Interview: Sami Al Qamzi

How is Dubai working to maintain its competitiveness as a global business hub?

SAMI AL QAMZI: Dubai has strong economic foundations that make it a preferred location for more than 70% of Fortune 500-listed companies and contributed to its rank of 11th out of 190 countries in the World Bank’s 2019 ease of doing business index. We have now embarked on a new phase to make competitiveness an integral part of government work, implementing a number of policy initiatives in 2019 to boost the quality of knowledge, capital, goods, services and talent. These include reducing, cancelling and freezing some mandatory government fees, and promoting investment in knowledge-intensive, innovation-based industries that accelerate Dubai’s transformation into a sustainable and smart city. Dubai Economy has also implemented a number of initiatives, including increasing the flexibility of the licensing process and expanding the scope of the Instant Licence system to all commercial licences.

Which countries do you anticipate will drive trade and investment activity in Dubai?

AL QAMZI: The US, the UK, France, India and China have been the top-five source countries for capital investment into Dubai in recent years. The Dubai Plan 2021 and the Dubai Industrial Strategy 2030 have established a roadmap for transforming the emirate into a knowledge-based economy and a top choice for people and businesses. Initiatives such as the Dubai Blockchain Strategy and the Dubai Autonomous Transportation Strategy have also provided the frameworks for scaled-up investments in technology, research, innovation, advanced sciences and artificial intelligence.

Efforts are under way to expand and deepen economic ties with Asian and African countries. We have built on opportunities such as the historical visit of President Xi Jinping of China to the UAE in July 2018 and the visit to Beijing in April 2019 by UAE vice-president and prime minister and ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. As a result, major business deals have been signed with China, ushering in a new wave of investment. Projects include a 60m-sq-foot traders market that will be built opposite the Expo 2020 location and will include large logistics warehouses and wholesale retail outlets. Chinese firm Yiwu, among others, will invest $2.4bn to use the station for storing and transporting Chinese goods from the Port of Jebel Ali to the world. Plans for a $1bn “Vegetable Basket” to import, process, pack and export agricultural, marine and animal products to the world via the new Silk Road trade route was also announced.

Meanwhile, trade and investment between Dubai and India has grown consistently over the years. This is supported by a UAE-India bilateral agreement that is quickly expanding to strategic sectors. Dubai is ideally placed to be the most competitive re-export hub for foodstuff and agricultural products from India. Dubai Exports, the export promotion agency of Dubai Economy, has a trade office in Mumbai to enable Indian exports to reach new markets through Dubai. We are also witnessing a growing interest in Dubai from the financial technology and services sectors in India.

In what ways are the UAE’s new foreign ownership and visa laws opening up the domestic market?

AL QAMZI: The new foreign ownership and visa laws reflect the UAE’s continued drive to outpace competition and become a leading innovation hub. Long-term residency permits of up to 10 years will be granted to investors, entrepreneurs and specialists working in the fields of medicine, science or research, and also to outstanding students. The new foreign ownership law will grant 122 economic activities across 13 sectors up to 100% foreign ownership. These include renewable energy, space, agriculture and manufacturing. The laws will support Dubai’s smart city transformation by providing opportunities for scaling up existing operations, and attracting new investment and talent in technology.