Creating a business-friendly marketplace for everyone

Ahmed Bin Sulayem, Executive Chairman, DMCC has and continues to play a key role in establishing and positioning DMCC as a major international commodities hub for trade. In this exclusive interview, he emphasizes on Dubai as a global hub for commodities trade and the role of DMCC in providing businesses with everything they require to trade with confidence in Dubai.

 

In your opinion, what makes Dubai a global hub for commodities trade?

Businesses around the globe look for a place where they can expand, access new markets, and conduct their day-to-day operations in a secure, transparent and modern environment. They look for the very best in logistical facilities, a stable political climate, favorable financial climate, as well as a high quality of life. Dubai has all of these features making it an ideal global hub for commodities trade that caters to local and international market demands.

Dubai is located at the center of trade between producing countries in Africa and consuming nations in Europe and Asia. It has excellent air and sea links which also makes doing business here extremely convenient and efficient.

Commodity trading is important to the country – the top three GDP non-oil trade are commodities-based. In 2013, the flow of gold passing through Dubai alone was worth USD 75 billion and represented around 40 percent of the world’s physical gold market.

 

How is DMCC playing a vital role in that and attracting investors to the Emirate?
 

As the Government of Dubai Authority dedicated to ensuring Dubai is the global gateway for commodity trade, DMCC facilitates trade across a range of sectors including gold, diamonds, pearls, precious metals and tea.

We provide the physical, market and regulatory infrastructure required to set up and operate a thriving commodities marketplace. Today we are the largest and fastest growing Free Zone in the UAE and have successfully placed Dubai at the center of the global commodities trading map. On average, around 200 companies become members of the Free Zone every month, more than six companies per day, of which over 95% are new to Dubai.

We are constantly looking for ways to create a business-friendly marketplace for everyone from SMEs through to multi-nationals. For instance, we have recently launched the DMCC Free Zone Member portal, which enables our members to manage all their Free Zone affairs online and support the Government’s declared strategy of making Dubai a smart city.

DMCC has been named Free Zone of the Year for SMEs – MENA and Free Zone of the Year for SMEs UAE by fDi Magazine in their Middle East Free Zones of the Year rankings and awards for 2014 / 2015.

 

DMCC has recently launched new responsible sourcing certification program for gold. Please tell us more about this initiative.
 

The new responsible sourcing Market Deliverable Brand (MDB) accreditation initiative, which was launched in February, is designed to certify gold and silver refineries for their quality and technical production of gold and silver. For gold refineries specifically, the certification also includes responsible sourcing of gold bars in accordance with the ‘DMCC Guidance’ and ‘Review Protocol’.

The MDB accreditation initiative marks an important milestone as it enables refineries in operation for over one year to ensure their gold is sourced responsibly and that their gold and/or silver production processes are in line with globally accepted best practices to assure quality of their gold and/or silver products.

 

How is DMCC promoting responsible supply chain management for gold and other precious metals?

DMCC has been at the forefront of issuing and implementing guidelines in conjunction with the OECD and other international bodies to promote responsible supply chain management for gold and other precious metals.

In 2005, DMCC developed the Dubai Good Delivery (DGD) standard which is an international benchmark for quality and technical specification for the production of gold and silver.

In April 2012, we introduced the DMCC Practical Guidance - a 5-step risk management framework reference manual that has been developed in consultation with the OECD and global market participants. It is based on the OECD’s guidance for conducting due diligence for responsible sourcing of gold for ensuring conflict free supply chains.

We then instituted the DMCC Review Protocol in November 2012, to provide guidance to international audit firms and DMCC approved reviewers for conducting assessments on DGD member refineries’ due diligence processes, as well as to ensure a level of conformity when implementing the DMCC Practical Guidance. Most recently, we announced a new responsible sourcing Market Deliverable Brand (MDB) accreditation initiative, designed to certify gold and silver refineries. We are constantly developing and refining our rules and regulations, in accordance with the OECD and other relevant authorities.

 

Given your involvement with the DMCC Pearl Exchange, which actions are you taking to grow the local pearl industry to reach the global market?

The DMCC Pearl Exchange offers an exclusive trading platform for streamlining and growing the regional pearl trade and routing it through Dubai. Between 2003 and 2011, the UAE pearl industry has witnessed a compound annual growth rate of 25 percent. This resulted in USD 29.5 million of trade in 2011.

Through the DMCC Pearl Exchange, we hosted the first tender of UAE cultured pearls in June 2013. The pearls were provided by RAK Pearls, the UAE’s only commercial pearl farm, and the event marked the first time UAE cultivated pearls had ever been available for tender.

Back in February 2011, the DMCC Pearl Exchange also enabled South Sea, Tahitian and Gulf pearls to be tendered and sold to regional and international participants. In an industry where the producers reside in the East and the buyers are in the West, the DMCC Pearl Exchange offers a strategic location for trade and a viable alternative to the auctions traditionally held in Hong Kong and Japan.

 

What about the diamond market? Could you give us details about this industry’s performance in Dubai?
 

In just over a decade, DMCC has enabled the flow of trade and enterprise through Dubai to grow immensely, further reinforcing the Emirate’s position as a leading, global trading hub. In 2013, the trade volume of rough diamonds in Dubai increased by 11.5 percent to 135.8 million carats at a value of USD 11.4 billion. Exports reached 68.5 million carats valued at USD 6.7 billion. The top trading countries by value were the UK, Belgium, Switzerland, India, Botswana, South Africa and Angola.

