H.E. Saeed Mohammed Al Tayer and H.E. Sami Al Qamzi Image Credit: ABLF


  • Given its strategic geographical location, Dubai has emerged as the natural corridor linking Asia with the Middle East, Europe and Africa, says H.E. Sami Al Qamzi, Director General, Department of Economic Development. 

Dubai aims to become a major hub in the global economy and a preferred FDI destination in the Dubai Plan 2021. Would you have a strategy that addresses the current economic challenges and continues to showcase Dubai as the outstanding investment destination that it is?

Inexorable ambition, perpetual improvements, and a visionary leadership are the building blocks of our strategy and drive towards economic diversification and sustainable economic growth. This strategy has ushered in a period of unprecedented economic and social transformation of our society and our economy and made Dubai the regional and global financial and business hub. Today, five non-oil sectors make up 90 per cent of Dubai’s economy. These are manufacturing, transport, storage, communications, real estate and business services, wholesale and retail trade, and construction.

In recent months, the federal and local governments have taken steps to accelerate the rate of economic growth in the UAE through a number of initiatives and incentives. These include reducing, cancelling and freezing some of the mandatory government fees, a 10-year residency visa for investors and professionals, and a 100 per cent foreign ownership law. DED has also implemented a number of initiatives including increasing the flexibility of the licensing process and expanding the scope of the instant licence to all commercial licenses.

My sincere and deep gratitude to the ABLF for this Award. I believe this recognition is a testament to the determination of DED and its dedicated staff to apply themselves and contribute to making Dubai a magnet for domestic and foreign investment, a smart, sustainable city, and the preferred place to live, work and visit.

- H.E. Sami Al Qamzi, Director General, Department of Economic Development

These and other initiatives were instrumental in attracting AED28.2 billion in FDI inflows to Dubai during the first three quarters of 2018, an increase of 29 per cent over the same period in 2017. The number of FDI projects in Dubai has increased by 53 per cent over the same period in 2017. In 2018, DED issued 20,267 new commercial licences with a growth rate of 4.6 per cent over the year 2017. As a result of these and achievements, the UAE ranking in the 2019 World Bank Doing Business report rose to 11th in the world, and remained the first in the region.

While focusing on resolving current challenges for the business community, Dubai has also embarked on developing forward-looking strategies to be fully prepared for future changes. Over the last few years, there have been very active discussions, developments and execution of future initiatives covering block chain, Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things and the 4th Industrial Revolution. The formation of AREA 2071, Dubai Future Accelerators, Ministry of Artificial Intelligence and Dubai Data Establishment are evidence of our forward thinking and passion for innovation.

H.E. Sami Al Qamzi and H.H. Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahayan Image Credit: ABLF

How is the Government aiming to position Dubai as a global incubator for exceptional talent?

Dubai’s quest and success in attracting FDI goes hand in hand with its attraction of talent. According to the latest issue of the Global Power City Index (2017) – an index that evaluates and ranks the major cities of the world according to their “magnetism,” or their comprehensive power to attract creative people and business enterprises from around the world— Dubai was ranked the most attractive city for talent in the Middle East and in the 23rd place globally, ahead of cities such as Washington DC, Vancouver, Geneva, Madrid, Boston, Barcelona, and Kuala Lumpur.

But Dubai is not known for sitting on its laurels and the drive towards attracting and retaining talent continues unabated. His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and the Ruler of Dubai, announced in January this year eight principles upon which Dubai was founded and has been governed over the years. His Highness directed all those in a position of responsibility in Dubai to abide by the eight principles and devise mechanisms to ensure their implementation. In principle 7 in the Charter “A Land of Talent,” His Highness states: “We have to continually review and renew our policies and procedures to ensure our appeal to talented individuals. We must build the best environment in Dubai for the world’s leading minds.”

DED is fully committed to deliver on His Highness instructions and will make sure that the Department’s policies, procedures and every facet of its work and interaction are fully aligned with His Highness’s vision and provide the best environment for the world’s leading minds.

The Federal Cabinet has adopted an integrated visa system that includes the provision of 10-year visas to specialists in medical, scientific, research and technical fields and innovators. In addition, students studying in the UAE will be awarded five-year residency visas, and exceptional students ten year residency visas. The Cabinet has also announced changes in foreign ownership to allow up to 100 per cent ownership of businesses for global investors.

