Interview: Sheikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, The Crown Prince of Dubai

Young, internationally educated, and an accomplished sportsman and writer, His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Crown Prince of Dubai, is a very modern ruler in waiting. Vision talks to him about his father’s influence, Dubai’s place on the world stage and the challenges of leadership

Q: Your Highness, the country recently celebrated its 40th National Day. What does the future hold for the UAE and Dubai?

A: The UAE will continue to evolve and develop, as will Dubai.

There is a strategy in place – a vision that will continue the legacy of our forefathers, and sustain our growth and development.

We will always seek to be a land of opportunity, offering peace, stability and security. We are very proud of what has been achieved in the UAE and Dubai during the last 40 years.

The new generation is young and dynamic, full of energy and enthusiasm, employing new skills alongside inherited knowledge. While wholly committed to the continued development of the UAE, to the pursuit of His Highness’s vision, we are also in a position to take our homegrown Emirati skills and know-how to the wider world and showcase our talent on the international stage

His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai

This incredible progress has been achieved thanks to our late Founders, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan and my grandfather, Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, and energised by the vision of the President, His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and my father, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

As a nation and a city, we look forward to the next 40 years with the same determination, focus, courage and belief that have led us to where we are today.

Q: Your Highness, you have called your father, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed, your tutor in life. What has he taught you?

A: My father is a constant source of inspiration, and I have learned a huge amount from him. He has many qualities, not least of which are wisdom and the ability to listen and weigh a range of opinions before taking a decision. Respectful and approachable, he is a humble man who cares both for his people and for the wider world, and appreciates the importance of his role and his responsibility to Dubai and the nation as a whole.

I would say it is from him that I get my sense of duty to Dubai, the UAE and the broader region – and to our people. It is also from my father that I have acquired my pride in my fellow Emirati citizens.

Perhaps most important, he has a vision for Dubai and the determination, strength of will and character to pursue it. Whatever difficulties we have encountered, nothing has swayed him from the continued pursuit of this dream, not even a global crisis. This is the mark of a great man, and his achievements are there for all to see.

Thanks to His Highness, I have come to understand leadership, and why it is important that we continue to strive to achieve his vision. I believe I have inherited his determination to achieve these goals. While there will surely be new challenges ahead, I will draw on the strength of character he has given me to overcome them.

My father wakes up every morning and asks: What’s next? What’s new? What can we do differently and better? His Highness has always embraced challenges, and that has inspired me and all our people.

In my role as Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of the Executive Council, I am dedicated to supporting my father in every way. I am working alongside him to ensure a sustainable future for Dubai, enhancing our global position as a financial, business and tourism hub.

Q: Dubai and the UAE have developed rapidly over the last 40 years. The environment in which you have been raised is very different than that of your father, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed. How important is your heritage and culture and how does it influence you?

A: Our Emirati heritage and culture continue to have a positive impact on every aspect of our lives.

Based on our past experience as a people, we understand how to overcome challenges. Not long ago, for our Bedouin forefathers, their focus was on the pursuit of food and water. For them, every day was a struggle. Today, we need to address very different challenges but, thanks to our past, we know those challenges can be overcome.

Emirati culture and heritage, and our values as a people, still inform our daily lives. Today, for example, the majlis is as important a place for the community to meet and discuss.

My passion for falconry, fishing, camels and Nabati poetry are all important in my culture and heritage, and so too is my love for horses and everything equestrian. These things come from my roots and, alongside my family values, keep me grounded and balanced in life.

Today’s Dubai is a model cosmopolitan city. That said, we continue to live in the desert, which remains the harsh environment it always has been, and it must be treated with care and respect – always with an eye on conserving our precious resources.

Thanks to our Bedouin heritage, Emiratis understand the importance of that balance. It is that deep understanding, gained from our desert birthright, which has allowed us to build the new Dubai. But our culture and heritage remain the heartbeat of the emirate, and will continue to have great resonance for each new generation.

Q: Following in your father’s footsteps, you studied at the Royal Military Academy in Sandhurst, UK. You then went on to the London School of Economics. How valuable was this international education?

A: Education is so important in life – it is the key to everything that follows. My studies here in Dubai, then in the United Kingdom, opened my eyes to a world of possibilities. Education, knowledge and understanding enable you to look beyond today to new horizons.

Continuing my studies overseas was important. It provided me with new skills and taught me how to apply them. It also gave me a deeper insight into why Dubai, the UAE and the Gulf region should seek to play an active role on the global stage, and what our nation can contribute in the international arena.

Sandhurst showed me the importance of self-discipline, commitment, virtue, responsibility, endurance, understanding, teamwork, and friendship… and the benefits of hard work!

