Abu Dhabi Investment Office and Maven Global Access are unveiling a new programme to help US companies led by women and minority entrepreneurs to expand in Abu Dhabi.
The Access Abu Dhabi initiative – which will be launched at FinTech Abu Dhabi later this month – will serve as a gateway to the wider Middle East market, offering companies a number of tailored programmes to support their expansion, Adio said on Wednesday.
The programme is part of the emirate's strategy to double down on its efforts to support economic progress and convince global companies to set up their regional bases in Abu Dhabi.
Its ambassador will be businessman Kevin O'Leary, the star of the business reality show Shark Tank.
"As part of Abu Dhabi’s vision to support ambitious businesses cultivating innovative, globally exportable solutions, we are excited to welcome US businesses, particularly female and minority-led companies, to our enabling business environment," said Mohammed Al Shorafa, chairman of the Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development.
"Access Abu Dhabi is an empowering initiative reflective of the emirate’s inclusive nature and desire to serve as a gateway for business expansion to the Middle East in our increasingly globalised world."
The move comes as Abu Dhabi focuses on using advanced technology to develop its non-oil sector to diversify its economy and reduce its reliance on hydrocarbons. Adio is enabling private sector participation in the broader economy through public-private partnerships and by helping to attract foreign investment.
Abu Dhabi's economy is poised to grow 6 per cent to 8 per cent over the next two years, driven by government spending, the contribution from its financial services sector and foreign direct investment, Mr Al Shorafa said earlier this year.
Adio has unveiled several economic programmes, including a recent agreement with Emirates Development Bank to further boost foreign direct investment and attract more businesses to the UAE capital, and a partnership with tech accelerator Plug and Play to spur innovation in the industrial sector and attract more start-ups.
As part of the Access Abu Dhabi programme, curated delegations of notable Americans will gain an insider's experience of Abu Dhabi’s advanced infrastructure, hyper connectivity, competitive talent pool, lifestyle and myriad business opportunities.
These key groups will help to spread the word of the emirate’s advantages among their respective communities back home, Adio said.
In addition to Mr O’Leary, former Manchester United player Patrice Evra, former NBA player Metta Sandiford-Artest, NBA player Kevin Durant's mother Wanda Durant, Halcyon founder Kate Goodall and The Black Wall Street App founder Hill Harper will also be involved in the initiative.
“As an African-American hailing from Ohio, one of the questions I am asked most often back home is ‘what is it like doing business not only as a woman but a woman of colour in the region?’" said Sarah Omolewu, managing partner of Maven Global Access and founder of Access Abu Dhabi.
"People are often surprised and inspired when I tell the story of how female-led businesses from all over the world are thriving in the UAE and Abu Dhabi.”
Mr O'Leary said the initiative will "uplift entrepreneurs and enable them to scale new heights”.
"My entrepreneurial Lebanese mother taught me how to balance business ambitions with empowering others,” he said.
“This effort supporting women and minority businesses in their international expansion to one of the most innovative destinations in the world epitomises everything I have learnt from her. Having seen the abundant opportunities in Abu Dhabi, I want to work with companies and introduce them to everything the emirate has to offer."
The UAE and US have enjoyed strong ties for decades. The Emirates has been the top export market for US goods in the entire Mena region since 2009, with a value of $14.75 billion, according to the UAE Embassy in Washington.
The UAE is also its 30th-largest trading partner, according to the Office of the US Trade Representative.
In September, the UAE Ministry of Economy and the US Department of Commerce signed an agreementthat will boost co-operation in the areas of digital economy, innovation and entrepreneurship.