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Global financial hub seeks to strengthen ties with Africa

Global financial hub seeks to strengthen ties with Africa.

Trade between Africa and the Middle East exceeded $50 billion in 2015.

The Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), a global financial hub connecting businesses and financial institutions with emerging market opportunities across the Middle East, Africa and South Asia (the MEASA region), has pledged to support Africa's growing financial community by providing increased access to international trade and investment.

The DIFC says it has embarked on a 10-year growth strategy, which has identified Africa as a key market.

According to a release issued by DIFC, firms such as South Africa's Standard Bank and Nigeria's Access Bank have already set up offices in DIFC to serve, finance and invest in the global and African markets.

In a first visit to Africa since launching its 2024 Strategy, the DIFC's executive leadership attended the 2015 Institute of International Finance (IIF) Africa Financial Summit and the EY Strategic Forum Africa, both were held Johannesburg this week.

Chirag Shah, Chief Strategy and Business Development Officer of DIFC Authority, said: "Our 2024 growth strategy is to triple the size of our operations by stimulating trade and investment flows using Dubai as a hub to Asia, Middle East Africa and Latin America. Our objective is to provide financial firms easier access to emerging markets in the East and developed economies in the West."

Almost half of DIFC's expansion over the next ten years will be driven by increased economic activity in Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America.

By 2024 the Centre's plans to grow the number of financial firms that operate from the Centre to from 382 to 1,000 today, and its workforce from 18,521 employees to 50,000, according to Shah.

The DIFC will connect African financial firms looking to attract international investment to the continent as well as African businesses seeking to diversify wealth and services to the Middle East," Shah added.

Furthermore, there are many global firms operating in DIFC, including those from China, who use the Centre as a hub to connect to Africa.

The DIFC states that Africa is the fastest growing economy in the world, where, according to Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry, a third of the continent's 54 countries are seeing annual GDP growth of more than 6%, compared to the global world average of 3.7%.

The United Arab Emirate (UAE) has become Africa's main trading partner within the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), with Dubai's total non-oil trade with Africa reaching US$24.2 billion (AED 89 billion) this year, according to Dubai Customs. In addition, UAE exports to the Southern African Development Community (SADC) surged to US$2.6 billion from US$1.5 billion in 2010.

With growth prospects in many African countries, the African continent is well positioned to facilitate increased trade flows with the Middle East.

According to the annual African Economic Outlook report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, the African Development Bank and the United Nations Development Program, private investment from other countries into Africa will grow to US$55.2 billion by 2015, an increase of 10% than last year.

Shah added: "African countries have taken significant steps in all dimensions of its development, which has resulted in increased investment flows driven by domestic demand as well as continuous infrastructure investment. In addition, UAE's links with Africa has strengthened in recent years due to rising investment and trade."

"African firms that choose to do business from Dubai International Financial Centre will benefit its stable, regulated framework, dynamic financial services, investor-friendly policies and advanced physical infrastructure."

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