Dr. Sultan bin Ahmed Al Jaber, Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology, has stressed that the remarks of Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs, during the World Government Summit (WGS) embody the vision of the UAE’s leadership to advance the country’s industrial sector.
Dr. Al Jaber noted that Sheikh Mansour’s remarks presented a comprehensive roadmap highlighting the strategic importance of developing the industrial sector and its role in enhancing self-sufficiency and resilience, diversifying the economy, supporting national manufacturing, and enhancing competitiveness.
In an interview with WAM, Dr. Al Jaber said that the UAE has achieved significant growth and progress across various sectors, adding, “However, the industrial sector still has much work to do to keep pace with that growth and our leadership’s ambitions for the future. As such, the Ministry of Industry and Advanced Technology will continue to exert every effort to enable the sector, enhance its role in stimulating the national economy and increase its contribution to the GDP to Dh300 billion by 2031.”
Here is the abridged version of the interview:
The WGS just concluded last week at the Expo 2020. It discussed how the future would look like for many sectors. How do you see the importance of the summit in anticipating the future and specifically in the industrial sector?
The onset of the COVID pandemic has truly shed a light on the importance of resilience, long-term planning and future-proofing, all of which are core to the discussions at the WGS.
This year’s summit, which brought together 4,000 participants and 30 international entities from 190 countries and took place one day before the closing of the Expo 2020, focused its attention on how future governments will harness technology and digital transformation, which is a main pillar for us at the Ministry of Industry and Advanced Technology.
How do you see the success of the UAE in organising the Expo and its implications for the industrial sector?
I think the numbers, level of engagement and convening power speak for themselves. Over 24 million guests, 192 nations, in addition to international organisations came together over a span of six months to truly connect minds and create the future.
Simply put, Expo 2020, despite global challenges, was a resounding success and a testament to our leadership’s perseverance and unwavering vision.
Expo 2020 is and will continue to be a reflection of the world’s confidence in our nation, and its ability to mobilise and motivate positive social and economic progress.
Sheikh Mansour delivered remarks about the national industry at the WGS. Can you give us your comments regarding those remarks?
The remarks presented a comprehensive roadmap highlighting the strategic importance of developing the industrial sector and its role in enhancing self-sufficiency and resilience, diversifying the economy, supporting national manufacturing, and enhancing competitiveness. Sheikh Mansour also outlined the critical importance of developing the industrial sector and spoke of the historical relationship that the people of the UAE had with the sea as a vehicle for trade.
He highlighted how the pandemic brought to light the importance of empowering vital industrial sectors such as food, pharmaceuticals and defence and stressed the significance of increasing the contribution of the industrial sector to the GDP.
He also sent a very clear message on the importance of confidence in partnerships, emphasising the UAE’s unique value proposition as an attractive destination for local, regional and international investors offering transparency, reliability, flexibility and a willingness to develop and amend laws to serve national interests and the interests of investors.
Can you tell us about the role of the Ministry of Industry and Advanced Technology in supporting the growth of the industrial sector in the UAE during the coming decades?
The mandate of the ministry is to increase the industrial sector’s GDP contribution and ensure a sustainable knowledge-based economy centred on the adoption of advanced technology empowered by the National In-Country Value Programme and focused on key priority industrial sectors.
With that in mind, the ministry immediately went to work on preparing the National Strategy for Industry and Advanced Technology, which is based on two tracks.
The first track focuses on empowering the development of our existing and priority industries and the second track is focused on developing new competitive advantages for the industries of the future.
To achieve those tracks, the strategy includes more than 16 initiatives and projects. Implementation has begun and the ministry continues to work on ensuring that it creates the environment and ecosystem that empowers the much needed major leap in this vital sector.
The strategy of the ministry has four objectives: Creating a suitable and attractive business environment for local and international investors, supporting the growth of national industries and enhancing their competitiveness, stimulating innovation and the adoption of advanced technology in the industrial sector, and implementing solutions to highlight the nation’s unique value proposition as a leading global destination for industries of the future.
The UAE has achieved significant growth and progress across various sectors. However, the industrial sector still has much work to do to keep pace with that growth and our leadership’s ambitions for the future. As such, the ministry will continue to exert every effort to enable the sector, enhance its role in stimulating the national economy and increase its contribution to the GDP to Dh300 billion by 2031.
Q. What are the main pillars on which the ministry is founded?
Stemming from its federal role as a legislative and regulatory authority, the ministry is working to create an investment, legislative and technical ecosystem that is conducive to the growth of the industrial sector.
