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Venue Location
AIM 2016

11 - 13 April 2016
Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Sultan Bin Saeed Al Mansoori
Minister of Economy
United Arab Emirates

The United Arab Emirates overall economic vision stresses the importance of creating viable success factors and drivers for small and micro-businesses. In the UAE, small businesses played a vital role in rooting the foundations of our economic prosperity.

We are finalising a new set of policies aimed at encouraging small and medium enterprises (SMEs) exponential growth. Along with a sustainable path for micro-enterprises, we are actively supporting entrepreneurship grounded in the highest standards of corporate performance and structured governance.

The theme of the Second IORA Ministerial Economic and Business Conference resonates with the main scope and societal objective of our economic strategy. It is with great honor and even greater expectations that we are hosting this seminal event here in Dubai.

We hope that EBC II will provide actionable methodologies and comprehensive tools to achieve IORA Member State’s developmental objectives.

Ministerial Speech


Your Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,


I would like to express the very warmest appreciation to all the members of the Indian Ocean Rim Association and also to our seven dialogue partners for their participation in the second Ministerial Economic and Business Conference here in Dubai of for their continued commitment to our shared goals.

I would also like to thank Indonesia for its successful chairing of the Association over the first half of its term.

The IORA continues to make significant steps to meeting challenges and finding common solutions to shared problems.

Under Indonesia’s leadership, the Association’s efforts to strengthen Indian Ocean integration have been enhanced significantly.

In addition, under Indonesia’s stewardship, we have welcomed new member nations and the participation of new dialogue partners, while also continuing to enhance the institutional infrastructure necessary to bring our governments, economies and cultures closer together.


Our core themes this week lie at the heart of future development for all our nations.

For our countries to flourish, we need to creating an enabling environment in which to develop Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises and foster an economic climate of innovation that can ensure sustainable, inclusive and broad-based economic and social development.

The capacity of IORA Member States to build on the growth and innovation potential of SMEs will be decisive for the future of regional economic growth and development.

Moreover, it will be critical to support regional integration.

SMEs are already the most significant economic contributors in all our economies.

They are our most significant providers of employment opportunities and mechanisms to promote the wellbeing of local, national and regional communities.

Through SMEs we see the greatest potential to benefit from the opportunities presented by globalization and the acceleration of technological change.

But, while SMEs can be agile and adaptable in seizing opportunities in the environment and consumer requirements, they face wide-ranging structural challenges including limited access to finance, technologies and markets.

It is in their commitment to tackling these challenges – as a facilitator, promoter and partner to entrepreneurial business - that Governments plays a key role.


Our experience here in the UAE has been highly instructive.

Economic diversification and sustainable development across a range of industry sectors is a core part of the UAE government’s long-term economic plans.

In order to achieve these priorities, we have focused intensely on strengthening the participation of SMEs in driving the UAE Vision 2021.

SMEs currently constitute 94% of all companies operating in the UAE, and contribute around 60% of our GDP.

And, looking to the future, the UAE government wishes to drive this figure to 70% by 2021.

We have made great efforts to strengthen the UAE’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, with many successful initiatives that seek to build capacity and capability in the SME sector, promote ease of doing business and improve access to technology and innovation.

In this context, strengthening cooperation with other countries to enhance the role of SMEs in the economy is crucial to the UAE’s vision of a sustainable economy.

The UAE is also seeking to transform itself into a knowledge-based economy through its focus on innovation and knowledge development.

Our National Innovation Strategy aims to make the UAE one of the world’s most innovative nations by 2021.

We hope to realize this strategy through developing partnerships between the public and private sector across core growth areas of - renewable energy, transport, education, health, technology, water and space.

Promoting research, innovation and collaboration are going to be essential for our growth and competitive advantage in these areas.


Ladies and gentlemen…

The UAE believes that the Indian Ocean Regional Association has an important contribution to make to the future of this region.

We hope that the dialogue and shared experiences during the time we spend together this week will help inspire us to further our cooperation and seek opportunities to support our progress towards our mutual goals.


