre in Johannesberg on 15th July.
Co-ordinated by Dubai Exports, the export promotion agency of the Dubai Department of Economic Development (DED), in association with the Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development and Sharjah Free Zones Authority, the UAE pavilion at the three-day exhibition features manufacturers and suppliers in the food, packaging and related sectors.
“The UAE and the African continent have a long history of trade relations and new avenues are opening up to take our engagement to the next level. It is commendable to see government agencies from the various emirates in the UAE joining forces to make the most of this opportunity,” commented the UAE Ambassador.
The annual fair is known for connecting suppliers throughout the food and beverage supply chain to importers, distributors and retailers in the fast-emerging African markets.
“The UAE food and beverage industry has world-class capabilities in all critical aspects, including manufacturing techniques, product diversity, packaging and shipping. With adequate knowledge of the promising markets and their dynamics, these firms can grow into leading exporters,” said Engineer Saed Al Awadi, Chief Executive Officer of Dubai Exports.
“The number of firms attending Africa Big Seven 2012 under the Dubai Exports umbrella has increased 30% compared to the previous year. It shows the growing confidence of UAE companies and their interest in Africa. Dubai especially being a logistics and trading hub can provide the best solutions for the high-growth African economies,” added Al Awadi.
Trade between the UAE and South Africa has grown at 7% from 2007, crossing AED4 billion in 2011. South Africa and its neighbours also share a high trade complementarity with the UAE, indicating a strong potential for more UAE exports and re-exports to these markets.
Plastics, electrical & electronics, and vehicles dominate UAE exports to Africa but food and related sectors are fast moving up, due to growing demand from an emerging middle class in South Africa and neighbouring countries. Halal foods, in which the UAE is a significant player, is a major growth sector in most African countries on account of their large Muslim populations.
South Africa is also leveraging its strengths as a resurgent economy and gateway to the wider African region by upgrading infrastructure, improving the regulatory framework and opening up critical industry sectors.
His Excellency Mohammed Omar Abdullah, Undersecretary of the Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development, said: “Our participation at the Africa Big Seven comes within the strategic plan of the Department for 2012 and our efforts to leverage the opportunities offered by global markets and the UAE’s trading partners. It also underlines the commitment of Abu Dhabi and the UAE in general to achieve food security against increasing threats, supply disruptions, economic instabilities, and production shortfalls, which all lead to price fluctuations.”
Abdullah said events like Africa Big Seven 2012 provide vast opportunities for UAE national companies to enter the African market and establish partnerships. He added that the trade fair is also an ideal forum to showcase the economic strengths and fundamentals of Abu Dhabi and the UAE to South African businesses and officials as well as visitors from overseas.
“South Africa is the centrepoint of emerging economic blocs such as the South African Development Community (SADC) and Sub-Saharan Africa as a whole. We thank Dubai Exports for giving our member firms an opportunity to address these potential markets,” stated Rashid Al Leem, Director General of Sharjah Free Zones Authority.
A major thrust of the Dubai Exports strategy is on promoting awareness and networking to enable local firms to capitalise on the opportunities in South Africa. In order to help local firms attending Africa Big Seven 2012 maximise their participation and target the right audiences, Dubai Exports had also organised a pre-departure meeting with the company representatives.
Before joining SME Advisor, I worked as a producer/reporter for Forbes Media in New York. I obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism and International Studies at the University of South Florida in the US. I am currently in Dubai working as Sub-Editor for SME Advisor Middle East, which is a business magazine published by CPI. You can follow me on Twitter: @joumanasaad or @SMEadvisorME and (Joumana Saad) or (SME Advisor) on LinkedIn.