The executive chairman of the Dubai Multi Commodities Centre (DMCC), Ahmed bin Sulayem, is keen to attract more African companies to participate in commodity markets.

Africa will be a “big player in business”, he told delegates at the DMCC’s precious metals conference, and he wants to see more commodity flows from Africa passing through Dubai.

The DMCC has played a key role in building up Dubai as a hub for commodity trading during the last decade. The diamond trade in Dubai has grown from just a few billion dollars when DMCC was set up in 2002 to $41bn in 2011.

Sulayem says this volume is only set to grow with greater African involvement. So far, “Africa has not been utilised in the right way”, he said.

He gave the example of Zimbabwe as an African country with which Dubai has established a strong trading relationship. Dubai has played a role in supporting the country’s mining industry and importing precious gems and metals when the country struggled to find other markets due to sanctions.

The European Union has lifted some sanctions this year following the introduction of a new constitution in the African nation. Sanctions, however, are still in place on the main state-owned mining company Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation.

Sulayem also noted the expansion of Dubai’s airports, particularly the new airport at Jebel Ali, is essential for the growth of the emirate’s role in supporting commodity flows from Africa. Similarly, the expansion into Africa of Dubai’s flagship carrier Emirates is also important, he said.