Thank you.


KV Bhagirath
Secretary General
Indian Ocean Rim Association

It is a great privilege to welcome you to the Second Economic Business Conference hosted by the UAE. Nearly 20 years ago, IORA was created to promote economic dialogue and cooperation by encouraging trade liberalisation and investment among countries of the Indian Ocean Rim region.

As the apex regional organisation in the Indian Ocean, IORA has a significant role to play in supporting regional efforts to streamline the development of SMEs through the creation of environments conducive to business with improved access to innovation, finance and markets.

Since the First Economic and Business Conference, co-hosted by India and Mauritius in July 2013, IORA has increasingly sought to engage with the private sector. SMEs are important contributors to employment and economic growth and drive innovation and competition in many economic sectors in the Indian Ocean region.

EBC II is a manifestation of a shared commitment to develop a strategy to increase trade and investment and strengthen economic relations through new strategic alliances, business ventures and partnerships for the economic benefit of the Indian Ocean region. It also reflects the leadership role being played by UAE in expanding regional cooperation in trade and industry.

The Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) is the inter-governmental forum linking 21 Member States bordering the Indian Ocean and its 7 Dialogue Partners. Indonesia is the current IORA Chair and South Africa is the Vice Chair. The United Arab Emirates will become the IORA Chair in 2019. The region is home to about two billion people spanning three continents and regional GDP is expected to reach USD 9 trillion this year.

IORA’s objectives are to facilitate regional cooperation including trade and investment and to promote sustainable economic cooperation for the development of the countries of the Indian Ocean Rim. Foreign Ministers meet annually, along with businesses, academics and key stakeholders, to strengthen regional cooperation and implement capacity building projects. There are six priority areas with a strong focus on the Blue Economy and women’s economic empowerment as a cross-cutting issue, namely:

Maritime Safety and Security
Disaster Risk Management
Trade & Investment Facilitation
Academic, Science & Technology
Fisheries Management
Tourism & Cultural Exchanges

The Second Economic and Business Conference brings together Trade and Industry Ministers of the Indian Ocean Rim, with opportunities for interaction with leading private sector representatives and extensive business-to-business networking, to foster a sustainable and inclusive future by creating an enabling conducive environments for business.

The themes of the EBC II meeting are SMEs and innovation. SMEs are a vital source of economic growth, income generation and job creation. Considerable scope exists to strengthen SMEs through improved market information and access, access to finance, fostering entrepreneurship and an enabling business environment. Capacity building can enhance trade competitiveness and boost the skills of entrepreneurs and employees to participate in national, regional and international value chains. These value chains offer increased market opportunities, facilitate transfer of technologies, and potentially lead to greater economic diversification. In addition to several government-to-business and business-tobusiness networking opportunities, this Conference also provides a forum to highlight start-ups and a mechanism to connect emerging SMEs with investors.

Innovation is the driving force that continually creates new competitive advantages and opportunities for profit and growth. Innovation can be viewed either as bringing new products to market which address entrenched challenges or as new policy innovations. It is not necessarily envisaged as ‘high technology’ requiring intensive capital and human development inputs but innovative solutions to development problems. Developing research and investing in innovation are an essential means for SME growth. Assimilation of new and appropriate technologies by countries in the region will enable Member States to become increasingly competitive, strengthen regional integration and accelerate economic growth.

