First ever UAE-Caribbean Cooperation Forum in Dubai to boost bilateral trade and investment and nurture cultural ties

DUBAI, 26th November 2018 – More than 400 government and business leaders, key decision makers and investors from the UAE and Caribbean region gathered in Dubai ahead of the First UAE-Caribbean Cooperation Forum.

Co-organised by the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, and Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and in partnership with the UAE Ministry of Economy and the UAE Ministry of Culture and Knowledge Development, the three-day forum aims to explore new prospects and opportunities to enhance cooperation between the UAE and Caribbean countries.

The UAE-Caribbean Forum kicked off on November 24 with a cultural evening held at Etihad Museum and hosted by the Ministry of Culture and Knowledge Development and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, gathering over 100 government officials, business leaders.

On the second day of the forum, November 25, more than 400 government and business leaders, key decision makers and investors from the UAE and Caribbean region will explore means to increase economic cooperation between the two sides through a series of high-level discussions, detailed presentations, seminars, business meetings and cultural exchanges.

On the first day of the UAECCF, Reem bin Ebrahim Al Hashimy, Minister of State for International Cooperation, said: “Today marks the kickoff of the first UAE Caribbean Cooperation Forum, which will mark a key step in our bilateral relations with the countries of Caribbean. It aims to nurture cooperation and bolster ties between our countries, building on existing partnerships such as the UAE-Caribbean Renewable Energy Fund, and paving the way to new partnerships.”

Majid Saif Al Ghurair, Chairman of Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry said: “This Forum is an ideal platform for constructive dialogue about how the UAE and Caribbean countries can work towards strategic partnerships and expand their cooperation in new sectors and areas. By bringing together government and business leaders from both regions, we can build bridges between our business communities and take UAE-Caribbean relations to the next level.”

Noura Al Kaabi, UAE Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development said: “The UAE-Caribbean Cooperation Forum is an important opportunity to unify our efforts and highlight our potential to benefit the community through cultural, creative and artistic partnerships that meet the aspirations of the new generation and promote cultural and knowledge exchange between our people. It is also a platform to educate the youth on various achievements and diversity of our nations, and encourage art appreciation through a rich artistic and cultural movement.”

Al Kaabi said, “the UAE is proud of its strong relations with the Caribbean countries and we look forward to explore new avenues of collaborations to strengthen our bilateral partnership with cultural institutions in both regions.”

Sultan bin Saeed Al Mansoori, UAE Minister of Economy, said that the First UAE and Caribbean Cooperation Forum aims to establish a more active and prosperous phase of economic, trade and investment cooperation between the UAE and the Caribbean Basin countries. The forum provides a strategic opportunity to reinforce communication among governments of these countries, private sector representatives and investors exchanging essential information on investment opportunities and priority economic sectors that can potentially result in key partnerships.

Al Mansoori added, “We are very interested in the outcome of the first session of this forum, which can help in establishing the next phase and further push joint cooperation efforts in a manner that meets the aspirations of all parties.”

On the first day of the UAECCF, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and the Ministry of Culture and Knowledge Development hosted a UAE-Caribbean cultural evening held in collaboration with the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Ministry of Economy. Over 100 senior government officials, business leaders and decision-makers from the UAE and the Caribbean attended the event which featured artistic performances, ranging from traditional music to artistic performances.

In her inaugural speech, Reem Al Hashimy, Minister of State for International Cooperation highlighted the importance of cultural ties as a key element of bilateral cooperation among countries.

Noura Al Kaabi, UAE Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development and Olivia Grange MP, Minister of Culture, Entertainment, Gender and Sport for Jamaica, signed a memorandum of understanding for cultural cooperation between the governments of both countries.

Commenting on the occasion, Al Kaabi said: “The Memorandum of Understanding with the Republic of Jamaica contributes to the development of bilateral cooperation in the cultural and creative domains. It allows both countries to benefit from each other’s cultural heritage and use our full potential to strengthen our relations.”

Al Kaabi stressed that the memorandum is a first step towards more openness to the cultures of the Caribbean Basin countries. It will establish bilateral cultural cooperation in fields related to heritage, cultural and creative industries, and will support talented people through strategic collaboration to exchange information and expertise.

