The UAE's new initiative to attract digital companies has clicked

NextGenFDI’s launch in July has sparked an unprecedented response, but the work has only just begun

The DIFC will be home to UK-based agile software development company Godel. Ruel Pableo for The National
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During President Sheikh Mohamed’s first address to the nation, he placed economic diversification front and centre of his vision for the UAE. He cited a next-generational approach to growth, one focused on attracting and developing business to keep the UAE ahead of the technological curve.

It was a message that was echoed by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, during the launch of the Museum of the Future in February, when he said: “The coming two decades are set to bring about enormous changes that will reshape our world.”

NextGenFDI, a national initiative designed to attract the world’s most promising companies to the UAE, is our latest response to this emerging reality. Its goal is straightforward: to supercharge the digital economy, create well-paid jobs, and fast-track plans to become a diversified knowledge-driven economy primed to harness the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Under the NextGenFDI initiative, we are adopting an integrated approach towards supporting digitally enabled companies establish themselves in the UAE by fast-tracking applications and offering multi-dimensional assistance in areas such as relocation guidance, bulk and Golden Visa issuances, cloud infrastructure and affordable education for families.

We are working closely with all our stakeholders to ensure the smoothest transition to the UAE, a base from which digitally led companies can easily plug into a world-class ecosystem with great soft and hard infrastructure, and a deep talent pool. In a fast-changing world, NextGenFDI shows global businesses that we understand their challenges.

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The incentive to come and set up in the UAE are being recognised everywhere

It’s clear that as the UAE undergoes a digital transformation, the scope and characteristics of foreign direct investment must be revisited. Conventional approaches focus on metrics such as profitability, market-capitalisation and capital and human flow, but we are now also prioritising efficiency productivity, user experience and data insights.

Qualitatively measuring the success of FDI must also viewed alongside a nation’s capacity to provide a capable host environment. Attracting investment might be central to a government’s long-term ambitions to develop a vibrant, technology sector able to contribute to national GDP and transform service delivery in both the public and private sectors, but it requires a rounded infrastructure to facilitate wholesale digital transformation. High-speed internet and 5G networks, a reactive – and sometimes proactive – legal model, access to talent and the provision of easy-access business environments are all essential building blocks for an evolving digital economy.

In the UAE, one can press a button to order a courier or close a large mergers-and-acquisitions transaction just as easily as one can deploy industrial robots to inspect critical plants and pipelines – all on the same device. This spectrum of experience can only be realised when governments take a 360-degree approach towards supporting the digitisation its economy. This means having technology and varied infrastructure hard-wired into the ecosystem; an ecosystem where new companies and technologies are given the necessary support to deliver seamless experiences underpinned by data, information and insights.

This is where NextGenFDI aims to contribute. In July, the initiative launched alongside seven stakeholders, including financial centres, free zones and banks, all of which share the same mindset of creating an integrated experience for a foreign direct investor by entering into the market with a fast-licensing process, easy-to-access banking facilities, expedient visa processing and real estate support – and it won’t stop here. We continue to bring in more stakeholders from other emirates and offer other avenues of support, such as the onboarding of a next-generational school to deliver affordable education, and the region’s largest cloud services provider to provide the necessary cloud and digital infrastructure needed for foreign investors.

Since the launch of NextGenFDI, the UAE has been approached by other entities looking to join the initiative and help maximise its scale. The enthusiasm on the part of government agencies and private-sector organisations to contribute and make the UAE’s offer even more compelling is reflective of the spirit that Sheikh Mohamed referenced in his speech. In a word: partnerships.

Dr Thani Al Zeyoudi, Minister of State for Foreign Trade, speaking during the launch of NextGenFDI in Dubai in July. Pawan Singh / The National

In the coming weeks and months, we will continue to announce new waves of stakeholders that will elevate our offer and make the business of market entry even easier. Some of these stakeholders come from other emirates, broadening the benefits that the UAE has to offer. Others are private-sector entities wishing to contribute by providing access to affordable education, housing and digital infrastructure such as cloud and platform support.

In the first few weeks of the initiative, a host of digital and tech companies have been contacting us to learn more about the initiative and understand how they can benefit from it. These companies include Krush Brands, a full-stack food ordering and operating platform that has now decided to relocate its global headquarters to the UAE, transfer over its technology arm and create 700 jobs in the next two years. Joining them is UK-based agile software development company Godel, which will establish its regional base in the Dubai International Financial Centre and establish a 250-strong workforce in the UAE within two years.

The unequivocal response from the private sector is clear validation of the maturity and sophistication of our ecosystem – and faith at what is yet to come. It underlines that we are evolving from a regional hub to a global tech epicentre capable of competing with the principle international players.

NextGenFDI will contribute by complementing other initiatives such as the National Programme for Coders, which is offering Golden Visas to 100,000 computer coders, and the stated aims of establishing 1,000 new digital companies and boosting investment in start-ups more than three-fold from $400 million to $1.3 billion.

The incentive to come and set up in the UAE are being recognised everywhere. The value proposition is resonating but the work has just begun. We are focused on the next steps as we look to fulfil Sheikh Mohamed’s vision and build a diversified, digital economy.

Published: August 29, 2022, 2:00 PM
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