  1. Provide a forum for government-to-government, business-to-government and business-to-business engagement
  2. Share best practices in trade, industry and investment focused on SMEs and innovation
  3. Forge a common vision and strategy that recognises SMEs are a fundamental economic initiative
  4. Incentivise entrepreneurship among women in the private sector
  5. Support practical and tangible SME projects for employment and income generation
  6. Encourage deeper and broader interaction with the private sector, including through the Indian Ocean Rim Business Forum (IORBF)
  7. Develop and invest in new SME technologies and innovation
  8. Facilitate access to finance and markets, especially for LDCs and SIDS
  9. Showcase business presentations, business matching and networking opportunities
  1. Encourage SMEs to become a vital source of economic growth, income generation and job creation in the region
  2. Promote conducive environments and policies for the development and growth of SMEs
  3. Promote SME initiatives through the IORBF and Member States’ Chambers of Commerce and Industry
  4. Strengthen capacity building and human resource development strategies
  5. Facilitate access to markets, finance, technology and innovation
  6. Recognise SMEs play a crucial role in driving innovation
  7. Establish mechanisms for sharing of information, experiences and best practices in SMEs
  8. Emphasise SME pilot projects for women’s economic empowerment under the IORA Special Fund
  9. Encourage greater participation of SMEs in IORA business events

Indian Ocean Rim Association

Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre

Official Airline & Hotel Partners

AIM - Annual Investment Meeting 2016

Sun 10 April Arrival of Ministers, Government Officials & Delegates
Mon 11 April  
10:00 - 13:00 Annual Investment Meeting Opening Ceremony
13:00 - 14:30 High Level Strategic Networking Lunch (By invitation only)
14:30 - 17:30 The Belt and Road Initiatives - International Cooperation Forum
19:30 - 22:30 AIM Official Gala Dinner and Investment Awards
Tues 12 April Events between 12:30 - 17:30 are by invitation only
09:00 - 10:30 IORA High Level Panel Session 1: Small and Medium Enterprises
Participants include IORA Ministers, businessrepresentatives, international organisations and academic institutions making short presentations and a Q&A session
10:30 - 10:50 Coffee Break
10:50 - 12:20 IORA High Level Panel Session 2: Innovation
Participants include IORA Ministers, business representatives, international organisations and academic institutions making short presentations and a Q&A session
13:00 - 13:30 IORA Ministerial Meeting
  • Welcoming Remarks (IORA Secretariat)
  • Keynote address by Host (UAE)
  • Group Photo
13:30 - 14:30 Ministerial Lunch
14:30 - 15:45 Ministerial Retreat
15:45 - 16:00 Coffee Break/ Press Conference
16:00 - 17:30 Country Statements
17:30 - 18:00 Tours of IORA Exhibitions
Wed 13 April  
9:00 - 10:30 IORA Business Panel Discussion 1: Innovation & The Blue Economy
10:30 - 12:00 IORA Business Panel Discussion 2: IORA Start-Ups
12:00 - 12:15 Closing remarks by IORA Secretary General

SESSION 1: Small and Medium Enterprises

Dr. Roberto Echandi
Dr. Roberto Echandi
Global Lead, Investment Policy and Promotion, Trade and Competitiveness Global Practice
Hon. Mr. Soomilduth Sunil Bholah
Hon. Mr. Soomilduth Sunil Bholah
Minister of Business Enterprises and Cooperatives, Mauritius
Hon. Mr. Kalraj Mishra
Hon. Mr. Kalraj Mishra
Minister for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, India
Dr. Ashish Shah
Dr. Ashish Shah
Director, Division of Country Programmes, International Trade Centre

SESSION 2: Innovation

H.E. Mr. Mzwandile Masina
H.E. Mr. Mzwandile Masina
Deputy Minister for Trade and Industry, South Africa
Hon. Mr. Michael Benstrong
Hon. Mr. Michael Benstrong
Minister of Investment, Entrepreneurship Development and Business Innovation, Seychelles
Mr. Raju Jaddoo
Mr. Raju Jaddoo
Secretary General, Mauritius Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI)
Prof (Dr). V.N. Attri
Prof (Dr). V.N. Attri
Chair of Indian Ocean Studies of IORA Office (at the University of Mauritius)

SESSION 3: Innovation in the Blue Economy

Dr. Carlos Lopes
Dr. Carlos Lopes
UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary, UN Economic Commission for Africa
Dr. Stergomena Lawrence Tax
Dr. Stergomena Lawrence Tax
Executive Secretary, Southern African Development Community
Mr. Ken Poonoosamy
Mr. Ken Poonoosamy
Managing Director of the Board of Investment of Mauritius
Mr. Emmanuel Andre
Mr. Emmanuel Andre
Chief Executive Officer, Sotravic
Mr. William (Koerie) Graham
Mr. William (Koerie) Graham
Executive Chairman, GrahamTek Holdings


