Dubai FDI: we are witnessing a new wave of Chinese investment

Georgina Lavers
Georgina Lavers

On the eve of Dubai Week in China, Fahad Al Gergawi, CEO, Dubai Investment Development Agency (Dubai FDI), highlighted new investment opportunities in the emirate, and applauded the role of Chinese companies in furthering its programme of innovation

From an FDI perspective, which Dubai-based initiatives have stood out for you over the last few years in terms of effectiveness and reach?

The Dubai Green Economy Partnership and the Dubai Innovation Strategy have been the most outstanding, and far-reaching, among recent initiatives aimed at establishing a sustainable pipeline of investments into the emirate.

The Dubai Green Economy Partnership, launched by His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince and Chairman of the Executive Council of Dubai, aims to make Dubai a global gateway for green investment and trade. The partnership has brought together public and private sector players to accelerate investment in green trade and the adoption of green technologies, eventually promoting the transition to low-carbon economy in the region and beyond.

The Dubai Strategy for Innovation was launched by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, with the goal of making Dubai the most innovative and creative city. It is aligned with the UAE National Innovation Strategy, and since its launch Dubai has taken great strides in integrating innovation as a pillar of economic activity, investment and entrepreneurship. For example, the Smart Dubai initiative, whose target is to make Dubai one of the smartest and happiest cities in the world, has infinite opportunities for innovative technologies and service providers. The Dubai Future Foundation, founded in 2015, is another umbrella under which a growing number of innovative initiatives are being launched to position Dubai as a world-class centre for building the future.

How have you seen capital, technologies and talent being used to facilitate sustainable economic growth in Dubai?

Sustainability and technology are the guiding themes of growth strategies in Dubai. In fact, the findings from our ‘Dubai FDI Monitor’, the first city-based monitor of FDI trends, show that the majority of investments into Dubai in 2015 were in the medium- to high-tech industries.

The major investment initiatives in Dubai today place the stress on creating a culture that sustains growth, creativity and knowledge, and technologies of the future. The ‘Smart Dubai’ initiative, which aims to make Dubai the smartest cities in the world, encapsulates the vision of Dubai as a modern city where human capital and technology combine to sustain happiness and prosperity.

The UAE is aiming to emerge as a global hub of 3D printing technology. Dubai Future Foundation, which leads the emirate’s innovation drive, has formed a partnership with a US$100m fund to finance entrepreneurs and start-ups in 3D printing. The ‘Dubai Future Accelerators’ programme launched earlier this year by HH Sheikh Mohammed, under the umbrella of the Dubai Future Foundation, also aims to invite the most innovative enterprises from around the world to work with government departments to meet the most pressing challenges facing the world in the 21st century, chiefly in sectors such as education, health, infrastructure, transportation, safety and security, energy and technology and finance.

In what ways will Dubai Expo 2020 help bring about economic growth in the region and generate new investment opportunities?

Dubai Expo will bring in an altogether new wave of technology and business innovations to Dubai and the UAE, as well as the region in general. Dubai has already chosen innovations in technology and doing business as the thrust points of its development strategy. The Expo will bring further attention to Dubai’s acknowledged status as a place to invest and do business. Dubai FDI is in discussions with our partner institutions regarding varied business-related activities that our investment promotion strategies should focus on as we move towards Expo 2020.

Expo 2020 is also a unique opportunity for innovators and entrepreneurs to showcase their ideas and capabilities to a large global audience. More than 20 million people are estimated to visit Expo 2020 and diverse opportunities are being created for them to network and share knowledge, in line with the main theme of the event, ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future.’ The event, therefore, is an ideal launchpad for pioneering initiatives set in one the most prominent gateways in the world.

How can governments create new investment opportunities through multi-stakeholder collaboration and public-private partnerships?

The Public-Private Partnership Law introduced by Dubai last year is a significant step towards multi-stakeholder collaboration in achieving city development goals. Dubai is not new to public-private partnerships as the private sector has worked closely with the government across developing infrastructure and services in the city for decades. However, the new law streamlines the policies governing such partnerships and sets the template for a mutually beneficial cooperation.

Dubai’s position as a leading regional and global hub in itself is a promise for the private sector, much like the emirate’s success as a well-diversified economy. Diversification unlocked vast opportunities for public-private partnerships in Dubai, and the new PPP law would extend those opportunities further and expand them to new fields.

What kinds of Chinese organisations or projects are you seeing that are particularly exciting in Dubai at the moment, and in what sectors?

An increasing number of Chinese companies are operating in Dubai already. While a good majority of them have been in sectors such as finance, construction, retail and trade, we are witnessing a new wave of Chinese investment in information and communication technology in recent years. Dubai FDI and Huawei are partners in a ‘Huawei Innovation Centre,’ which will not only play a major role in Dubai’s Smart City programme but also in developing human capital as well as innovative technology solutions across enterprises and communities regionally and globally.

We look forward to more Chinese firms bringing in their innovations and expertise in various sectors. Chinese companies coming to Dubai will have the advantage of a unique access to 2.4 billion people – that is, one-third of the world population – living across the Middle East and its neighbouring regions. As the investment development agency of the Department of Economic Development, Dubai FDI can assist companies moving to Dubai to have a smooth landing and connect them to a network of growth enablers and facilitators in the public and private sectors.

'We are witnessing a new wave of Chinese investment in information and communication technology'

Fahad Al Gergawi, CEO, Dubai Investment Development Agency

How does the Middle East, and the UAE in particular, view the Belt and Road initiative? Which sectors look fruitful for collaboration between the UAE and China?

Dubai, and the UAE in general, have shown tremendous interest in the initiative from the very start. We support ‘Belt and Road’ because we see it as a perfect fit with our unique ability to connect communities by virtue of our strategic location between the East and West. As a vital link in global supply chains today and a competitive re-export hub, the UAE, and particularly Dubai, are critical as well as a great value addition in reopening the ancient trade routes between Asia and Europe.

What are you looking forward to discussing during Dubai Week in China?

We look forward to presenting the opportunities for Chinese firms to leverage Dubai as a gateway to high-growth markets. It’s important to maintain dynamic channels of communication between Dubai and China to fully utilise the vast potential for collaboration between the two economies. We look forward to taking our engagement with China to new area of sharing knowledge and expertise where we can utilise our respective investment potential. We will be signing a partnership agreement with the Shanghai Municipal Commission of Commerce and Invest Shanghai to strengthen co-operation and promote our respective strengths. It will be win-win partnership capable of taking Dubai and China towards a prosperous future.