The MoU sets out the venues of cooperation between the two countries in the fields of cultural and creative industries development, especially in publishing, translation, digital content, informatics and arts sectors.

Both parties agreed to collaborate in inviting experts and researchers in cultural fields to exchange experiences through their respective national institutions, as per the procedures set out in international conventions.

They will further promote cooperation through cultural events and the exchange of visits between cultural officials, as well as writers and intellectuals from both countries; the translation and exchange of cultural books and publications, especially digital books; and exchange technical cooperation between the two countries in various fields including movies, animation, new digital technologies related to the cultural sector; and the exchange of bibliographic information and audio and video recordings related to heritage, music and the arts in both countries.

The second day of the forum featured several panels gathering high officials from the UAE and the Caribbean around sessions on international cooperation, Expo 2020 Dubai, the role of the private sector in building a connected and competitive future, renewable energy and green innovation and curbing climate change. The UAECCF also featured the signing of several MoUs that will enhance cooperation between he UAE and nations of the Caribbean.

In her opening remarks on the second day of the forum, Reem bint Ebrahim Al Hashimy, Minister of State for International Cooperation, said that “this forum, the first of its kind, aspires to become a leading venue for conversation and connections between the Gulf and the Caribbean region.”

“As Minister of State for International Cooperation and Director-General of the Expo 2020 Dubai, I have been deeply encouraged to see the rapidly expanding links between our regions. Our points of connection are many. We have launched the UAE Caribbean Renewable Energy Fund, supporting 16 Caribbean nations. We have joined hands against the impact of climate change, fought the wrath of Hurricane Irma and brought our technical teams together to assess the integration of resilience measures in development work”, she added.

“We both realized the breakthrough that renewables represent: the chance to power our economies and drive social development while reducing environmental impact. This combination makes it all-the-more strategic for all of us to embrace renewables.”, she observed.

“We hope that the World Expo to be held in Dubai in 2020 will be an unprecedented catalyst to build bridges between our regions. Several Caribbean nations have already confirmed their presence and have begun curating their thoughts and perspectives on how to best avail the opportunity Expo presents”. she highlighted that the UAE – and for the first time in Expo history – has committed to a “One Nation, One Pavilion” concept, adding “we believe solutions are found in every country and have the right to be equally presented”.

In his opening remarks, Majid Saif Al Ghurair, Chairman of Dubai Chamber, described the UAE-Caribbean Cooperation Forum as an important platform to build on existing UAE-Caribbean trade links, and foster a constructive dialogue about how governments and business communities on both sides can align their efforts to create mutual benefits and increase bilateral non-oil trade beyond the AED 19 billion which was accounted for between 2011 and 2017.

“We see huge potential for UAE businesses to provide the right level of expertise and investment to fill market gaps within the Caribbean region’s services, logistics, agriculture, creative and digital sectors. As businesses and governments in the Caribbean region look to towards the next phase of growth, development, and economic diversification, it is important for them to broaden their horizons and build partnerships in new markets and regions,” added Al Ghurair.

Sultan bin Saeed Al Mansoori, UAE Minister of Economy, said that economic and trade relations between the UAE and the Caribbean Basin countries have enormous potential for growth, in light of their respective economies, natural resources and strategic geographical location.

In his address during the inauguration of the first UAE-Caribbean Cooperation Forum, H.E. said that this forum provides an ideal platform to discuss investment opportunities, trade, existing aspects of cooperation and the means of developing them in a way that serves the common interests and responds to the development requirements of both parties.

He pointed out that the volume of non-oil foreign trade between the UAE and the Caribbean countries recorded significant growth last year increasing by 37 per cent with a value of USD 382.9 million as compared to the USD 279.4 million recorded in 2016. He added that these figures are likely to grow further in the next phase, in light of the mutual desire, serious steps made by both two sides to enhance channels of communication, facilitate market access and create platforms for the business community to continuously explore key investment opportunities and potential partnerships.