With such a young population, education will continue to be a pillar of our development as a nation. It must always be a priority for us.

Q: What are your priorities as Crown Prince?

A: Like the nation as a whole, Dubai has already accomplished so much in such a short time. Under the leadership of my father and, before him, my grandfather, Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, we have built an extremely solid foundation for the future, with world-class hard infrastructure such as roads, ports and airports, as well as “soft” infrastructure such as our educational, healthcare and other service sectors.

Today, working alongside my father, my overriding priority is to support Dubai’s ongoing transition to the next stage in its growth.

How will we do this? First, by ensuring that the key sectors of our economy – including trade, logistics, finance, tourism and retail, as well as manufacturing and industry – are made even stronger, and even more competitive in this globalised age.

Next, we need to continue to focus on making Dubai the knowledge hub for a vast and vibrant market of over two billion people across the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia region – and even further, stretching into Africa and East Asia.

Dubai will do that by continuing to foster a spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship, supporting the development of the best ideas at home and welcoming to our city the best minds from around the world.

We know that the world is changing, and as a dynamic hub for international emerging markets, we need to keep pace with that change, and even lead it. So we have to continue to invest in education and innovation, and to encourage public-private partnerships.

All of that is critical to our success today and tomorrow – as a knowledge-based centre of global excellence.

Q: In line with that focus on knowledge, how do you see the education and knowledge of young Emiratis being applied today?

A: The last generation was mostly focused on putting in place the building blocks of our young nation. You only have to look around to see what has been achieved in just one generation: a myriad of multinational companies operating from Dubai is just one of the most notable examples.

The pursuit of the vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed has been strong. The new generation is young and dynamic, full of energy and enthusiasm, employing new skills alongside inherited knowledge. While wholly committed to the continued development of the UAE, to the pursuit of His Highness’s vision, we are also in a position to take our homegrown Emirati skills and know-how to the wider world and showcase our talent on the international stage.

Today, I see young Emiratis making an impact around the world in business, trade, sport and the arts. There are family firms from Dubai that exemplify our values and heritage, and that are engaged in global business. And there are Dubai-born companies, such as Emirates Airline and the Jumeirah Group, that are at the very pinnacle of their respective sectors.

We are proud of our past, but we are also proud of our present. And if we continue to achieve the rapid progress of our forefathers, our future will be even brighter.

Q: Can you tell us about your priorities as Chairman of the Executive Council?

A: The Executive Council focuses on a range of areas that are key to the future growth of Dubai, including, most importantly, formulating policy and implementing the vision of His Highness.

One area that is especially important for the Executive Council is its role as overseer for the provision of government services. In my capacity as Chairman, I am working to ensure that government departments are incentivised to meet new performance targets, which are clearly defined and measurable.

How do we do this? First, by introducing performance-measurement tools and service-level agreements for various government services, which are benchmarked against past performance and global best practices.

We believe that these kinds of initiatives will motivate public-sector staff to achieve the best results, while ensuring that they are focused on further developing our service-oriented mindset in Government while efficiently meeting the needs of individuals and businesses. This is important for our citizens and residents – and it is critical to our global competitiveness as a city.

Q: The global financial crisis impacted Dubai, as it did many other economies. However, the emirate appears to be back on track. What lessons have been learned?

A: Today, business, trade and domestic growth are all closely linked all over the world, and Dubai is part of the global economy; we cannot ignore that fact. So, yes, we were impacted by the financial crisis, as was every economy.

But thanks to the strategic vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed and what he has built here in Dubai, we have shown that with a clear vision, sound planning, patience, and determination, you can overcome adversity.

We have emerged stronger and implemented new controls to guard against future challenges. We now face the future with confidence, based upon the key economic drivers of our economy: trade; finance; tourism and logistics.

Now, as always, we are strategically positioned geographically, ideally located between east and west. This bodes well for Dubai in terms of international trade, especially as we already have world-class infrastructure in place and are poised to thrive amidst the shifting balance of global economic power.

Our greatest opportunities remain unchanged: to play an increasing role as the hub for global business and trade; to be a world-class destination for business, tourism and entrepreneurship; to provide the networks, amenities and services our people and the UAE deserve; to support, encourage and nurture our citizens; and to be a leader, and window to the world, for the entire region.

No doubt, there are more challenges ahead, some of which no one can predict. But I am more certain than ever that we have the skills and resilience to meet those challenges and overcome them.

I am confident that Dubai, which is blessed with an inherent advantage of being the geographic hub of over 30 per cent of the world’s population, will progress to the next level of being a global city leveraging its world-class hard and soft infrastructure.