Mr K.C. Li, LLM, BSc (Econ)
Mr K.C. Li, LLM, BSc (Econ)
Chairman of SBM Holdings Ltd.
Ms. Elissa Freiha
Ms. Elissa Freiha
Co-founder of WOMENA
Ms. Catherine Bentley
Ms. Catherine Bentley
Chief Marketing Officer & Senior Innovation, Incubator i360
Mr. Tarig El Sheikh
Mr. Tarig El Sheikh
Co-founder of Beneple

Annual Investment Meeting 2016

AIM focus (Non-IORA Event)

Beginning in 2011, AIM has emerged as a leading platform for FDI and emerging markets, held under the Patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, and attracts over 60 Economy & Investment Ministers from around the world and over 15,000 business representatives. IORA Ministers and government delegations are able to attend the AIM Opening Ceremony, High Level Strategic Networking Lunch, Onsite Networking functions and schedule G2B meetings with Government and Business delegations participating from 140 countries. For the first time, during the AIM Gala Dinner, an award will be presented to the best performing Investment Promotion Agency in the Indian Ocean Rim. Delegates can also tour the MENA Innovation Lab.

In the framework of AIM, a Special session about the Chinese initiative “The Belt and Road Initiatives” will take place during which investment opportunities will be launched targeting some 65 countries spanning several continents from Asia to Africa to Europe.


IORA Focus

The theme of the Economic and Business Conference is “SMEs and Innovation: Investing in a Sustainable Future” and will provide a platform where ministers from IORA Member States, business representatives, international organisations and academic institutions can share best practice on innovation.

The high level panel on SMEs aims to showcase what IORA countries and organisations are doing to support SMEs at the local, national and regional levels. It is also an opportunity to share best practice on promoting conducive business environments, building capacity, and facilitate access to markets, finance, technology and innovation to drive economic growth and regional integration.

Innovation, or the bringing of ideas into reality, is the driving force that continually creates new competitive advantages and opportunities for profit and growth. Innovation can be viewed as research and development, new concepts and products, support services, making use of technologies which contribute in strengthening the innovation capacity of businesses, particularly SMEs. The importance of innovation has increased significantly, particularly as innovation adds value, creates competition and wealth. As such, investing in innovation is essential for SMEs growth and assimilation of appropriate technologies by IORA Member States will enable them to be increasingly competitive, strengthen regional integration and accelerate economic growth.


Innovation in the Blue Economy

The Blue Economy offers great potential for new technologies to create competitive advantage and commercial viability while also generating livelihoods, food security and environmental conservation. Innovation can create new avenues for economic development and contribute to the diversification of business opportunities in the sector. This session aims to provide a forum to showcase individual companies and build networks for businesses engaging in the sustainable development of ocean and maritime resources, and to learn from international stakeholders engaging in this field.

IORA Start Ups

To showcase 7 selected emerging businesses from the Indian Ocean Rim who will pitch their innovative ideas in front of investors and business representatives short panel on what makes a successful Start Up with expert representatives from investors, banks and incubators sharing their experiences on what works and what doesn’t.


AirGo Design Ltd.

AirGo is an award-winning, patent-pending concept that will be a game-changer in the aviation industry; AirGo Design is the company which will see that through. AirGo Design economy seats will become a major differentiating feature for a large number of airlines in a few years’ time. AirGo concept is scalable to other mass-transportation industries including trains, busses and ferries through IP and design license. AirGo Design’s extensive knowledge of material science combined with its revolutionary design will be the basis of an extensive product/IPR and brand portfolio for the benefit of customers and passengers.

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Meetizer helps people meet and share real-life gatherings to explore the city, share a coffee or lunch break, attending an event or whatever they plan. And our vision is to become the global reference platform to share spontaneous meetups, so we help build a more open, connected and social world.