The Dubai Diamond Exchange (DDE) further expanded its Board of Directors last year to reflect the importance of leading producing countries in Africa. The DDE organized nine private auctions in Almas Tower in 2013. The last one, held in December, featured 16,074 carats of rough diamonds and 3,184 carats of polished diamonds with goods from Tanzania, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Congo. In March 2014, the DDE hosted the inaugural Zimbabwe diamond tender which featured rough diamonds directly from seven mines. The DDE has been a key supporter of the diamond trade in Africa over the last decade and has become the global platform for which Africa can trade to consuming countries in Asia and Europe.

 

What are your plans for the JLT community?
 

DMCC Free Zone made a number of major announcements in 2013 concerning the JLT community. These aim to meet growing demand from regional and multinational businesses, as well as the wider community. The announcement to construct the ‘Burj 2020 District’, which will have as its centerpiece the world’s tallest commercial tower, is as a direct result of rising customer demand. This will create the optimal environment for trade and enterprise with a commercial district that brings together retail, residential, business and lifestyle services. It will also increase tourism, attract more international investors to the region, as well as become a major hub for multi-nationals enabling these businesses to grow, innovate and trade, which again impacts positively on Dubai’s GDP. The DMCC Community Park opened in January 2014 and roadworks are completed within JLT. We will continue to enhance the experience of those living and working within the community through various retail and entertainment offerings.

 

Please share with us more details about ‘Burj 2020’ the world’s tallest commercial tower?
 

In order to accommodate the continuing growth in member companies coming to DMCC, last year we announced plans to build a 107,000 sq/m ‘Burj 2020 District’, which includes the world’s tallest commercial tower – the ‘Burj 2020’. The master plan for the world’s tallest commercial tower is currently in its final stages with four global specialized firms participating in its design. Smart solutions will be a principle feature of our new development, and affording higher levels of efficiency and urban sustainability a pre-requisite for the global business community of the future.

The ‘Burj 2020 District’ is being constructed as a direct result of customer demand in particular from multi-nationals and multi-business entities. The availability of highly efficient, purpose built commercial office space suitable for multi-national companies is almost non-existent in this area, which causes blue chip, global and multi-business entities to look elsewhere outside of Dubai.

Last year we also announced plans to build One JLT, a ‘glass-box’ style building in the heart of the DMCC Free Zone. The building, which will include 14 levels and a ground floor, will offer a Net Leasable Area (NLA) of 23,400 square meters. One JLT is a key part of the Free Zone’s previously announced strategy to cater to the demand of large regional and multinational companies. DMCC is committed to filling this gap as we aim to enhance our contribution to the Emirate’s GDP over the coming years.

You say: “Internal competition across Dubai challenged me to prove a point in life.” With all that you have achieved so far, where do you see yourself standing?

I am proud of where I am today personally and what we have achieved at DMCC, helping to put Dubai at the center of the global map for commodity trade.

The road has been long and busy, and it definitely does not end here. We have ambitious plans for the future of DMCC and of the wider Dubai that I look forward to seeing through. Starting with the ‘Burj 2020 District’, we will seize all new opportunities that present themselves to us as we continue to reinforce Dubai’s position as the global gateway for commodity trade.

 

What would be your advice for investors looking to explore new opportunities in Dubai?
 

Dubai is a city of never-ending opportunities. Changing and growing by the month, the week, even the day, I am constantly amazed at what companies and individuals are able to accomplish here.

Ideally located and perfectly connected to the rest of the world, Dubai offers a unique proposition in the region, boasting the latest in logistics, infrastructure and technology to mention a few.

Today, DMCC is the UAE’s only international commodity center and dedicated market place where we accommodate every facet of the commodity trade business, almost literally under one roof or at least I should say - in one Free Zone. As for the future, we are building a new international business district, the ‘Burj 2020 District’, also to include the world’s tallest commercial tower, the Burj 2020, this is a world-class development that should wet any investors’ appetite.

Dubai is also renowned for its unrivalled growth story, to quote His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, “In the race to excellence, there is no finish line”, we will continue to innovate to ensure we do everything we possibly can to ensure businesses have everything they require to succeed to trade with confidence in Dubai.

 

About Ahmed Bin Sulayem

Ahmed Bin Sulayem joined DMCC in 2001 as a director. Prior to joining DMCC, he was a Director at Asteco, a leading real estate company in Dubai. Today, he is the Executive Chairman of DMCC, as well as the director of Human Resources, Director of Dubai Shariah Asset Management (DSAM) and Dubai Commodity Asset Management (DCAM). Under his leadership, DMCC has introduced a number of value-added products and services; this includes the establishment of the DMCC Free Zone, the Dubai Diamond Exchange, the Dubai Tea Trading Center; DMCC Tradeflow and many other services.

Ahmed is also the Chairman of the Dubai Gold and Commodities Exchange (DGCX). In May 2006, he was honored by the Diamond Dealer’s Club in New York City, U.S, during its 75th anniversary, for his contribution to the international diamond trade. In June 2012, Ahmed received UN accreditation to represent Western Asia on behalf of CIBJO, the international jewelry confederation of national trade organizations. He also received the Crowe Horwath Award for Government Personality of the Year. In June 2013, he was recognized as a prominent fan of the LA Lakers due to the full page advertisement he took out in the LA Times paying tribute to Kobe Bryant.

Ahmed received many awards and honors including Facilitating Most Innovative Structured Transaction Award in 2007, Best Fund-of-Funds; Failaka Islamic Fund Award in April 2010; Outstanding Performance & Innovation Award- MENA Fund Manager Awards 2011 and 2012 and Outstanding Contribution to Islamic Finance Award -Mena Fund Manager Performance Awards in January 2014.

 

*By Jenny Kassis

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