50 years since its founding, the UAE is a more creative place than ever

Abu Dhabi is investing heavily in creative and cultural industries, with big dividends

Abu Dhabi has been awarded ‘City of Music’ status by the UNESCO Creative Cities Network. Photo: DCT Abu Dhabi
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Human civilisation has existed in what is now the UAE for millennia. On December 2, 2021, the country will mark a milestone – the Golden Jubilee, 50 years since the founding of our nation.

This occasion will be commemorated with a series of celebrations that will bring us together as one, united community. Whether we are leaders, citizens, or residents of the UAE, whether we have been here for months or for decades, our 50th National Day is a landmark event for us all. It is an opportunity to reflect on how much we have been able to accomplish thus far, and to fix our gaze on the nation’s ambitious and exciting horizons.

This was the vision of our Founding Father, Sheikh Zayed. His vision for the UAE always encompassed constant innovation and progress, built on a tightly knit and welcoming community. These values remain foundational to the UAE’s past development and future goals across the diverse strategic areas that make up the UAE Centennial 2071 plan, and they are embodied in the recently announced 10 principles to govern this growth.

The first principle prioritises the strength of our union, while the second invites us “to completely focus on building the best and most dynamic economy in the world”. Every sector and industry has its role to play in turning this principle into a reality.

My belief is that investing in the UAE’s creativity, culture and heritage industries is vital for socioeconomic development and for creating sustainable opportunities for our next and future generations. Abu Dhabi initiated an investment strategy of more than AED 30 billion into its creative and cultural industries (CCI) five years ago. We are already seeing incredible returns in the strength and vibrancy of the emirate’s creative and cultural ecosystem – from preserving and revitalising important heritage architecture like Qasr Al Hosn and Bait Mohammed bin Khalifa, to delivering major cultural institutions like Louvre Abu Dhabi and attracting blockbuster global film productions like Mission: Impossible and Dune. In fact, today marks the release of Image Nation Abu Dhabi's Al Kameen, the largest Arabic-language feature film ever produced in the GCC.

With the majority of the CCI investment still to be rolled out over the next five years, the growth of this sector will soon accelerate even further, with the launch of major entities like the Creative Media Authority, which will oversee and enable the creative industries, and Yas Creative Hub, a purpose-built new home for creative businesses and entrepreneurs. In keeping with the values of the 50th anniversary, the Zayed National Museum, which will tell our nation’s story to the world, the Abrahamic Family House, which celebrates diversity and understanding, and Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, with its collection of transnational Modern and Contemporary art, are well underway.

Maintaining a deep connection with our ancient roots while embracing innovation and new thinking is the defining characteristic of the UAE – an approach that has seen the nation inscribe four Unesco World Heritage Sites and more than 10 Intangible Cultural Heritage traditions, while also becoming the first Arab nation to reach Mars through a ground-breaking space programme.

Hollywood blockbuster 'Dune' was filmed in Abu Dhabi. AP
Maintaining a deep connection with our roots while embracing new thinking is the defining characteristic of the UAE

This integration of tradition and progress is inherent to the CCI, a naturally multidisciplinary sector, and we are fully embracing it as the emirate continues to develop as a regional centre for all forms of culture and creativity. For example, establishing the Creative Media Authority will enable DCT Abu Dhabi to combine traditional cultural fields such as heritage, crafts and design, publishing, performing arts and visual arts, with multidisciplinary domains like film and TV production, popular music, gaming and e-sports.

I am particularly excited about our initiatives to support innovation-centric sectors like video game development. They offer an opportunity to tell engaging stories by and from the region, and even more importantly, open a new range of career paths for young people. For example, through a partnership with Unity Technologies, we are training students to code and create real-time 3D models that can be used to develop apps and games, while more than 200 aspiring filmmakers have been mentored to write or direct award-winning short films in Abu Dhabi’s Arab Film Studio.

Through our CCI investment, Abu Dhabi is expecting to create thousands of sustainable new career opportunities, attracting global talent while upskilling our population of residents. We are working hard to make sure it is easier than ever to start a creative business and access the support and talent needed for long-term success.

Our committed efforts in these areas aim to primarily benefit the young talent who choose to call the UAE home. This is how we are building capacity and turning Abu Dhabi and the wider UAE into a leading global destination for the next generation of creative professionals.

These industries are powered by the human imagination – creativity and innovation are sparked in pioneering young minds, with fresh, open perspectives on the world’s urgent and complex issues. They help to bridge conversations across industries, addressing critical topics like social integration, employment, education and climate change. We must meet these challenges with the inspired and lateral thinking that creative and cultural professionals utilise every day, echoing similar conversations taking place in schools, universities, workplaces, living rooms and majlises across the UAE.

Despite the challenges of the past two years, young people across our region are optimistic for the future, with more than 60 per cent, according to the latest Arab Youth Survey, believing their best days are still to come. I see it as our collective responsibility as leaders to rise to the challenge, creating opportunities for our future generations to thrive, express themselves and develop their careers in a sustainable economy. Investing in accelerating our cultural, creative and heritage industries is vital to realising this goal.

Published: November 25, 2021, 5:00 AM