UAE a 'safe haven' for investors despite rising geopolitical uncertainty in Middle East

Safety, stability, business-friendly environment and robust growth momentum continue to attract investors to the Arab world's second-largest economy

The UAE is seeking more foreign investment in sectors such as AgriTech, manufacturing, FinTech, education and health care. Photo: Expo City Dubai
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The UAE remains a "safe haven" for foreign investors looking for a stable environment and thriving economy, against a backdrop of rising geopolitical tensions in the Middle East, experts at the World Investment Forum in Abu Dhabi have said.

"The UAE has a clear agenda to continue to grow in a sustainable way, we have not seen ... any concern by investors and we have a huge pipeline of investors that want to come to Abu Dhabi," Massimo Falcioni, chief competitiveness officer at the Abu Dhabi Investment Office (Adio), told The National on the sidelines of the event.

"The [UAE's] approach and strategy is to create a safe haven for investors to be protected. So during all the tough times, investors have found the UAE a safe haven to realise their ambitions."

Demand for assistance to do business in the UAE hasn't waned and Adio is offering companies benefits including financial incentives, value-creation, export facilitation and risk-management.

"We know that the geopolitical risk has increased, [and] it is important to help investors to manage that," Mr Falcioni said.

The Middle East is facing a fresh bout of uncertainty as the war between Israel and Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip, continues to rage on. More than 4,000 people have so far been killed as the conflict entered its 11th day.

The unfolding tragedy, civilian casualties and the siege of Gaza, which the UN says has become a humanitarian crisis, has dominated headlines. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has already spoken of a long war as his troops amass on the Gaza border for a full fledged ground invasion.

The mounting uncertainty about how far the conflict will drag on and the impact it could have on regional economies has added to concerns of investors looking to inject capital in the region.

However, the UAE's status as a stable and safe market for investment was also underpinned by experts at a panel called The UAE 2031: Growing Beyond Borders during the investment forum.

"The UAE generally has been one of those spots which have always been shielded, and will continue to be shielded," from geopolitical instability, said Dushyant Thakor, deputy executive director of the World Association of Investment Promotion Agencies.

The UAE has introduced business-friendly laws and regulations to continue attracting more people to invest, live and work in the country, Mohamed Al Musharrkh, chief executive of Invest in Sharjah, said at the panel discussion.

UAE announces world's largest CSP solar project

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"We are working together as one country regardless of what's happening all around, whether it's [regional] competition or geopolitics, we have our own agenda that we're looking to achieve," he said.

Sharjah's foreign direct investments in the first half of this year reached $198.7 million, jumping from $45.6 million in the first six months of 2022, according to data by FDI Markets.

Investors came mainly from China, Russia and India, targeting sectors including manufacturing, technology, start-ups and sustainability projects in Sharjah, Mr Al Musharrkh told The National at the sidelines of the event.

In 2022, foreign direct investment into the UAE rose to a record $23 billion, up 10 per cent year-on-year, as the country gained six places to become the 16th-largest FDI recipient in the world.

FDI inflows were directed mostly into energy and gas, health services, and the information and communications sector.

The UAE is targeting more FDI inflows into sectors including AgriTech, manufacturing, FinTech, education, health care and ICT, according to the Ministry of Economy.

Attracting further investment

The UAE, which has prioritised research and development in advanced technology, can "double-down" on attracting more tech start-ups, Laith Al-Bazirgan, head of business development for Mena at digital transformation company Endava, said during a separate panel discussion.

A faster transition towards renewable energy is another priority for industrial companies, said Simon Storesund, executive vice president of supply chains and business development at Emirates Global Aluminium (EGA).

"We have to go much faster on the energy transition and the country has tremendous opportunity in solar," he said. "We just need to speed that up because the [energy] needs we have at EGA is 10 or 20 times what has been done so far. The demand is there from our side."

Updated: October 17, 2023, 2:53 PM