In addition, the balance of direct Caribbean investments received in the country has grown significantly over the last ten years, rising from USD 22 million in 2007 to USD 5.8 billion by the end of 2016.

Al Mansoori presented the UAE business environment’s competitiveness and attractiveness, which is the region’s top leader in attracting foreign investments, with total foreign direct investments (FDI) estimated at USD 10.4 billion in 2017. Furthermore, the UAE’s FDI investment outflows reached a total of USD 14 billion, during the same year.

Al Mansoori stressed on the UAE’s keen interest in strengthening economic and trade cooperation with the Caribbean Basin countries, particularly in the sectors that are the top priority of the country’s development agenda. The most important of these include artificial intelligence (AI), the fourth industrial revolution, renewable energy and space technology, which represent the engines of growth for the economy. In line with this, he stated that now is a good time to explore joint strategic initiatives with the Caribbean Basin countries across these promising areas.

The minister added that tourism and cultural exchanges are also a vital aspect of the UAE-Caribbean relations. He pointed out that the two sides should make concerted efforts like increased bilateral visits and facilitating the exchange of experiences and knowledge in a manner that serves these trends and elevates the level of economic, trade and investment relations to advanced levels to meet expectations.

Reem Al Hashimy, UAE Minister of State for International Cooperation: “In an increasingly globalised world, it is imperative to try and forge ties to address the challenges of tomorrow.”

“The UAE is marking the Year of Zayed; the Founding Father believed in the need to reach out to people around the world. In many ways, that spirit that was alive at our country’s formation continues to shape the ethos of our relations with the world. We believe in that spirit; it is not about small countries coming together, but rather creating an international alignment on causes. In the few years that we’ve been working with the countries of the Caribbean, we’ve had tremendously successful projects.”

“Expo 2020 is an amazing global platform and countries can make it into whatever they want, as long as they come with a plan and vision in mind.”

Allen Michael Chastanet, Prime Minister and Minister of External Affairs of Saint Lucia: “What the UAE has achieved so far has challenged us to revisit our own expectations for ourselves. We normally look to the North for solutions, and here we have an incredible success story to the east that rose from the desert. We now need to examine how we can leverage that and use this expertise to create the same level of success in the Caribbean. We need to take the skillsets developed here and leverage them in the Caribbean.”

“We want the UAE to think of the Caribbean as a portal to South and Central America and even Europe. The Caribbean is the largest cruise market in the world and this creates opportunities with Dubai Ports. When it comes to tourism, 90% of people say they want to visit the Caribbean, but only 4% do, there are immense opportunities there.”

Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem, Group Chairman and CEO of DP World: “Trade has always played a great role in connecting countries. What Dubai did for survival when it was still a small city can be implemented in the Caribbean. Our resources at the time were not very different than what these islands have.”

“We developed a great project in the Dominican Republic that is similar to what we have in Jebel Ali Port. We went there for a port, but we found tremendous opportunities in logistics. And now, the Dominican Republic is transforming from a trans-shipment hub to an exporting country – a similar process to what happened in the UAE – in addition to developing tourism. We believe the Dominican Republic is a great example for the rest of the Caribbean region.”

“The ability of a country to adapt their laws and allow transformations is key. An opportunity can be seized and developed quickly if the country is ready for it.”

Jourie Kolthoum, Country Manager for International Participants at Expo 2020 Dubai underlined the importance of enhancing dialogue between the UAE and the countries of the Caribbean, fostering partnerships among politicians and executives in both regions, and increasing cultural exchange.

Kolthoum shed light on the tremendous opportunities that Expo 2020 provides to strengthen commercial and cultural ties with Caribbean countries. She explained that the mega event offers a platform for Caribbean countries to highlight their national priorities and accomplishments, revealing that Expo has earmarked 20% of its budget for small and medium enterprises (SMEs), offering great opportunities for Caribbean business communities.

She revealed that the Expo 2020 team is working on attracting stronger participation from Caribbean countries, where they will have the opportunity to promote tourism to their countries through their pavilions at the event, in addition to sharing Caribbean culture, music, and cuisine. She added that Expo 2020 in Dubai will celebrate the national day of all participating countries, including those of the Caribbean region, raising their flags, playing their national anthems, and organising diplomatic and cultural activities.

