Two weeks ago, Dubai hosted the Global Business Forum Africa. The Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the event’s organiser, in conjunction with the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA) and Dubai Free Zone Council announced that up to 200 prominent African investors will receive UAE golden permanent residency visas.
These visas will be granted as part of the ‘Be Part of Dubai Initiative’, which looks to provide African Ultra High-Net-Worth Individuals (UHNWIs) an easy way to obtain long-term residency and contribute to the economic activity in Africa and Dubai.
This initiative comes at the backdrop of strengthening UAE and Africa ties. The UAE, while continuing to be a leading investment and trade partner for Africa, is also viewed as the gateway to the continent.
From 2011 to 2018, non-oil trade with Africa and Dubai has totalled over AED 926 billion. This is expected to top AED 1 trillion by the end of this year.
Dubai, over the course of the last two decades, has developed as a critical global hub and gateway to the rest of the world.
It is not hard to see why, with its diverse mix of cultures, lifestyles, almost year-round perfect weather and its iconic skyline.
One of the driving factors for Dubai’s development as a critical global gateway city is its geographic position, which means it is uniquely well placed to act as a hub for accessing Asia, the Middle East and Africa – all key future economic growth centres.
Within a four-hour flight time, Dubai is able to access 10 leading global cities, including Riyadh and Delhi, or a third of the world’s population.
A further 24 key cities, including London, Singapore and Frankfurt, are located within eight hours’ flight time, which covers two-thirds of the world’s population.
The Emirate of Dubai is also home to the Dubai International Financial Centre, which is recognised as the Middle East, Africa and South Asia region’s leading financial centre.
In 2019 DIFC, where laws and regulations default to English Common Law, was ranked as the eighth most competitive financial centre according to the Global Financial Centres Index (GFCI).
As business confidence in Africa gains momentum, given the launch of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), we expect growth rates to increase.
This will in turn lead to a 20% growth in the number of UHNWIs between 2018 and 2023, according to the Knight Frank Wealth Report.
Political uncertainties in the continent, currency fluctuations, as well as economic uncertainties are likely to underpin stronger levels of investment flows from the African continent to Dubai with African investors adopting an outward look in a bid to diversify risk.
James Lewis, MD, Knight Frank, Middle East and Africa.