In terms of foreign direct investment, sectors, including technology and artificial intelligence, tourism and hospitality, and ecommerce and retail, will outshine other traditional industries in the UAE, experts said at the 'Gulf News Doing Business in the UAE’ seminar on Tuesday. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Dubai: From aggressively chasing multi-national corporations (MNCs) to shifting the attention towards small and medium enterprises and having a laser focus on talent cultivation, these have led to greater foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows into the UAE.

Moreover, reforms made to the labour and immigration laws have also resulted in talent retention and made the UAE’s legal sector more accessible and user-friendly, according to business and legal experts who spoke at the Gulf News’ Doing Business in the UAE’ seminar on Tuesday.

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Speaking at a panel discussion titled – Invest in the UAE: A Gateway to Global Markets - Hamdan Al Shamsi, a Senior Partner at the Hamdan Al Shamsi Lawyers and Legal Consultants, said, “Over the past four years, crucial changes have been made, such as the labour law modifications facilitating talent acquisition and exchange.” He noted that immigration reforms, including the introduction of Golden visas, have enhanced talent retention in the country.

Moreover, significant emphasis has been placed on commercial and criminal law amendments, simplifying life in the UAE. Government partnerships with institutions have also played a pivotal role in facilitating businesses, said Al Shamsi.

The UAE has taken proactive regulation in industries like virtual assets. Moreover, assistance from free zone authorities in streamlining company setup, including quick establishment and efficient bank account setup, has facilitated swift operations for companies across diverse activities and industries in the UAE.

Role of free zones

Meanwhile, Ismail Al Naqi, Director General of the Free Zone Authority of Ajman, said free zones have historically played an instrumental role in the UAE’s economic growth.

“Over the years, various specialized and generic free zones have been created, catering to small and medium-sized companies. These zones contribute to the economy and are part of the UAE’s story, where cities compete and complement each other, fostering a competitive environment,” said Al Naqi.

UAE’s SWIFT business framework

Meanwhile, Sanjay Gagarani, Partner at Premier Brains Global, said the UAE’s SWIFT business framework has defined what makes UAE a global business hub. “The SWIFT acronym, where S represents strategic location, W stands for workforce, I for infrastructure, F for a friendly environment, and T for technology investment,” explained Gagarani.

He explained, “The UAE strategically positions itself as a crossroads of Asia, Africa, and Europe, providing unparalleled access to a massive consumer base within an eight-hour flight radius, totalling 5.8 billion people. And in terms of workforce, the UAE boasts a multicultural skill set that is unmatched by any other country, making it a hub for world-class education and a valuable talent pool across various business sectors.”

Gagarani echoed sentiments expressed by David George, Publisher, Commercial at Gulf News, who said, “The UAE’s strategic location at the crossroads of Europe, Asia, and Africa, coupled with a stable political environment and forward-thinking leadership, has positioned the UAE as a magnet for businesses seeking growth and expansion.”

Businesses to look out for

Industries and businesses that are expected to outshine traditional sectors this year include technology and AI, the tourism and hospitality, and ecommerce and retail sectors, said Gagarani. “Emerging developments, such as the upcoming underwater hotel and several innovative hotel resorts, are set to redefine the tourist experience. Projections indicate a return of 25 million tourists, surpassing the UAE’s population by more than two and a half times,” he said.

On the ecommerce and retail business landscape, the UAE, particularly Dubai, is renowned for events like the Dubai Shopping Festival. “Recent studies reveal a substantial shift, with 90 per cent of the population engaging in online purchases, amounting to millions of dollars. This presents a tremendous opportunity for entrepreneurs with innovative business ideas in the retail sector, as the e-commerce market is poised for substantial growth,” he explained.