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Established in January 2015, Dubai Chamber International Office – Ghana’s mission is to assist with growing partner relationships in the West African Sub-region, and represents the Dubai Chamber in Ghana.
Here, head of the Accra-based office Cyril Kofi Darkwa (pictured, above) tells AB2020 how the Chamber is helping to increase trade between Ghana and the UAE.
What prompted the January 2015 launch of a Dubai Chamber of Commerce in Ghana?
Over the past few years, the focus of Dubai Chamber has shifted slightly to a more international approach. The chamber realised in the scheme of things it needed to create more trade and business opportunities for their members, which currently stands at over 230,000. So they decided to open international offices to find more opportunities for Dubai companies. Dubai Chamber currently has 10 offices globally. The three strongest economies in West Africa are Ghana, Nigeria and Cote D’Ivoire but at the end of the day the Chamber looking at so many factors selected Ghana. This isn’t ruling out setting up in Nigeria and Cote D’Ivoire in the future. In a nutshell, the quest to find more business opportunities and contacts for Dubai companies necessitated the creation of this office which looks after the West African Sub-region.
How is Ghana emerging as a key market for businesses in Dubai, and vice versa?
One of the key things most business leaders look at when a decision has to be made on investing in a country is the ease of doing business coupled with a sound political and economic atmosphere. Ghana has consistently been improving its ranking on the ease of doing business in Africa ranking and this basically makes the decision on an ideal investment destination quite easy for any Dubai business. The current economic indicators also clearly show the country is ready to open up for business especially as these indicators are a prime measure of business sustainability.
Dubai has recently revised several business regulations which aims at attracting investments as well. A typical example is the recent announcement of 100% foreign ownership in 122 business sectors. This move clearly shows a welcoming economy that is poised to be the hub of trade and commerce in the Gulf region. The slashing of departmental and the waiving of some government fees as well is positioning Dubai as an attractive investment destination as well.
What would you say are the top opportunities in Dubai for the Ghanaian market?
Dubai’s positioning as a leading global trade and commerce hub for the Gulf region creates a lot of opportunities for various businesses. With re-exportation of goods a key aspect of the economy, several opportunities exist for Ghanaian businesses. For the Ghanaian market key opportunities exist in the food and beverage industry, spare parts, automobiles and lubricant as well as at the fabric industry. When you look at the trade figures between Ghana and Dubai, it’s quite evident that the sectors listed above have all shown a positive trajectory in import values over the last few years.
With the automobile industry for example, there is a gradual shift with respect to the importation of cars. More people now prefer cars from Dubai. Several automobile companies and private retailers/distributors are now getting their cars from Dubai because of the price component, it’s slightly cheaper, and also the cars from Dubai are built for the weather conditions in Ghana. The electronic industry [computers and white goods] is also a key sector for opportunities for the Ghanaian market.
Do you focus on specific sectors, or is the chamber industry agnostic?
Our interests are spread across different industries; there’s no particular area we look at as our members are spread across all industries. From construction, logistics, automobiles, medical and many more.
What are some of the challenges you face in attempting to bring the two markets together?
People feeling sure of their investment is still an issue. Nonetheless, that problem is half solved because of the office here in Ghana, as we try to assure people that their investments are safe.
Finding the market is also another challenge. Unlike in Nigeria where [due to the population] finding market isn’t a challenge, people are usually not too confident to bring certain goods into the Ghanaian market because they aren’t sure they can sufficiently find the market for their products.
However, we feed into the perception that the way Dubai is a gateway to the middle east region is the same way Ghana is the also a gateway to West Africa as lots of countries come to Ghana to trade.
That, coupled with the fact that there’s a growing market [especially with the middle class] for consumer changes, is renewing the hope that there’s a market in Ghana with strong potential.
How much trade has Ghana been doing with Dubai since the establishment of the Chamber?
Currently, we estimate almost $3 billion dollars of trade for last year for the entire UAE. But when you take Dubai as a city, trade was around $1.2 billion and it’s been growing over the past few years. So cumulatively we are looking at an estimate of $5 billion dollars over the course of four years.
Are there any success stories you can speak to?
Definitely! Last year we helped the National Cable Company secure a contract with a local cable manufacturer in excess of about $3 million dollars. We have also helped several companies secure successful contracts that they are currently executing.
What have been some of your memorable highlights this year as a Chamber?
In April this year, the Dubai Chamber in collaboration with the GIPC undertook a trade mission to Dubai, during which we attended the Annual Investment Meeting where we took a delegation of about 20 companies and institutions. We also had a side event at our office where we had B2B meetings and a business forum; one of the highlights of the B2B session was the successful business deal between a chocolate company we went with on the trade mission and a major chocolate manufacturer in Dubai. Such success stories spur us on to do more for local Ghanaian companies.
Next year is a big year for the Chamber with the Dubai 2020 Expo. What do you have planned?
The Chamber works closely with the Expo 2020 team in Dubai and together with the local organizing working group of the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Ghana’s theme for participation in Expo 2020 will be mapped out and clearly defined. The Chamber will also be supporting various public and private sector institutions in Ghana with all the relevant information and market research in order to tap into niche markets in Dubai and most importantly connect them to the right partners and business institutions in order to advance their business objectives and plans. The office intends undertaking a trade mission during Expo 2020 as well on a multi sectorial level. The objective of this trade mission will be to help local businesses and individuals reach the global Emirates market.
What comes next in 2020? Complete this sentence in 2020 Africa will be ……
Rising…African economies are now reaching a realisation that certain things need to change. The key thing being the way we handle our natural resources. Looking at the value chain for cocoa being a $70 billion-dollar industry and yet Ghana and Cote D’Ivoire share just about $2 billion of that. We are now taking steps in the right direction by controlling the price we sell the cocoa [recently Ghana and Cote D’Ivoire announced in a joint statement that they had won concessions from stakeholders in the cocoa industry including the acceptance of a $2,600-floor price for a tonne of cocoa]. And what comes next will be setting up factories to process these beans ourselves to sell at the right price on the international market. This is the way we can empower people to create jobs and take countries in Africa out of the economic doldrums. Thus, in 2020, Africa will definitely be rising.