Dr Thani Bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Trade, visits Assa Abloy

As the world becomes increasingly interconnected, the robust bilateral relationship between Sweden and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) stands out as a model of successful international diplomacy and economic partnership. This year, we reflect on over fifty years of diplomatic relations since their foundation in 1972, culminating in the establishment of a full-fledged Swedish Embassy in Abu Dhabi in 2002, a significant milestone that paved the way for deeper connections.

The journey between the two nations has been marked by mutual respect, cooperation, and a drive to foster economic growth. This is underscored by the 30th anniversary of the Swedish Business Council's presence in the UAE, which highlights the enduring and substantial engagement of Swedish enterprises in the UAE economy since its inception in 1994.

The reciprocal gesture by the UAE, with its embassy in Stockholm established in 2005 and the setting up of the Trade and Invest Council Business Sweden in Dubai in 2007, exemplifies the deep-rooted relations that precede even the formation of the Emirates, with the Swedish business footprint tracing back to the 1960s.

The economic narrative of the Sweden-UAE relationship is one of remarkable success and growth. In 2023, Swedish exports to the UAE surged by 39 per cent to almost SEK12 billion ($1.17 billion), while imports from the UAE increased by 61 per cent to SEK1.35 billion ($131 million), signaling a robust economic partnership. This upward trajectory in bilateral trade has positioned the UAE as a critical trading partner in the region, with total trade exceeding $1.3 billion last year.

Furthermore, the annual influx of Swedish Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) into the UAE has been stable, marking a significant contribution to the economic landscape.

Fredrik Floren, Ambassador of Sweden to the UAE, says, "It’s really a pleasure to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Swedish Business Council (SBC) here in the UAE. This celebration highlights decades of trade, cultural exchanges, and unwavering support for Swedish enterprises in the UAE by Team Sweden, which includes the SBC and Business Sweden. For 30 years, SBC has fostered a partnership with the UAE that transcends mere trade figures. This innovative collaboration, based on shared visions, has attracted hundreds of Swedish companies to the UAE.

"It sets a benchmark in areas like logistics, life sciences, healthcare, security, communication technologies, electrification, and sustainable practices. These practices span across cooling skyscrapers, ground and marine transportation, mining, and interior design."

The presence of over 200 Swedish companies in the UAE is a testament to the strategic importance of this partnership. These entities not only contribute significantly to the local economy but also act as regional conduits extending Sweden’s reach into Africa, South Asia, and the Middle East. These companies are at the forefront of the green transition and sustainability, championing advancements across a broad spectrum of sectors including logistics, healthcare, security, and communication technologies.

Cecilia Carlsward - Chairman of The Swedish Business Council in the UAE, says, “2024 marks a milestone for the Swedish Business Council as we celebrate 30 years since its establishment in the UAE, positioning us as one of the oldest councils in the country. Over three decades, we've stood as a beacon of collaboration and innovation, fostering economic ties, promoting cultural exchange, and forging lasting friendships between Sweden and the UAE.

"This achievement is a testament to the dedication and brilliance of all involved. With a growing UAE economy, our network has expanded to 125 corporate members and 240 individuals with Swedish roots, amplifying our impact. Through our events and dialogues, we continue to create value, inspiring networks, business-driven platforms, and shared knowledge.

"I am honoured to lead such a fantastic organisation, and I look forward to our continued success in the years ahead. Together, let us embrace the future with optimism, determination, and a shared commitment to excellence.”

Sweden’s commitment to innovation and entrepreneurship has also seen the country emerge as a global leader in the start-up ecosystem, boasting more start-up unicorns per capita than any region outside Silicon Valley. This spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship further strengthens the bilateral ties, opening doors for collaborative ventures and joint initiatives between Swedish and Emirati enterprises.

Mauro Felice, SVP & Head of Middle East, India, Israel & Africa Region, states, "This year heralds a significant milestone in the Assa Abloy narrative with the launch of our Dubai One headquarters — a testament to our unwavering commitment to innovation and excellence. The inauguration, graced by the presence of Dr Thani Bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Trade, and Ambassador Fredrik Florén, Ambassador of Sweden to the UAE, not only reaffirms our strong dedication to the region but also underscores our leadership in advancing security solutions across the region."

Niels Hougaard, Managing Director, Tetra Pak Arabia, says, "On this auspicious occassion, we congratulate the Swedish Business Council on the 30th Jubilee in the UAE and acknowledge their role for being a foundational pillar for Swedish businesses that have been thriving in the country and the region. We look forward to further collaboration and a solidified partnership in the next 30 years where we will be expanding our sustainability and innovation footprint."

Thomas Lundgren, Founder & CEO, THE One Total Home Experience, says, “In 1994, my family and I embarked on a journey to Dubai to start THE One, unknowingly laying a foundation for a vibrant network of Swedish entrepreneurs through the Swedish Business Council in the UAE. Over the past 30 years, this community has been crucial, offering support and fostering connections that enhance our business ventures and expatriate experiences alike, continuously inspiring us all.”

Massoud Biouki, Trade Commissioner of Sweden to the UAE, says, "Sweden and the UAE boast a long and prosperous trade partnership. For decades, our economies have thrived together. Swedish innovation meets Emirati ambition, driving mutual growth and a bright future for our bilateral relations."

As we celebrate these milestones, it is clear that the Sweden-UAE relationship is built on a solid foundation of mutual benefit, respect, and shared goals. The ongoing success of this partnership not only contributes to the prosperity of both nations but also sets a benchmark for international relations, demonstrating the positive outcomes of sustained diplomatic and economic engagement.

Looking forward, the path is ripe with opportunities for even deeper collaboration, particularly in areas of innovation, sustainability, and economic development, promising an even brighter future for Sweden-UAE relations.