Interview: Saeed Al Remeithi

In what ways is Emirates Steel adapting to global trade dynamics, and what regions are best positioned to support international expansion plans?

SAEED AL REMEITHI: World dynamics are changing due to technology, the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), trade tensions and protectionism. The global steel industry is not immune to these developments – especially the latter – and we feel the impacts in the UAE. Because of this, Emirates Steel is adapting to rapidly changing dynamics, balancing a growing export portfolio with an expansion of our domestic market share. One way we have done this is by diversifying our customer base. Currently, our products reach 40 countries, with the latest addition in South America. On the home front, we are aiming to increase our market share while lowering internal costs in order to be more competitive.

There are still factors beyond our control, such as rising raw material costs. Addressing these challenges provides an opportunity for upstream expansion, which will ultimately lower the costs of inputs. This would not only help ensure our production flow remains steady, but also allow us to offer new products such as flat steel and rebar.

How would you define the role of steel manufacturing within the framework of diversification?

AL REMEITHI: One of the reasons the company was established was to support the development of local manufacturing and to be a catalyst for small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) growth. Steel manufacturing is capital expenditure-intensive, requiring large investments in order to produce high-quality products. Given the international market dynamics, the local market is more important than ever. As all of our value-added products are exported, we are looking for ways to further support local SMEs and diversification. Because of this, we are looking to develop local demand for value-added steel products to help diversify the economy. The government is also heading in this direction, with its stimulus package and reforms aimed at attracting foreign investment. While policies are changing, the business community hopes implementation could be a bit faster.

What advancements have been made to establish Abu Dhabi as a centre of sustainable manufacturing and as a circular economy?

AL REMEITHI: Abu Dhabi is promoting sustainability and has been strict with implementing policies related to the matter. However, the private sector should look beyond the government and understand their own role in fostering a real, circular economy. We are essential players and must stay ahead of the game, looking to implement the most advanced technologies available. One example of this is hydrogen, which is now being tested in the steel production process as a replacement for natural gas. It is possible that in the next 10 to 15 years this may be the norm across the industry. By combining private and public efforts, Abu Dhabi will become a centre for sustainable manufacturing in the future.

To what degree can job creation and Emiratisation objectives be reached while ensuring local manufacturing is up to date with global trends?

AL REMEITHI: As the Emirati population in the UAE is only 10% of the total, the issue for us is not the quality of local talent, but the quantity. We must consider our human capital as a scarce resource and ensure that our future local workforce is ready to contribute to the economic development of our country. To meet this goal, we are looking to the 4IR, which is already under way. Abu Dhabi’s manufacturing industry needs to make sure that technology implementation improves not only their businesses but the community as well, in a manner that creates jobs while also adding the greatest value possible.