Sharief Fahmy is Chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce Abu Dhabi and has served since 2016. He also serves as CEO of Middle East General Enterprises (MGE), a Private Holding Company that provides business and investment solutions to the international business community in an array of specialties. Prior to MGE, Sharief was CEO of Fairs & Exhibitions, one of the world’s most accomplished event organizers. Retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel, Sharief completed with honors a 23-year public service career and also served as a diplomat at the U.S. Embassy Abu Dhabi.
We spoke to him about opportunities in the UAE and what the future holds for the region.
Q) About Trump administration: What has been the main impact flow with the UAE and where do you see the main potential for growth in the collaboration?
A) The US – UAE trade relationship is strong and has been valued at $26 billion in 2016. For eight years, the UAE has been the largest buyer of US exports in the Middle East and North Africa region, surpassing India. This relationship has also recently been reinforced with a meeting between H.H. Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan and President Donald Trump in Washington DC, where issues of regional security and the US-UAE security partnership were discussed.
"Potential for growth stems from this security partnership and the US and UAE’s shared economic vision. Industries such as defense, aerospace, education and technology will be the main driving force for further collaboration."
In addition, emerging fields such as cyber security are growing increasingly important as potential industries that will help foster the bilateral relationship.
Q) A strong component of the UAE's business model is the clear support offered by government to develop business advantages in the region - can you elaborate a little on some the main points of focus most for the coming years.
A) In line with UAE Vision 2021, I see a shift towards sustainable sectors which will allow the UAE to shape itself into a knowledge-based economy.
"Sectors including healthcare, education, aeronautics, industry, technology, renewable energy, cyber security and defense are high on the agenda, and will be the focus of the UAE in the coming years."
Q) About hubs: The UAE has long been a global relay and business hub for the region. How do you feel this is shifting today? What would be the implications for trade into the GCC, and more. Broadly markets such as India, China and even Africa?
A) The UAE has clear aspirations to establish itself as a leading global trade hub. With this drive to diversify its footprint beyond the GCC, the country will use its current position of the region’s undisputed trade center and trade relay point as leverage to bolster itself into the global trade scene. The UAE is looking towards emerging markets, such as Africa, to further establish itself as a key hub. This strategic move not only plays into the UAE’s aspirations, but will also allow for a commercial corridor to form allowing trade to flow between Africa and the East via the UAE and GCC. At the third Africa Global Business Forum in Dubai, H.E. Sultan bin Saeed Al Mansouri, UAE Minister of Economy stated "In the UAE, we realize that the future of business is located most significantly in the continent of Africa. Investment opportunities abound in various sectors, especially in agriculture, infrastructure, mining, trade, logistics, tourism and financial services." This is a clear indication of the UAE’s current and future position on trade. H.E. Al Mansouri also said "We believe that through such a framework of cooperation alone can identify available trade and investment opportunities towards accelerating trade exchange. We also consider it equally important to strengthen the re-export of African commodities and products through our ports to different parts of the world."
Q) There are clear advantages for US businesses approaching new markets via the UAE, what role do you perceive the UAE plays in allowing regional businesses looking to link invest and grow into the US?
A) As previously mentioned, the US – UAE trade relationship is the strongest in the region with trade between the two countries growing by 100% from 2010 and 2016. The UAE plays an important regional role due to this stable diplomatic and commercial partnership. Coupling this relationship with the UAE’s global trade aspirations, willingness to venture into emerging markets, Vision 2021 and strategic geographical positioning, the country is primed to act as a link for regional businesses interested in venturing and investing into the US.