Somali food producers, along with the country's minister for trade and industry, held a three-day event in Dubai World Trade Centre this week. Meanwhile, a UAE trade mission led by UAE minister for economy Sultan Bin Saeed Al Mansouri, visited Ethiopia and opened the Emirati Ethiopian Business Forum.
Al Mansouri said his country's investment funds were especially keen to invest in Ethiopia's agricultural, animal and food processing industries. He also suggested UAE companies could be interested in establishing facilities in dedicated industrial zones in the country.
Growing GCC interest
African states, especially in the Horn of Africa, have seen increasing investment from GCC countries in recent years, as the Gulf seeks to meet ever-increasing demand while facing ever-harsher farming conditions at home. While facing their own food security issues, many African countries have been keen to welcome this outside investment.
“The Somali government is ready to do everything to promote our producers in order to link them to markets like in the UAE and other countries and I would like to thank [the Food and Agriculture Organisation] and the EU for this effort,” said Somali trade and industry minister Adan Mohamed Nur at the Dubai event.
Somalia currently exports 4.7m livestock animals to GCC countries, and recently provided food assistance to the World Food Programme for the first time, a fact which delegates highlighted with pride.
Despite the push from African governments to secure investment from wealthy Gulf states, problems with political and economic stability have continued to plague GCC projects in the continent. This has caused some Arab investors to look elsewhere, such as Eastern Europe.
But speakers at the Somali trade exhibition in Dubai were keen to emphasise that increasing economic prosperity, partly as a result of inward investment, was a key driver in improving the country's stability.
“This element has been missing for quite some time in the economic foundation of the country and Somalia’s policy and development debate. The country’s entrepreneurial capacity is and will remain a critical inroad in the peace process and the country’s future,” said Luca Alinovi, head of the FAO's Somali office, at the event.
And the European Union ambassador to Somalia, Michele Cervone d’Urso, told attendees: “Let a strong message come out of this conference that change in Somalia is coming and will transcend political and security challenges. So let’s make this conference a turning point in helping Somalia re-establish itself as Africa’s foremost economic and business engine.”