Though Saudi Arabia has asked multinational companies to move their regional headquarters to the kingdom, this is not perceived as a concern by the UAE, the head of Dubai Chambers said.

At the 3rd annual Global Trade and Supply Chain Summit in Dubai, Mohammad Ali Rashed Lootah, President and CEO of Dubai Chambers, was asked whether the emirate, as well as the rest of the UAE, felt it was under more “competitive threat” as a business hub due to recent changes.

“I believe highly in the numbers. If we look at the numbers of the first half of 2023, we had 43% growth in the number of memberships [from] new companies formed in Dubai [through] Dubai Chambers,” he replied. “More than 30,000 companies were formed compared to last year. And 2022 was higher than 2021, and 2021 was higher than 2019, pre-pandemic.”

He continued: “I think that the numbers are very positive; the number of companies being set up exceeded our optimistic forecast, and I think having growth [across the whole of] the GCC in terms of GDP will really reflect very positively for the whole region.”

“So I don't see an issue or effect when it comes to that,” he said. “I feel that the growth [witnessed] in the region will really have a very positive result on all of the countries and the sectors.”

Lootah also spoke of the importance of Africa to Dubai Chambers and revealed new outbound trade missions to the region: “Africa is one of the most important markets for Dubai and the Dubai Chambers specifically. If we look at the D33 [Dubai Economic] Agenda, you’ll notice that Africa's one of the regions that was specifically mentioned and [it was stated] that we should put more emphasis [on the region].

“When it comes to Dubai Chambers, we increased our offices in Africa to seven offices, so we’re covering all of Africa: North, East, South, and West,” he said. “Before the end of the year, we'll be having two outbound trade missions to Africa: one to Kenya, and the second to Ivory Coast and Nigeria.”

Speaking of the increased engagement with Africa, Lootah added: “We have noticed increased interest from the African market, and what was very interesting is that a lot of African countries plan to have their regional hub in Dubai to access different markets in the GCC and Middle East overall.

“And on the other side, when it comes to the year-on-year growth of exports, [and I am] talking about the exporter members of the Dubai Chamber, the majority of the region of Africa witnessed more than 50% growth compared to last year in terms of exports.”

“So it means that overall trade has increased with Africa, our presence has increased there, [plus] Dubai is attracting more businesses from Africa,” he said.

Dubai Chambers announced the inaugural edition of the Dubai Business Forum, set to take place at Madinat Jumeirah from 1 to 2 November 2023, under the theme “Shifting Economic Power: Dubai and the Future of Global Trade”. The forum, which is being billed as set to play an instrumental role in achieving the objectives of the D33, replaces the previous Global Business Forum.

(Writing by Rachel McArthur; editing by Seban Scaria )