Ashok P Hinduja, H.E. Dr Maitha bint Salem Al Shamsi, H.E. Shaukat Aziz, H.H. Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahayan, H.E. Reem Ebrahim Al Hashimy, H.E. Eng. Mohamed Ahmed Bin Abdul Aziz Al Shihhi, H.E. Saeed Mohammed Al Tayer and H.E. Sami Al Qamzi Image Credit: ABLF

Dubai’s future is increasingly dependent on its alliances and interactions with its Asian partners. Why is the Look East policy important to Dubai?

Dubai has emerged to become a critical node in the global economy. The Emirate’s business-friendly environment, its state-of-the-art infrastructure, and its openness to trade, investment, people and knowledge provided the links to a foreign trade and investment network that currently reaches more than 220 countries and features a large number of promotion outlets for an ever-increasing portfolio of goods and services.

Given its strategic geographical location, Dubai has also emerged as the natural corridor linking Asia with the Middle East, Europe and Africa. And this role has gained more importance in the wake of the ever-expanding trade and investment ties between the UAE and India and China, and seizing on the opportunities provided by China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Indeed, the UAE is working together with China to promote trade and investment along the initiative’s route. The value of China-UAE bilateral trade in 2017 grew to $53.3 billion (up from $46.3 billion in 2016, an increase of 15 per cent), and approximately 60 per cent of this trade is re-exported to Africa or Europe.

In addition, the strong presence of Chinese banks in the UAE (including the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, the China Construction Bank, the Agricultural Bank of China, and the Bank of China have all established branches in DIFC) reinforces the deep and wide financial linkages between the two countries. Banks in the UAE could make use of the BRI to provide co-financing for the BRI countries, as well as seek public and private co-financing arrangements of BRI projects. Furthermore, high-level business opportunities are abound for Dubai firms that have built a worldwide reputation in infrastructure building, including suppliers of parts and components and raw materials. They can collaborate with Chinese firms outside China in much the same way as they have done inside China in the past.

How does Dubai plan to continue to be a crucial gateway for the $570bn two-way trade with Asia, Europe, Africa and the Rest of the World?

As I stated earlier, Dubai does not sit on its laurels. Early in January, His Highness Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and the Ruler of Dubai, announced his 50-year Charter that contains nine sets of projects designed to improve the quality of life, develop Dubai and guarantee a better future.

In project 1, “Dubai Silk Road,” His Highness’s vision is for Dubai to fulfill its destiny and become a hub between the east and west, north and south and a top destination for the world. DED is fully committed on delivering on His Highness’s vision; we are doubling our efforts alongside our business partners here in Dubai and across our overseas offices in Hong Kong, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, India, South America, and Russia to increase and diversify our trade portfolio. This is being achieved through enhancing our penetration of existing markets, and through developing new markets for our high domestic value added products and services. Companies from a number of sectors such as high-tech, food, construction, luxury retail and halal products are actively participating in these efforts and plans are underway to involve more businesses and more sectors.

We are also seizing on the opportunities provided by the historical visit of China’s President Xi Jinping's to the UAE in July last year and the signing of the “comprehensive strategic partnership” between the two countries to enhance bilateral trade and investment ties with China. Our ambition is for the UAE and Dubai in particular to become “the hub of the Belt and Road Initiative,” acting as a springboard for Chinese goods to be distributed across the globe and gradually increasing domestic value-added. Today, around 60 per cent of all Chinese exports to the Middle East come through the UAE, at an estimated value of $70bn annually.

The ABLF is a UAE-based leadership platform that has been in existence since 2007 and constantly evolves to embrace new ideas and opportunities that support the premise of an interconnected Asia. How does a platform like the ABLF strengthen the links between the Dubai’s vibrant government sector, private enterprise sector, and connect the nation with thinkers from the Rest of the World?

Dubai’s economic landscape has changed in dramatic ways and will continue to change in line with our leadership vision to make Dubai the global hub for innovation, entrepreneurship, trade and investment, and home to the happiest people on earth. All the changes that are required, past, present and future need strong partnerships between the private and the public sectors. These partnerships have played an important role in delivering programs, developing projects, and generating investment in new initiatives. Looking ahead, Dubai’s transformation into a knowledge-based economy requires adding a third partner to the relationship: academia. Bringing academia to the partnership is no longer a luxury, if it ever was; it is a necessity. Economic growth is increasingly being driven by innovation, and I strongly believe that innovation is the defining element of success in generating healthy and sustainable economic growth rates today and tomorrow.

It is within this spirit that earlier this year, we launched an initiative to add academia to our “Engage DXB Forum” and we look to all of our partners and the Asian Business Leadership Forum in particular to extend our reach to thought leaders in Asia and across the globe.

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