Middle Eastern and African Markets food trade growing stronger

Image: Wikimedia

By: Thandisizwe Mgudlwa – AfricanBrains – 25 May 2012

The Middle Eastern and African Markets food trade is reaching for the stars – a business leader has revealed.

“Africa is becoming a major new emerging market to the rest of the world due to its strong economic growth and rapidly expanding population of middle class consumers.”

For these are the words of John Thomson, Managing Director of Exhibition Management Services, who are the organisers of Africa’s Big Seven (AB7).

“Africa is even more attractive as a market for Middle East companies due to its relative proximity,” Thomson also declares. As a result, a growing number of Middle Eastern producers are realising this and exploring trade links with African companies; many are looking at trade shows like AB7, the grandest food and beverage expo on the continent, as a vehicle for exploring new markets and increasing growth. AB7 takes place from 15 to 17 July at Gallagher Convention Centre in Midrand, Gauteng.

Commenting on trade in Africa Thomson adds: “The challenges and complexities of doing business in Africa remain.” “But these can be overcomed – AB7 is hosting a number of additional events this year; two of these can directly benefit traders interested in doing business in Africa – the DHL Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa (BRICS) Africa Export Import Forum, and the ‘Future of Trade Africa’ business briefing.”

The DHL BRICS Africa Export Import Forum is the only development briefing dedicated to showcasing the range of services and support available for BRICS intra-Africa trade. The ‘Future of Trade Africa’ is a sophisticated, in-depth commerce exchange and business match-making platform that gives business people the knowledge and tools needed to succeed in business in Africa. “With 46 unique political, economic and social environments and a myriad of languages, regulations and red tape, companies need to engage with local knowledge, local partners and local stakeholders,”

Thomson further comments. “Traders who want to explore African growth opportunities will find the ‘Future of Trade Africa’ event extremely helpful.”

Dubai Exports, the export promotion agency for the government of Dubai, which is recognising the potential of trade with Africa, has confirmed it will be exhibiting again at AB7.

Saed Al Awadi, Chief Executive Officer of Dubai Exports explains: “The 15 member states of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) have a population of 257 million people and they buy $11-billion in food imports every year.”

They represent a major strategic growth market. Dubai is already well-connected to South Africa; its efficient transport infrastructure offers a gateway to the rest of SADC,”

Thomson continues: “The Middle East is historically interesting as an export market for SADC products.”

He says: “While the European Union imports a narrow band of SADC agricultural products, the Middle East is more open to importing a wider range of products from Africa and SADC, given its less stringent market entry requirements.”

However, the Middle East is also an important potential market for African food products and much of the food consumed in countries in the Middle East has to be imported.

The UAE has both a rapidly growing population and a booming tourism industry which, together, are expected to fuel a large increase in the country’s food supply needs.

While Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi, the UAE’s Minister of Foreign Trade reveals: “We import 80% of our food at a cost of around $3-billion a year, so like most other countries in the region, we closely monitor fluctuations in supply and price,”

He adds food demand would increase by over 5% per year, to around 10,7-million tons in 2020 at a cost of around $8,4-billion.

In addition a number of companies based in the Middle East have already signed up for this year’s AB7 expo, including the United Arab Emirates, Iran and Turkey.

The Sultanate of Oman makes its first appearance at AB7 this year with two exhibitors; Omani Euro Food Industries and Sweets of Oman.

Most of Muscat-based Omani Euro Food Industries’ clients are in the Middle East and Asia, with Ethiopia the only African customer.

And Madhu Soodanan, the company’s Head of Global Marketing and Sales says the company is “actively looking for distributors to market its product range in the rest of Africa”.

Their product range includes baby milk cereals, baby biscuits and health drink powders.