Interview: Badr Al Olama
What type of strategies are being developed to transition Abu Dhabi into more capital-intensive, high-tech manufacturing?
BADR AL OLAMA: By synchronising with the UAE Vision 2021, Abu Dhabi’s Economic Vision 2030 sets the strategy for greater investments in capital-intensive sectors such as aerospace and defence, aluminium, semiconductors and renewables to promote its economic diversification efforts. These investments, coupled with innovation and with research and development (R&D), are contributing greatly towards a sustainable and knowledge-based economy.
With a concentrated pool of young and talented Emiratis, several high-tech initiatives were established to create a robust manufacturing sector that aimed to be competitive, resilient and, ultimately, form part of a global value chain that is headquatered in Abu Dhabi. Each of these initiatives has positioned itself to become a renowned yet agile global player by developing and upskilling its workforce to compete globally, expanding its investments across the value chain and geographies, and simultaneously incorporating local businesses into its own supply chain. These early steps, which have taken place in less than a decade, set the scene for Abu Dhabi in its transition from an oil-producing economy into a global high-tech manufacturing hub.
In what way will hosting the Global Manufacturing and Industrialisation Summit in Abu Dhabi support industrial development domestically?
AL OLAMA: The UAE’s Ministry of Economy aims to more than double the contribution of the manufacturing sector to the GDP by increasing it from 11% today to 25% over the next 10 years. In 2015 GDP terms, this represents an estimated increase in investments of Dh250bn ($68bn) put forward towards manufacturing over a period of 10 years. With the Global Manufacturing and Industrialisation Summit convening in Abu Dhabi, we can expect to see a large number of international partners that would like to contribute and take part in this national vision. By bringing in the latest technology and systems, and working closely with UAE companies, these partnerships will increase production capacity globally while gaining market access in the GCC.
How can the aerospace industry further contribute towards non-oil GDP growth?
AL OLAMA: Aerospace is a high-growth sector that is global by nature. This means greater capital investment in technology and greater investment in people – driving innovation and exports, supporting local small and medium-sized enterprises and, most importantly, promoting skills development across all segments of the UAE workforce.
With such a foundation set in place, and the ongoing drive for competitiveness and efficiency, the UAE’s aerospace industry will further contribute to non-oil GDP growth by growing R&D capabilities in partnership with leading institutions such as the Khalifa University for Science, Technology and Research, and the Masdar Institute for Science and Technology. We can also expect to see greater investments in other aerospace manufacturing activities to capitalise on the experience gained and embark on developing new technologies that can spin off into other sectors of the economy.
Just like any other manufacturing business, the challenge remains in attracting enough engineering and technical talent to sustain our ambitions for growth. Manufacturing parts is not as difficult as developing a young workforce to design parts or industrialise a new manufacturing process. By hosting a Global Manufacturing and Industrialisation Summit in Abu Dhabi, we aim to make manufacturing an aspirational career for graduates and to also secure a greater share of the future workforce.
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