South Africa's recent decision to add the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to its visa waiver list reflects the strengthening relations between the two countries, as well as the commitment of both governments to take cultural and economic ties to the next level, according to Hamad Buamim, president and CEO of the Dubai Chamber of Commerce & Industry.
He says just over three years ago, the Dubai Chamber led a trade mission to SA where chamber officials made several recommendations for removing trade barriers between the UAE and SA. These included easing procedures for tourist visas, updating existing legislation and opening new economic sectors for foreign investors.
Dubai-South Africa non-oil trade exceeded $3.3bn in 2018 a 57% increase compared to the $2.1bn accounted for in 2016. Furthermore, the number of South African companies registered with the Dubai Chamber grew by 19% from 385 in 2017 to 458 currently.
In Buamim's view, the close and seamless cooperation between public and private sector players is one of the main factors which has contributed to Dubai's economic development over the last few decades - a process in which the Dubai Chamber played an active role as a facilitator.
Africa is a key focus of the Dubai Chamber's international expansion strategy. The chamber has continued to expand its efforts to explore new avenues of cooperation and identify business opportunities in African markets that offer the most potential for its members. These included hosting high-level events such as the Global Business Forum Africa and the Africa Gateway, a new smart platform launched earlier this year.
The platform offers insights on several African markets, including South Africa to enable chamber members to make informed decisions and learn about new business prospects.
Furthermore, the UAE government recently launched initiatives to enhance economic competitiveness and attract foreign investors and companies. This includes the decision to open 13 economic sectors to 100% foreign ownership. Previously this was restricted to businesses based in free zones. Ten-year visas for investors and 5-year visas for entrepreneurs have also been introduced.
According to Buamim, Dubai's competitiveness as a global business hub includes its business-friendly environment, world-class infrastructure, state-of-the-art logistics facilities and strategic location offering ease of access to emerging markets.
* Compiled by Carin Smith