Attract digital FDI to help bridge the digital divide, UN forum says

Foreign investment into digital economies can accelerate developments in agriculture, tech, education, transport and other key sectors

One way to grow the digital economy and increase digital competitiveness is through attracting FDI, speakers at the UN's World Investment Forum said. AFP
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Attracting foreign direct investment into digital economies can help governments bridge the technology gap between developed and developing nations, a UN forum heard on Wednesday.

"It is more critical than ever to ensure the equitable distribution of gains from the digital economy between developed and developing nations," said Muhammad Al Jasser, chairman of the Islamic Development Bank, at the World Investment Forum on Wednesday.

"Digital FDI can be a powerful catalyst to bridge the digital divide."

By attracting digital FDI, governments can accelerate the pace of development in critical sectors such as AgTech (agriculture technology), education, FinTech, transport and others, the forum said.

The UAE has taken "concrete steps" to build a strong digital economy and identified various opportunities for digital transformation, Dr Thani Al Zeyoudi, Minister of State for Foreign Trade, said during the online forum.

Artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, health, smart transport, virtual reality and renewable energy are among the areas of focus for the UAE, he said.

The UAE government has also introduced measures to modernise its business investment climate, update existing laws and attract high-skilled talent from around the world, Dr Al Zeyoudi added.

He cited examples of the new rules allowing full foreign ownership of onshore companies, a new data law that will be announced "in a few weeks", the initiative to attract 100,000 coders in the country, the UAE's appointment of the world's first minister of AI and the Operation 300bn strategy that will transform the industrial sector through advanced technology.

International collaboration is "highly needed" to ensure that the right measures, investments, funding and support are in place to attract digital FDI, said Dr Al Zeyoudi.

"We are keen to collaborate with the World Economic Forum."

The UAE economy is expected to grow 3.1 per cent in 2021, the International Monetary Fund has said. That is higher than the Central Bank of the UAE's estimate, which projects the country’s economy will expand 2.1 per cent this year and 4.2 per cent in 2022.

The UAE is undertaking various measures to attract more FDI into the country. This year, it unveiled a new industrial strategy to boost the contribution of the industrial sector to Dh300 billion ($81.68bn) in the next 10 years from Dh133bn currently.

The country overhauled its commercial companies' law last year to attract more foreign capital and annulled the requirement for onshore companies to have an Emirati shareholder.

Updated: November 13, 2021, 3:56 AM