The strategy is enabled through four pillars. The first is to provide enablers for industrial sector growth through supportive legislation that attracts partners, investors and talent from around the world.
The second is to enhance the competitive advantages of national products across priority sectors such as food and medicine, heavy industries such as iron and aluminium, as well as defence, electrical industries and petrochemicals. This, in addition to capacity building in future industries, such as space, hydrogen, and agricultural technology or agritech.
The third is to strengthen the national industry through supporting the adoption of advanced technology, which in turn enhances production quality, operational efficiencies and as a result consumer satisfaction.
And finally, our fourth pillar focuses on incentive programmes, such as the National ICV Programme to empower national industries to enhance their competitiveness, and expand their growth.
We already have some great success stories. Borouge, for example, is a leading company in the petrochemicals industry that produces polyolefins and, in fact, is the fourth largest producer in Asia and the Middle East. The company has multiplied its production by 10-fold since 2001. Today, it produces 5 million tonnes of polyolefins annually with sales of more than $6 billion in 2021.
Another example is Edge, which is among the world’s 25 largest defence companies, with annual sales of more than $5 billion.
Emirates Global Aluminum is another example, and so is RAK Ceramics.
Q. What has been achieved so far since the establishment of the ministry?
In 2021, we accomplished a number of important steps. UAE industrial exports achieved record growth, rising to Dh116 billion, compared to Dh78 billion two years ago, while the contribution of the industrial sector to GDP reached Dh140 billion. And finally, over 220 new factories went online. As a result, the UAE climbed in the global industrial competitiveness index from 35th to 30th place, according to the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO).
The ministry has also launched and begun implementing the ICV programme at the national level, with the aim of redirecting the largest possible share of the procurement of products and services to the national economy, which in 2021 amounted to Dh41.4 billion compared to Dh27 billion in 2018. The programme has succeeded in attracting 45 federal government agencies and 13 major national institutions and has added 1,000 jobs for UAE nationals in the private sector.
We are also joining forces with the Nafis programme through the ICV rogramme to connect UAE nationals with job opportunities and enroll them in advanced training courses.
When it comes to legislation, we have amended a policy, the food ‘Traffic Light Nutritional Labelling System’ and made it optional, which is expected to save Dh1.4 billion for the F&B sector over the next five years. This was in addition to saving Dh7 million in the food packaging industry by updating technical requirements.
Additionally, we have managed to reduce measurement errors, including for gold scales and fuel meters and adopted 616 standards and technical legislations and engaged the private sector in the development of 30 percent of our standards.
More than 3,200 factories were granted custom duties exemptions on industrial inputs worth Dh2.7 billion. Incentive packages were secured to support the Make in the Emirates campaign, such as the strategic partnership between MoIAT and Dubai Industrial City to enhance the performance of the industrial sector.
Q. What is the role of advanced technology in the national industrial system?
The UAE has many competitive advantages, most notably a modern infrastructure supported by advanced technology. In line with the national strategy for the industry, we focused on the opportunities that help the UAE become a global destination for industries of the future.
With that in mind, the ministry launched the Fourth Industrial Revolution Programme (Industry 4.0) to accelerate the integration of 4IR solutions and applications across the UAE’s industrial sector, enhance the UAE’s overall industrial competitiveness, drive down costs, increase productivity and efficiency, enhance quality, improve safety and create new jobs.
One key element of the programme is the implementation of the Smart Industry Readiness Index which helps companies understand their current digital maturity as well as contributes to increasing their awareness of 4IR applications. To date, the ministry has assessed 160 industrial companies with a target of 200 by mid-2022.
The programme also includes the Industry Champions 4.0 Network, in which leading local and international companies have united to share best practice in the deployment of 4IR technologies across the UAE’s industrial sector. To date, 14 national and global entities have joined the network.
Moreover, in partnership with the Mohamed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence (MBZUAI), we launched the Leadership 4.0 initiative aimed at developing knowledge and skills around 4IR solutions in smart manufacturing and how it helps the implementation of the UAE’s industrial strategy. The first batch of 30 executives have already concluded the programme. Our target is to train more than 100 executives and leaders from the industrial sector by the end of the year.
Q. Tell us about the Industrial Development Council, its role and your expectations for the council in the coming period?
The Cabinet established the Industrial Development Council with the aim of ensuring the alignment, coordination and integration of efforts between the concerned authorities in the industrial sector.
The council has already begun its work which includes developing a fit-for-purpose ecosystem for local and international investors, with a focus on SME growth, coordinating with federal and local government entities to develop policies and legislation necessary for the development of the UAE’s industrial sector and adopting and monitoring unified key performance indicators.