Dubai emerges as one of the leading supplier of consumer and capital goods to many countries in Africa. A report on Dubai’s status as the regional centre of trade & distribution…
It is a well known fact that Dubai has emerged as one of the leading supplier of goods to many countries in Africa. Certain trade sectors have reported substantial increase in demand from African countries in the last few years. Many Africans are now travelling to Dubai in increasing numbers to purchase goods and to make direct contacts with suppliers and manufacturers. The improving economic and political situation in many East African countries has resulted in greater buying power for the average person in Africa and has in turn boosted demand for consumer goods. Favourable economic policies adopted by many African countries have also attracted foreign investments in industrial and manufacturing projects – mainly in the several Export Processing Zones (EPZs) that have come up in countries like Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania in recent years. This has resulted in greater demand for capital goods, machinery and raw material – a demand that is being met by many Dubai-based enterprises.
The growing demand for goods in Africa is clearly reflected in statistics. Shipping lines servicing the Dubai-Africa route are experiencing a welcome rise in business with the coming of African bulk buyers during the past two to three years. Among the major destinations of UAE exports are Nigeria, Mauritania, Senegal, Gabon, Ghana and the Ivory Coast in West Africa, and Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya in East Africa. On an average, freight rates to Africa cost around $2200 to $2600 for a 20-foot container, which has a capacity of 21 tonnes. For a 40-foot container with a capacity of 26.5 tonnes, current rates are between $4900 and $5600. The surge in the number of African visitors is a new phenomenon, although Dubai has traditional links with East Africa. According to data available, from a mere 6,954 in 1984, the number of visitors from African countries shot up to almost 55,000 in 15 years. Last year, airline passengers from Central, Eastern and Southern Africa were placed at around 15,000. Most of them came from Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda and South Africa.
As a result of low import duties and the strategic location of the country between major markets and manufacturing countries, prices of almost all consumer and commercial products are extremely competitive and the variety of products vast. Anything and everything you may look for, be it handcrafted jewellery, high-tech electronic gadgets, haute couture from Paris, antiques or pure leather accessories, you’ll find it all in Dubai – at unbelievable low prices.
Besides offering shopping bargains, Dubai also provides you with a unique shopping experience. The traditional souqs of the UAE are undoubtedly the most exotic places to shop in, offering the visitor a typically Middle Eastern shopping extravaganza. Located in the old parts of the city these souqs will take you to the time when the city was just an outpost in the desert.
Bustling with activity and crowded with shoppers and traders, these souqs are direct extensions of fabled ancient Arab bazaars. Although many of the Arab businessmen have mostly moved out of these bazaars and most of the business is now handled by expatriates, these souqs have still managed to retain the old-world charm, colour and mystique of a traditional Arab marketplace.
Browsing through the souqs of the United Arab Emirates you will find treasured Arab artifacts like veils, hubble-bubble pipes, fishing nets, antique daggers and stones, Persian and Oriental carpets and an entire street wholly devoted to textiles and dress material. You are literally spoilt for choice while shopping in Dubai, known as a shoppers’ paradise the world over. In fact, many travellers come to Dubai only for shopping because of the wide variety of goods available here and of course, the attractive prices offered on almost every purchase. Dubai is one of the best places to buy gold. The gold souq in Dubai dazzles one s senses with its sheer glitter. The quality of jewellery available in the Gold Souq is top class, the variety of designs extraordinary and the temptation to buy definitely irresistible. Approximately 150 tonnes of gold is imported into Dubai every year to be shaped into a spectacular array of designs to suit the tastes of various people. Whether it is a gem-crusted gold necklace, an ornate Arabic design, an intricate design from India or just plain coins and pendants, you can find it all in the Gold Souq. If you want to buy a necklace, a bracelet, a ring or earrings in almost any design your heart desires, you will surely find something to satisfy both your taste and your pocket.
The prices of jewellery are based on the weight of the gold and an additional charge for labour, so it is always better to check the gold prices in the local media before making a purchase. The prices of all types of gold whether it s 14, 18, 22 or 24 carat, are almost the same in most of the shops – and much cheaper than elsewhere in the world. Adjacent to the Gold Souk is situated the Perfume Bazaar which brings all sorts of pleasant aromas from all over the world within your reach. Fragrance has always been the essence of good upbringing in Asia. The market takes pride in not only bringing to you practically all the leading perfumes but also creating an aroma of high living and sophistication. And remember, these are not mere perfume centres to cater to your luxury but also reservoirs of wisdom of the bygone ages when different oils and perfumes were used to cure many illnesses of body and mind.
Electronics and home appliances are other shopping attractions that are almost always on top of the shopping list of visitors to the UAE. The low import duty makes electronic items much cheaper than in other parts of the world. Right from watches, to VCRs, television sets, washing machines, refrigerators, cameras, stereo systems – you ll find them all at prices that will surely be much lower than back home.
