Dubai Chambers is a non-profit public entity that supports Dubai’s vision as a global player driving sustainable development. Dubai recently launched its Dubai Economic Agenda 2033 (D33) and the plan aims to attract businesses from around the world with incentives such as long-term residency, 100 percent foreign ownership, a low-tax environment, and ease of doing business.
MOHAMMAD LOOTAH, president and CEO of Dubai Chambers, in this interview with DAMILOLA ODIFA, discusses Dubai’s commitment to deepening trade and investment relations between business communities in both Dubai and Nigeria.
What specific strategies or initiatives does Dubai Chambers plan to implement to increase trade volume between Nigeria and Dubai, considering the current trade statistics and potential growth areas in Nigeria?
First of all, today, we’re coming on a business delegation. So the first approach that we take is: we do more business delegations and events to narrow the gap between the business sectors from Dubai and Nigeria and to ensure that they have engaging meetings. So, this is one.
The second thing is having our office here, inaugurating our office here today. This allows us to help facilitate inquiries and interest from businesses on both sides without the need to wait for only seasonal delegations. So, having an office permanently here in Lagos will definitely help to drive more businesses.
So it will be engagement through our office, in addition to a lot of business events and conferences that we do.
Mainly, the office will act as a trade promotion and liaison office to really streamline the experience for businesses in both Nigeria and Dubai.
Are there incentives in place to attract businesses from Nigeria to Dubai?
First of all, there was a very detailed presentation on what Dubai can offer in terms of its business competitiveness in global competitiveness ranking, in addition to being the first city to attract more than 511 greenfield projects with $5.3 billion in terms of value of FDI (foreign direct investment) coming into the city in the first six months.
In addition to that, the great infrastructure and connectivity that Dubai can offer.
I think, already, such incentives, in addition to your location in terms of logistics and connectivity, and the close relationship with the chamber, will definitely help businesses not only set off to Dubai, but to have their regional base and even grow new emerging markets from Dubai.
Dubai can have great connectivity for African companies, to Central Asian markets, to GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) markets, to other markets in South Asia and globally. So we believe that what was clearly mentioned in today’s presentation is one of the areas that Dubai can offer.
The other area that interests us is how we can really market for investment opportunities that are here in Nigeria, to our business community, and how we can help them understand more about such opportunities so they end up investing in this market, because we believe that investment always gives you medium- to long-term plan and drive more recurring investment moving forward.
What should Nigerian businesses looking to do business with Dubai in the area of renewable energies look out for, especially since you’re trying to generate more power from renewable energy?
Dubai is already home to the largest single solar park site in the world from a barrage at Solar Park and what we’re looking forward to is understanding what the opportunities of renewable energy are. It can be government opportunities, either it’s a build-operate-transfer contract or public public-private partnerships, or even from some private players.
We have this sector progressing very well, and I think both Africa and our region are blessed with a lot of sunlight.
So I think it’s time to really take advantage and diversify the sources of energy, and to do it not only for environmental purposes but even to do it as a really profitable business that will sustain both the environment and the economic growth.
You talked a lot about connectivity, and one of Dubai’s trade secrets is its connectivity. Without flights between both countries, that connectivity is a gap. How soon can this be resolved? And what is being done to resolve it?
To be honest, as a chamber, we don’t have updates on this because this sits with the authorities. But based on the figures that we saw, I don’t think that the business between the two cities was impacted. If it was, we would not witness the growth of 39 percent in bilateral trade this year.
Compared to 2021, we had around 50 percent growth in the number of new Nigerian companies compared to the total number of companies that are part of the Dubai Chambers. I’m sure authorities there have their ways of working on it, but we are the voice of the private sector; we are here to really facilitate the relationship with the private sector.
As long as your numbers are growing in double digits, we are very happy.
What have been the responses from Dubai businesses in the Nigerian market?
They were very excited to be part of the delegation; they are trying to do more events, more delegations coming, and with having our office here, we’ll do a lot of regional events here in Lagos, so we can really market for investment opportunities that are provided to us by the authorities here in Nigeria.
Dubai’s investments into Nigeria hit $234.30 million during the period 2018-June 2023, according to FDI Intelligence, and I’m hoping that this value increases with the opening of our new office in Nigeria.