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Pointr Labs

Pointr Labs is a leading edge software company which has developed and patented the best performing indoor positioning and navigation technology available today.

Pointr has been used in a wide range of environments, providing venues such as retail malls, airports and exhibition centers with real-time position, turn-by-turn navigation, contextual user notifications and data analytics such as heat maps, common paths, dwell times and frequently searched products.

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“SMEs and Innovation: Investing in a Sustainable Future”





The Second Ministerial Economic and Business Conference (EBC) of the Indian Ocean Rim Association was held at the Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre in Dubai, United Arab Emirates from 13-11 April 2016. It was hosted by the Ministry of Economy of the United Arab Emirates with support from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and Indian Ocean Rim Association Secretariat.

Under the theme of SMEs and Innovation: Investing in a Sustainable Future, the Conference brought together Trade and Industry Ministers of the Indian Ocean Rim Association with opportunities for interaction with leading international organisation and private sector representatives. It facilitated business networking and created a forum to foster a sustainable and inclusive future by creating enabling and conductive environments for business in the Indian Ocean Rim.

The Indian Ocean Rim region boasts great potential, with a population of 2 billion people, 9% of world GDP, 12% of global exports, and 18% of global investment flows. IORA’s main objective is to promote sustainable and balanced cooperation of the region as well as to enhance trade, investment, and technology. Globally, SMEs represent 95% of firms and nearly 70% of employment in the world, but productivity lags behind larger firms. The overwhelming majority of SMEs in the developing world are micro-enterprises with fewer than ten employees and who employ a larger percentage of the most vulnerable sectors of the workforce.

This document summarized the five components of the Conference, including high-level panels and opportunities for business engagement focused upon SMEs, innovation and the Blue Economy, as well as a closed Ministerial meeting. Over 100 people attended the Conference, including 13 Ministers/Heads of Delegation from IORA Member States and 3 Heads of Delegation from Dialogue Partners, along with Chambers of Commerce, Investment Promotion Agencies, diplomatic and consulate missions, representatives from international and regional organizations, and businesses from the region.

The Conference was held alongside the Annual Investment Meeting (AIM) which is a leading platform for foreign direct investment and emerging markets attracting over 15,000 business representatives and leaders, under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai.


The EBC was inaugurated by H.E. Mr Sultan Bin Saeed Al Mansoori, Minister of Economy of the United Arab Emirates and welcomed by Ambassador H.E. Mr K.V. Bhagirath, IORA Secretary General. Minister Al Mansoori highlighted the need for the creation of an enabling environment in which to develop small and medium-sized enterprises and foster an economic climate of innovation that can ensure sustainable, inclusive and broad-based economic and social development.

The capacity of IORA Member States to build on the growth and innovation potential of SMEs will be decisive for the future of regional economic growth, development and critical to support regional integration. SMES are the most significant economic units in all IORA economies to promote wellbeing of its peoples. Governments and businesses alike see the potential of SMEs to meet global development and to seize opportunities.

Ministerial Meeting

During a closed meeting, Ministers affirmed that SMEs and innovation are two of the most critical elements to address poverty and drive inclusive economic growth in IORA Member States and the world at large. IORA is a platform that can be leveraged by Member States in order to build global businesses, promote international trade and investment, and achieve sustainable and market-led economic growth contributing to job creation and poverty alleviation in the region. There was agreement that SMEs require greater support; access to markets, finance and appropriate technology; education and research; economic reforms and trade facilitation; conducive regulatory environments and fostering of entrepreneurial spirit and business confidence. Participants also recognised women’s economic empowerment is an important core cross-cutting issue requiring strengthened institutions, programs and legislation.

