Interview: Noura Al Kaabi
How can Abu Dhabi meet the needs of media, both in the domestic market and regionally?
NOURA AL KAABI: Abu Dhabi’s location serves as a bridge between East and West, and as a result it is attracting companies not only from Europe and the US but increasingly from Asia as well, notably India.
Media businesses that come to Abu Dhabi are particularly interested in accessing more high-quality, cost-effective production facilities. Many are also looking for a strong regulatory structure, business services and access to capital. These will be key differentiators in the future as media firms choose where to set up operations.
This point is underscored by rising demand for Arabic content that is produced locally and relevant to Arab culture and values. The MENA region is currently underserved in Arabic content across TV, radio, print and digital platforms, primarily due to lack of investment in media production infrastructure and development of media talent.
With this in mind, Abu Dhabi has an ambition to become a regional centre focused on audio-visual production and digital media. To that end, Abu Dhabi is contributing to the sustainable growth of the industry in the UAE and across the region; developing Arab media talent by providing training and facilitating career opportunities in creative industries; and furnishing consumers with greater access to Arabiclanguage, local content in the Middle East.
What shifts do you see in demand for media production services? What are the causes and how has this influenced strategy?
AL KAABI: The fastest growth areas for twofour54 have been production services for TV, film and digital media, and we believe the regional market will grow at a faster pace than the global one over the next decade. This is driven by increasing GDP and consumer spending, population growth and on-going government support for creative industries. Within this we see demand growth that is expected to continue into the future for Arabic content, occurring across all platforms, but particularly in digital production and distribution. These trends have influenced our strategy to focus both on positioning Abu Dhabi as a centre for film and TV production, and on attracting fast-growing digital firms in areas like mobile apps, gaming, e-learning and e-commerce.
The shift to digital, though a global trend, is especially apparent in the Middle East, where the proportion of young people is high, internet access is increasing, and mobile and smartphone penetration levels are rising. The Arab world now has 125m internet users and 53m of them actively use social media. Every day 80% of the region’s internet users spend at least an hour on social media. Over the past decade, the Arab world has lagged the rest of the world in creating local-language content for digital media. It is important that content be in Arabic, but even more so that it is created in a place that is relevant to the culture and has a local perspective.
What is being done to improve the availability of human capital to support sector growth?
AL KAABI: More and more young Emiratis are now considering a career in media, which is very important as it will help Abu Dhabi build a sustainable media sector. It is therefore important to support their development so that they can acquire meaningful employment in the private and public sectors. Partnerships with media companies and digital incubators can serve as the means to develop sustainable Arab-led media businesses that provide highly skilled, long-term job opportunities based in Abu Dhabi. Both the tadreeb programme, which provides vocational training in areas like digital audio and video journalism, and the Creative Lab initiative, which focuses on creative jobs in film and TV, have been very successful so far in helping aspiring professionals take their first steps into the media industry.
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