UAE consolidates status as global centre for digital companies, minister says

Dubai will host the Expand North Star start-up event next year to exhibit the country's competitive advantages and growth opportunities

The Expand North Star event aims to improve the pace of start-up entrepreneurship in the UAE. Photo: Dubai World Trade Centre
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The UAE, the Arab world’s second-largest economy, has “consolidated” its status as an international centre for top digital companies and unicorns — ventures with a value of more than $1 billion — from around the world, a UAE minister has said.

The Emirates has created the “best ecosystem for entrepreneurs, 'tech-preneurs', as well as start-ups to flourish and expand their impact on the world of AI [artificial intelligence] and digital economy”, Omar Al Olama, Minister of State for Digital Economy, AI and Remote Work Applications, said on Wednesday.

He made the remarks as he announced the expansion of the Expand North Star start-up event next year, which will be held from May 10-12 at the Dubai World Trade Centre.

“The event will offer an excellent opportunity for entrepreneurs, innovators and digital business leaders to connect with potential venture capital investors from around the world, while international unicorn founders can share their inspiring success stories,” Mr Al Olama said.

It will also act as a “strategic catalyst” to expand the future of the digital economy.

Omar Al Olama, Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, Digital Economy and Remote Work Applications at the Expand North Star announcement. Handout

The UAE has taken several steps to attract more digital companies to the country.

Last year, it unveiled the Entrepreneurial Nation initiative, the goal of which is to make the Emirates home to 20 unicorns by 2031, as well as attract and expand small and medium enterprises.

The country is also offering incentives such as access to finance and easier visa procedures to help technology companies move their operations to the UAE as part of the NextGenFDI initiative.

In July, Dubai also formed a higher committee for future technology and digital economyas it seeks to establish itself as a global centre for the future economy.

The eight-member committee will supervise the carrying out of strategies related to the digital economy and future technology in Dubai.

Last month, Dubai also launched a robotics and automation programme to support the development of new technology.

“Expand North Star will ramp up the start-up entrepreneurship momentum, transcending geographic industries and intellectual boundaries as it looks to connect government partners, investors and corporate accelerators with innovators and tech stars from every continent,” said Helal Al Marri, director general of Dubai's Department of Economy and Tourism.

There are more than 1,400 start-ups in the UAE with an estimated value of $24bn, and a further 90 investment funds in the digital sector, along with 12 business incubators, the Dubai World Trade Centre said on Wednesday.

UAE companies also held the lion’s share of a record-breaking $2.6bn in start-up funding across the Mena region in 2021.

The “digital economy is expected to be a major driver of the UAE’s sustainable economic growth, contributing nearly 20 per cent to the country’s gross domestic product over the next 10 years”, the DWTC said.

Updated: October 12, 2022, 10:31 AM