High Level Panel on SMEs

Although IORA economies are diverse and follow individual growth trajectories, SMEs account for the majority of jobs in all countries. They are the most significant economic units to promote wellbeing and inclusive growth. Focusing on SMEs makes business sense as SMEs lie at the core of inclusive growth and connect micro-enterprises and the informal sector with larger firms and international value chains. However, they face grave challenges in accessing finance, technology and innovation, skilled labour and knowledge, economies of scale and expanding markets. Many SMEs do not progress beyond the start-up phase and are less productive than large firms. This gap is larger in developing countries.

There were calls for policies to grow and strengthen SMEs by improving their productivity and capacity to compete, connect and change. This in turn improves wages and livelihoods, with positive spill-over effects in investment, markets, education and women’s economic empowerment. The capacity of IORA Member States to build on the growth and innovation potential of SMEs will be decisive for the future of regional economic growth, sustainable development and critical to support regional integration.

High Level Panel on Innovation

Speakers identified that innovation is an engine of growth. Firms can move up the value chain through innovation and empowerment. The role of education in fostering innovation is crucial together with intellectual property regulations and fiscal incentives to transform new ideas into reality. SMEs particularly require support as they are often the source of good ideas and incremental innovation. However, technical empowerment needs to be strengthened in the Indian Ocean Rim.

Institutional mechanisms, such as training programs, investing in research institutions, designing education systems, and technology transfers are required to foster innovation and ensure SMEs reach their full potential and competitive advantage. SMEs need support in improving market access, innovation, supporting infrastructure and increased access to finance. Global patterns of trade are changing and there was strong encouragement for deeper collaboration among IORA Member States, including south-south cooperation.

IORA Business Panel Discussion: Innovation and the Blue Economy

All of the 21 Member States of the Indian Ocean Rim Association are blessed with abundant natural resources for economic development in their aquatic and marine spaces with various productive sectors such as marine energy, deep sea extractives and aquaculture – their blue economy. Water is essential to life, wellbeing and prosperity of nations. With the Indian Ocean being the third largest in the world and carrying a large part of the world’s trade by sea, the Blue Economy becomes even more significant to the Indian Ocean Rim. However, geopolitical and natural threats are growing, there is limited knowledge of resources, rights and obligations and poor linkages between different blue economy industrial policies.

This session emphasised the importance of multi-sectoral, integrated, and participatory approaches where development success is measured not only in economic terms but also environmental and material stewardship, social responsibility and governance. If fully exploited and well-managed, a collaborative approach for the sustainable development of the Indian Ocean Rim Blue Economy can constitute a major source of wealth, social inclusion, particularly women’s economic empowerment, and greatly contribute to structural transformation. Case studies from Africa, along with presentations by two private sector representatives, illustrated the importance of innovation and partnerships in developing the Blue Economy.

IORA Business Panel Discussion: Start-Ups

To support young entrepreneurs turning creative ideas into concrete business activities, AIM 2016 together with IORA Secretariat staged a special session to display top business opportunities available in the Indian Ocean. A selection process evaluated over eighty start-ups and short-listed seven companies to present their innovative business idea to leading investors and business incubators.

A team of panellists with rich expertise in the world of start-ups offered advice and reflected on their own experiences to support, nurture and advance the development of emerging SMEs, an essential driver for the advancement of technological innovation and economic development. They said successful start-ups who make a mark is the start-up who understands the market. They are able to solve the problem today that they will have tomorrow. Emerging businesses face critical issues in raising capital, ensure the ‘product fit’, dynamics amongst co-founders, creating a balance team with the right skills, lack of cash flow and the importance of timing.

The session concluded with seven emerging businesses pitching their ideas to potential investors and venture capitalists in search for new lucrative and innovative business opportunities.

AIM Investment Awards

For the first time, the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) has awarded the Investment Promotion Agencies (IPAs) with the IORA Investment Awards at the Gala Dinner held on Monday evening 11th April 2016, for the best FDI projects among the IORA’S associated countries. To recognize the accomplishment of the country in attracting sizable and beneficial investment project and thus contributing to the economic growth and development of their markets. Investment Promotion Agencies (IPAs) or the Ministries of the winner countries were invited to receive their Awards.