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Bridging Africa through the UAE

Bridging Africa through the UAE

The UAE is an ideal base for companies with operations in Africa, writes Anand Kapoor

The United Arab Emirates offers international organisations based here an immense opportunity for operations throughout Africa.

The country offers the perfect combination of connectivity, infrastructure and, importantly, governmental support. This is especially true if the business runs across multiple African markets and the need for connectivity, and mobility, is paramount.

With operations spanning across multiple African countries, organisations face huge challenges trying to coordinate activities, logistics, growth and business development on the ground.

Africa is not one big country. Every market is operating under its own laws, regulations, customs and infrastructure. For any chance of maximising the potential the continent has to offer, it is imperative companies have a base of operations where they can effectively oversee the enterprise and its various components.

Using just the knowledge and insight gained from operating in the UAE, companies are able to guide African operations on the best products for those markets. Being in such a connected international market provides an insight that cannot necessarily be found on the ground in Africa.

Connectivity, infrastructure, free zones catering for transit throughout Africa and social security for employ- ees all play a huge role in what the UAE has to offer international organisations. This particularly benefits those looking to launch in Africa or run n countries, organisations face huge challenges trying to coordinate operations through multiple countries across the continent.

The Gulf Cooperation Council, Asia, Europe and even other African markets are so well connected to the UAE it makes logical sense for any organisation to set up their base of operations here. Emirates Airline alone has the potential to save organisations tens of thousands of hours and dollars annually through direct connections to destinations on the continent. This avoids the hassle, cost and delay of multiple flights.

Then there are simple things like the fact the dirham is pegged to the United States dollar. This has the potential to save organisations based in the UAE, operating in multiple markets with diverse independent currencies, hundreds of thousands of dollars annually on currency exchanges alone.

Dubai’s internationally respected reputation provides an additional benefit. From the perspective of inter- national partners and stakeholders, a company operating out of Dubai has a lot more credibility and a much better reputation than one based in Uganda or Rwanda.

Perhaps one of the biggest benefits the UAE provides multinational organisations operating in Africa is government support. Government agencies and initiatives such as the Dubai Chamber of Commerce are very proactive and eager to assist companies based here that need to open doors into African markets. Keep in mind this is a two way street. The UAE’s trade zones and their authorities are help- ing business move into Africa but they are also opening up the rest of the GCC and the world at large, to African businesses and products. It is globalisation through facilitation and it is boosting economies both within Africa and the outside world.

I was not the first to realise the benefits of a UAE base and many major international organisations are based here. Just take a look at Media City, Internet City, DMCC and Jebel Ali. Even outside the free zones you will find every major global player that has any footprint in Africa at all is running their regional office out of the UAE.

The services of two of the best-connected airlines globally, world leading infrastructure, initiatives such as DIFC, the Jebel Ali Freezone and the impending introduction of value added tax make it a regional force, not just within the GCC and wider Middle East and North Africa region but as a gateway into Africa and a bridge between markets. The UAE provides an opportunity that no other business destination can match. It is a truly global marketplace.

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