Dubai set to become trading and smart manufacturing centre despite global challenges

The emirate is pursuing its D33 development agenda with an aggregate economic target of $8.7 trillion

Dubai is among the fastest-growing financial centre in the world and remains a magnet for investors. Reem Mohammed / The National
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Dubai is among the fastest-growing economies in the world, despite mounting global challenges, and is well positioned to become a global finance, trading and advanced manufacturing centre as it pursues its goal of doubling the size of its economy over the next decade, senior government officials have said.

The emirate has invested heavily in its infrastructure, including world-class ports and last-mile logistics capabilities, with its location at the crossroads of Europe, Asia and Africa able to open doors for businesses to expand globally, Dubai Chambers chairman Abdulaziz Al Ghurairsaid.

“Despite the global challenge, Dubai is still the world's fastest-growing economy,” Mr Al Ghurair told delegates at the Dubai Business Forum on Wednesday.

“Our unrivalled connectivity positions Dubai as one of the world's leading hubs for trade and logistics.”

Dubai is also among the fastest-growing financial centres in the world and remains a magnet for investors.

Greenfield projects in the emirate alone have generated a foreign direct investment inflow of $5.7 billion during the first six months of this year, he said.

The emirate, the commercial, tourism, financial and trading centre of the Middle East, is pursuing its ambitious D33 road map that aims to catapult it into the world's top cities by economic strength by 2033.

The economic agenda includes 100 transformative projects with an aggregate economic target of Dh32 trillion ($8.7 trillion), including the doubling of foreign trade to Dh25 trillion during the next decade.

The agenda also aims to boost the contribution of foreign direct investment to Dubai's economy to $177 billion over the next 10 years and add Dh100 billion to it annually through digital transformation.

“When looking at D33, the first thing to understand is global trends, to look at what we're seeing here in Dubai in context of what's happening in the world,” Helal Al Marri, director general of Dubai’s Department of Economy and Tourism, told delegates.

“We've seen great momentum across many industry sectors … [including] the new industries and technology and high tech [sectors] and we've seen digitalisation.

“We've seen growth here both through entrepreneurship and [government] initiatives … but also through many large multinationals setting up technology bases here.”

The growth of the manufacturing sector, one of the central planks of the D33 economic development agenda, remains a priority for the emirate.

However, Dubai does not intend to develop heavy manufacturing, “which is dirty” environmentally and consumes substantial amounts of fuel.

“We look towards our carbon-neutral goals; we don't want to do something in the next 10 years that we have to fix 10 years after,” Mr Al Marri said.

The emirate is more interested in smart manufacturing that relies on robotics and is highly automated, he added.

Dubai's economy has been booming on the back of strong trade and tourism and grew by an annual 2.8 per cent to Dh111.3 billion ($30.3 billion) in the first quarter, according to official data released in August.

It is forecast to grow by 3.5 per cent in 2023, after expanding by 4.4 per cent last year, according to Emirates NBD.

Business activity in Dubai's non-oil private sector economy remained robust in September as sales growth hit its highest level in more than four years amid improving demand.

The emirate's seasonally adjusted S&P Global purchasing managers' index reading rose to 56.1 in September, marking its strongest performance in three months, up from 55 in August.

Dubai’s economic ambitions are supported by the UAE’s wider growth plans aimed at building a knowledge-based, greener and more sustainable economy, Minister of Economy Abdulla bin Touq said in his keynote address.

An array of measures adopted by the government have improved the resilience of the Arab World’s second-largest economy despite the challenges of inflation, monetary policy uncertainty and slowing global economic growth.

“External factors have tested the resilience and adaptability of countries worldwide and have posed significant challenges,” Mr bin Touq said.

However, in the face of global economic uncertainty, the UAE has remained “committed to a specified set of economic diversification, openness and sustainability” goals, he added.

The UAE economy expanded by 3.7 per cent annually in the first half of the year, driven by strong non-oil sector growth amid a push to achieve its diversification goals.

Though at a slower pace than last year, the momentum of gross domestic product expansion is still robust, underpinned by 5.9 per cent growth in the first half in the Emirate’s non-oil sector, which now accounts for about 71 per cent of GDP, he said.

On Wednesday, Dubai also launched a Dh500 million venture capital fund that aims to further boost development of technology businesses in the emirate

Oraseya Capital, the new venture capital arm of Dubai Integrated Economic Zones, will invest in start-ups from pre-seed to series B stages to help ventures grow in the emirate and beyond in line with Dubai's D33 agenda, DIEZ executive chairman Mohammed Al Zarooni said.

The economic development agenda aims to support 30 private sector companies to achieve unicorn status – a valuation of more than $1 billion.

“Dubai offers a dynamic and supportive environment for entrepreneurs … multicultural and high-skilled talent pool … [and] helps start-up here to attract the funding they need,” Mr Al Ghurair said.

Updated: November 01, 2023, 2:33 PM