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Comesa seeks presence in Middle East

The Standard, Kenya

Comesa seeks presence in Middle East

By John Oyuke

26 April 2011

The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) has signalled intentions to expand presence in the Middle East to enhance Arab-African trade relations, despite political turmoil in the region.

The Africa’s largest trading bloc has finalised plans to open an investment office in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to strengthen links with Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) investors.

The agreement to expand the presence of the Cairo-based Regional Investment Agency (RIA) was announced during the final day of the recently concluded Comesa Investment Forum in Dubai.

Hamad Buamim, Director General, Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry welcomed the agreement to establish a Comesa RIA office in Dubai.

He described the move to open the office as a step in the right direction towards enhancing trade links and underpin Dubai’s status as the gateway for trade and investment into Comesa.

"With Comesa in particular and the whole of Africa in general considered as the last frontier for development in the world, we are very pleased to be Comesa’s gateway for further economic partnerships within the region and beyond," Buamim said.

Chief Executive of the Nairobi-based African Trade Insurance Agency, George Otieno, noted that any trend towards increasing trade could help Arab and North African countries rebound once the political turmoil subsides.

"The stock exchange dips we’ve seen in recent weeks is a signal of decreased investor confidence based on the fear of contagion," Otieno said.

He said the main message of the political risk insurer to the region’s investors and exporters at this time of unrest, is that Africa represents a ready market for their goods and investments.

Otieno told the two-day meeting that ATI had in the past year signed a number of partnership deals with institutions in the region to facilitate investment and exports into the continent.

The partnership agreements include Egypt through the Export Credit Guarantee Company, with Saudi Arabia through the Saudi Fund for Development, and earlier last month with the Islamic Cooperation for the Insurance of Investment and Export Credit.

GCC, one of the key economic groupings in the Middle East and North Africa, posted a 170 per cent growth in trade with Africa from 2000 to 2009 , up from $6.8 billion to $18.1 billion.