Abu Dhabi: The UAE is well-placed to tackle challenges thanks to the strong foundations laid down by its leaders and the culture of innovation they have fostered, Mohammad Abdullah Al Gergawi, Minister of Cabinet Affairs and the Future, said.

He was speaking at a keynote session, titled The Next 50 Years on the third day of the Global Manufacturing and Industrialisation Summit in Abu Dhabi.

“I think that one of the most important factors in the success of the UAE is that we have leaders who created a nation, who believed in the ability of the people, but who also were realistic within their society and within their surrounding environment,” Al Gergawi said.

The session also featured Khaldoun Khalifa Al Mubarak, Chairman, Executive Affairs Authority of Abu Dhabi and Managing Director and Group Chief Executive Officer, Mubadala. It was moderated by Simon Baptist, Group Chief Executive, EIU, The Economist.

Regarding the global economy, Al Gergawi sounded a note of caution: “The opening of regional markets is going to be good for us,” he said. “What worries me is not the opening up of our region, but the closing of some big global markets. Protectionism is what worries me. There is a bigger worry now in the global arena than there is across the region. We want regional economies to open up, and we believe that an open economy, regionally and globally, is good for us because we are very much a globalised nation.”

On developing a workforce of the future, Al Gergawi said the UAE was at the forefront of transforming education, to ensure young Emiratis were taught the skills of the future: “Our education has to change. Coding is going to be implemented across every single grade in the UAE, so that every student who finishes high school will be a coder. The jobs of the future will be based on coding, so we’re looking at a holistic view, bearing in mind that technology will change.”

On nation-building, Al Gergawi said: “We are a young nation, but also we are very ambitious. I think there is tremendous confidence in our nation building ability, and our ability to build human resources, infrastructure, industry and so forth, as a nation.

“From a desert with no infrastructure, the UAE has become a global player. Whatever we do in UAE, we do it with a passion to create a platform for the region to look up to.”

On the UAE’s visionary leadership, Al Gergawi said: “We live in a region that has leaders who lead countries, and leaders who take countries to places that even the population couldn’t imagine.

“If you look at the country in the early 1970s, we barely had roads. Today, we have a highway in the sky, with the largest international fleet, globally.”