Dubai International Chamber, established to strengthen partnerships with global corporations, investors and entrepreneurs and boost Dubai’s status as a major trading hub, has opened a representative trade office in Nigeria on the rising number of businesses in West Africa.
This is to enable African businesses to set up in Dubai – the largest financial centre of the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Part of its plans for Africa and Nigeria in particular spelled out in its Dubai Economic Agenda 2033 (D33) is to increase trade between the city and the continent.
D33 outlines how it will attract businesses from around the world with incentives such as long-term residency, 100 percent foreign ownership, low-tax environment, ease-of-doing business and efficient business setup.
With its strategic free zones, tax incentives, and state-of-the-art infrastructure, Dubai stands out as a beacon for African companies seeking global expansion.
“The government of the UAE two years ago launched a new policy where factories can operate without having a local partner. So, this really will help multinational companies to establish their businesses,” said Abu Alshawareb, executive vice president of Dubai International Chamber.
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Products made in Dubai can be shipped, flown, and driven to the gulf region and other markets across the globe because of world-class infrastructure and export-friendly customs.
Already, Dubai is wooing investors from Nigeria. In October 2023, Tropical General Investments (TGI) Group, a Nigerian conglomerate, inaugurated a state-of-the-art dairy production facility in Dubai Industrial City, expanding its footprint into the global market.
Safety, tax incentives, ease of doing business and logistics make it easy for an Africa-focused company to do business, produce in and ship from Dubai.
The subsidiary, Nutridor Limited, a dairy company aims to produce more than 120,000 litres of liquid dairy daily, marking the first such facility commissioned by a Nigerian business subsidiary in the UAE.
The factory, established under the UAE’s ‘Foreign Investment Liberalisation Scheme,’ focuses on clean energy and zero waste practices, incorporating advanced technology, sustainability initiatives, and local value addition.
Additionally, Nutridor is incorporating cutting-edge automation and digital acceleration into its operations, ensuring efficiency and product consistency.
This commitment to technological advancement will enable the facility to meet the high standards expected in the UAE’s competitive dairy market.
Nutridor’s presence in the UAE is not just about production; it’s also about contributing to the local economy.
Nutridor is based in Dubai Industrial City (DIC), one of several free trade zones in the Emirati city state. Setting up in Dubai was an advantage during and after the construction of the factory within 11 months.
Over 300 factories operate in DIC — from steel companies to cement and aluminium makers — supplying everything a factory needs from construction to production within a short distance.
More recently, it became even more attractive for foreign investors to build their factories in Dubai.
Sankha Biswas, CEO of Nutridor, said the sort of ecosystem DIC provides is why TGI made its “sole largest investment in consumer goods” in Dubai.
The $20 million dairy factory, which began operations one month ago, plans to expand on the land it has leased right next to the factory. A decision it made based on advice from DIC.
“We’ve been active in Dubai as a group for the last two decades. Our parent company, Vink Corporation, is a Dubai Multi Commodities Centre company whose main business is commodities trading. We’ve been active as a group in this region before,” he said.
The choice of Dubai as a destination has multiple dimensions to it, Biswas said.
He said: “One, of course, is the unique geographic location. Second is the business-friendly environment, the geopolitical and economic (stability) and most importantly the government-[investor] relationship in Dubai.
“We operate in multiple other continents but here we have found the government entities enable you in multiple arenas to make things more efficient, fast.”
“Dairy as a category is valued in this region. It’s extremely big. We also use Dubai as a gateway to other markets; we’re using it to strategically serve Africa (west and south). We’re present in Ghana and Ivory Coast. We’ll be in Nigeria very soon,” Biswas added.
The pace of Dubai’s growth is breakneck speed. It has gone from a fishing village with 20,000 people to being a financial centre, logistics and financial hub and tourist destination.
Dubai has one of the busiest airports in the world which has helped facilitate the movement of people and commodities across the world.
According to data by Dubai Chambers, Nigeria’s non-oil trade with Dubai for exports grew from $927 million in 2018 to $1.55 billion in 2022. Imports however saw a decline from $619 million in 2018 to $562 million in 2022, a direct impact of foreign exchange rate.
Most commodities UAE exports to Nigeria include mineral fuels and bituminous, electronics and parts of it, vehicles and parts, precious stones and metals, machinery, and plastics and articles.
On the other hand, most commodities UAE imports from Nigeria include precious stones and metals, coffee, tea and spices, wood and articles of it, fruits and nuts, plastics and articles thereof and oil seeds.
Helal Saeed Al-Marri, director general of Dubai’s Department of Economy and Tourism while speaking during the recently concluded Dubai Business Forum, said what the D33 does is that it maps out a path in the next 10 years to ensure Dubai takes its position among the top three cities globally and to ensure that Dubai continues to grow at double the size of the Gross Domestic Product.
According to Al-Marri, there are new technologies in Dubai that keep attracting investments, some of which include the largest solar farm with the Water Electricity Authority, a deliberate policy towards its Eco biodiversity amongst several others.
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He said the UAE is leading the way with its carbon neutral commitment of 2050.
He assured that investors will see a lot more opportunities over the coming years, and a lot more investment in this space, that will fuel the growth.
Al-Marri said that for the D33, the first pillar and maybe one of the most important is the logistics pillar.
He said: “Dubai continues to be the world’s logistics hub. If you look at the solutions, which have been created across industry sectors, to connect north to south, east to west, Dubai is second to none.
“The challenges of supply chain seen around the world, gives us a leg up in the manufacturing space, and it builds a resilience for manufacturers here, both in their supply chain and in the logistics coupled with the availability of green energy. Dubai has the most successful solar programme in the world.”
He said corporates and manufacturers are able to move to carbon neutral, adding that as they look towards their carbon neutral goals, the UAE would not want to do something in the next 10 years that it would have to fix in another 10 years.
Al-Marri said the type of manufacturer the UAE is looking at relies on highly motivated robotics and this needs top talent in AI and other areas.
He said that the UAE has developed policies around the ability of talent to move to Dubai easily and feel comfortable to stay in Dubai long term.
He disclosed that it has also made sure that from a student’s perspective and a PR perspective that there is the demand.
“Now, from a vocational training perspective, and from an educational perspective, we’re quite lucky that many of the leading universities around the world have put in place their corporate development hubs here. Birmingham University is one of the Universities to set up actual campuses here,” he said.
Festus Keyamo, minister of aviation and aerospace development, recently disclosed that Emirates airline will soon announce the exact date of their resumption of the flights.
The minister said on the sidelines of the Dubai Airshow in Dubai last week that he met with the top echelon of Emirates Airlines and they continued very warm and fruitful discussions towards the resumption of flights from Dubai to Nigeria, an effort which was championed by President Bola Tinubu.
The resumption of flight operations between Nigeria and Dubai is expected to also boost trade between both countries.