Meena Bazaar, in Bur Dubai, is an ideal place to shop for textiles and miscellaneous electronic items and home appliances. Located just a short walk away from the Dubai creek, Meena Bazaar also has many opticians who will sell you almost every known brand of sunglasses at rock-bottom prices. They can also make special spectacles and sunglasses either from a prescription or from existing lenses. The cost may vary depending on the job, but you could expect something in the range of Dhs 150 (US$ 42) a pair.
No visit to Dubai would be complete without a trip to one of the many modern and futuristic shopping malls in the city. Dubai was the first city in the Gulf to have a proper shopping mall and has taken the lead in providing modern shopping amenities for both visitors and residents. A boom in shopping malls is currently sweeping through the UAE with a number of new malls being added to the list every year. In the last five years itself, over fifteen new shopping malls boasting of state-of-the-art amenities and top of the range architectural design have mushroomed in the city of Dubai alone.
Besides the many shopping malls, there are many more clumps of shops and supermarkets that dot the cities of the UAE. Wherever you are staying, a modern supermarket is surely going to be in the nearby vicinity. Shopkeepers throughout the UAE tend to be helpful, sometimes a bit too much, and will offer you special prices for any item that catches your eye. Bargaining in the UAE is an accepted norm except in some of the larger stores. Remember, even the most glamourous of boutiques and stores will come down on their quoted prices and offer you a last price if you insist on having a discount. In fact, many shopkeepers do not even wait to be asked and assume that you expect a discount and themselves adjust the asking price on payment.
The best way to find good bargains in the UAE is to browse through the various markets and shopping malls. Your first stop should undoubtedly be the traditional Arabic gift shop to buy something to take home as a souvenir. Traditional gifts include Arabic coffee pots, silver and brass swords and ‘khanjars’ (curved Arabic daggers), worry beads, soapstone figures, coasters and other items decorated with lapis lazuli, turquoise malachite and other semi-precious stones, marble goblets, silver antique jewellery from Oman, Yemen and locally made artifacts, silver and wooden dhows, Persian carpets and cotton dhurries and an array of other decorative items. The Yellow Pages is an invaluable source of information for any specific product or service you may be looking for.
For those who need to make some last minute buys, a little time must be kept away at the Dubai and Abu Dhabi airports, which are known the world over for their duty free outlets. Dubai s Duty Free complex offers one of the best prices in the world and caters to a large number of passengers who buy electronics, watches, perfumes, tobacco, beverages, jewellery, toys, chocolates, cosmetics, china and crystal ware from there. Both Dubai and Abu Dhabi airport duty free shops carry a wide assortment of souvenirs and accept almost all major credit cards and almost any currency.
Duty Free outlets at UAE’s international airports are world famous for their wide range of variety and excellent prices. Dubai Duty Free, in particular has gained worldwide reputation in its field and has won several international awards. The Dubai Duty Free complex boasts of many shops that have almost everything imaginable. The most popular items at the Dubai Duty Free complex include gold, (though it is advisable to buy from Dubai’s gold souk where you will get comparatively better prices), electronics, liquor, cameras and tobacco (there is a special humified room at the DDF to keep quality cigars in perfect conditions).
Chocolates, delicatessen, household items, sports goods, leather, designer clothes, toys, cosmetics, carpets, crystal and glassware are some of the other hot selling items at the Dubai Duty Free, known to be one of the best duty free outlets in the world. On your way back from Dubai, make sure that you spend some time at the duty free complex at the airport and enjoy the international shopping bonanza that s on offer.
DUBAI SHOPPING FESTIVAL (DSF)
Fun and Bargains
The annual Dubai Shopping Festival has further bolstered Dubai’s status as a shopping paradise. Organised by the Government of Dubai, the Dubai Shopping Festival offers four weeks of discount shopping – some of the lowest prices in the world on luxury and everyday items. The biggest event of its kind in the whole of Middle East, the Festival also features a host of cultural, entertainment and sporting events that further added to the glamour and incentive of the unique promotion.
The annual Festival fever grips the city for the 30-day shopping bonanza which sees the city converted into a huge shopping haven with discounts and special rebates offered by most shopping outlets. Throughout the city, visitors got the opportunity to purchase quality merchandise, including electronics, jewellery, household goods, fashionwear, textiles and a bevy of other consumer items at rock bottom prices.
The various shopping centres and malls in Dubai offer the visitor a varied shopping experience. Yet, the Dubai Shopping Festival is not for shoppers only. It is a great event for the entire family. During the Festival a number of cultural sideshows, entertainment activities and sporting events are organised to provide fun for everyone. Famous cartoon characters all the way from Disneyland are out on the streets and shopping malls to lend a lively and fun-filled atmosphere to the whole city. One of the main attractions during the Festival is the special Global Village that is set up along the Dubai creek where one could sample exotic foods from all over the world. This is also the place where a lot of people purchase quality handcrafted souvenirs from all over the world which are sold at unbelievably low prices.