Hamad Buamim, President and CEO, Dubai Chamber of Commerce & Industry: “In the UAE and the Caribbean – and indeed throughout the world – MSMEs are playing and increasingly important role in innovation and economic growth. These smaller business operations are developing new solutions to address challenges such as poverty, inequality and job creation and are a vital source of employment, particularly for women and young people.”

“MSMEs have a competitive structure that is efficient and flexible, enabling them adapt to change and adopt new mindsets and disruptive technologies that are key to surviving the changes of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. One of Dubai Chamber’s significant functions through its array of programmes and initiatives is to incubate, nurture and facilitate the growth of such smaller commercial operations.”

Mohamed Sharaf, Assistant UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation for Economic and Trade Affairs discussed how the Dubai government had been instrumental in creating an environment where SMEs can flourish.

“We know that SMEs are the key to any business environment. What is the government’s role in building SMEs? I believe that the government’s role is to be an enabler, not a disabler. What we see here in Dubai is that the government has been extremely proactive in understanding the challenges and converting the challenges into opportunities.”

Lloyd Distant, President, Chamber of Commerce, Jamaica discussed the importance of raising finance for SMEs to enable them to grow and contribute effectively to the economy and highlighted how his country has improved access to capital for smaller businesses.

“For us in Jamaica, access to finance for small and medium enterprises had been a challenge for quite some time. Six years’ ago, we started a junior stock exchange that has grown phenomenally well to the extent that the Jamaican stock exchange was recognised by Bloomberg as being the number one stock exchange in terms of growth in the world. Identifying that junior stock exchange, identifying venture capital, as well as angel investor partners, is extremely important for what we can do for small and medium enterprises.”

Roland Hinds, President, Chamber of Industry and Commerce, Trinidad and Tobago, explained how Trinidad and Tobago is preparing its SMEs for the future, and spoke about how the Caribbean countries could play an important role in the wider global economy.

“Our mantra has been ‘transformation, transformation, ‘transformation.’ We have an urgent need to transform the economy away from its dependence on the energy sector and that has been a very critical part of our goal. Earlier this month, we had our annual awards function and one of the companies we celebrated was locally-owned and had grown its brand awareness throughout the world. But equally, we celebrated small entrepreneurial industries in areas of fintech and new creative sectors that are an important part of our transformation agenda.”

Dr Nawal Al Hosany, Permanent Representative of the UAE to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA): “Renewable energy provides great job opportunities and enables capacity building. It is no longer a sector of the future, and we are no longer only doing it for environmental reasons, it has come to offer a great competitive advantage. Once we engage the community in the sector, and particularly the youth, they begin to view it as the way of the future.”

“There is great potential in both solar and wind power – among other technologies – but it is important that we build an integrated system. There is also great potential in geothermal technology; it is a technology that has proven to be very successful, however, it is very region-specific. We have been conducting experiments on it here and in other parts of the world.”

Dr Amb. Neil Parsan, Public Sector Lead, Caribbean Climate-Smart Accelerator, Trinidad and Tobago: “In the Caribbean, we don’t have vast expanses of land similar to, say, Africa, so our issue is not to build more infrastructure in order to reach remote areas, but rather to develop the existing infrastructure and make it more resilient. Every time a storm passes, there’s a 30% chance that the infrastructure will not survive; it costs money to repair and it hinders businesses.”

“There are many sources of financial resources in the Caribbean. The challenge is to have mature, bankable and investable projects.”

Daniel Zywietz, Founder and CEO of Enerwhere: “If we look at the Middle East and the Caribbean, the differences may be quite clear from a nature perspective, but there are great similarities on the energy side. The cities of the UAE and the region were almost city-states powered by unitary diesel systems – much like the Caribbean today.”

“Diesel is polluting and low on efficiency,” Zywietz explained, pointing to renewable energy sources as a potential solution. He went on to underline another advantage from solar power that is of particular importance to the Caribbean region.