The UAE's economic horizons broadened in 2022, and more is in prospect

Next year the country will follow in the footsteps of Dubai Expo, in hosting the climate conference Cop28

A general view of Dubai, UAE. Reuters
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At the 2015 World Government Summit, President Sheikh Mohamed said: “We think and plan for the next 50 years, and for the benefit of next generations, by building a diversified, solid and sustainable economy that does not depend only on traditional resources, and opens promising prospects that contribute to strengthen the foundations and capabilities of the nation.”

Since those words nearly eight years ago, our national aspirations have been continually refined into focused, actionable plans, resulting in new trade and investment records as we chart a new, accelerated economic development path.

But while huge progress has been made, this is a nation that looks at achievements as milestones on a journey of continuous improvement. We are always looking at what comes next. This month, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, launched the government’s new national vision, “We The UAE 2031”, saying that the country will “maintain its position as an economic destination and focus on strengthening the UAE’s economic partnerships with the world and consolidating its development model".

The ambition of the words is matched by the scale of the numbers involved. Over the next nine years, we aim to double the gross national product to Dh3 trillion ($810 billion), raise the value of non-oil foreign trade to Dh4 trillion, raise non-oil exports to Dh800 billion and increase the tourism sector’s contribution to GDP to Dh450 billion.

We are confident we can get there. The total value of the UAE’s non-oil trade between January and September this year reached Dh1.6 trillion, a near-20 per cent rise from the same period in 2021. Exports are climbing as a percentage of total trade, and the third quarter non-oil trade broke previous records, topping Dh580 billion. The UAE’s foreign trade agenda is delivering unprecedented results – and it encourages us to stretch for more.

Our status as a major trade hub is at the heart of our economic ambition. In 2022, we signed our first Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (Cepa) with India, the world’s fastest-growing economy, and soon to be the world’s third largest, which has helped propel bilateral trade to $38.6 billion in the first nine months of 2022 – almost exactly double the figure recorded in the same period of 2020.

We have also concluded Cepas with Indonesia, the world’s seventh-largest economy in terms of GDP, and Israel, the “start-up nation” that is home to a dynamic advanced technology ecosystem.

Advanced negotiations are under way with a number of other fast-growth economies, too, which will significantly affect trade volumes, exports and GDP.

We continue to pursue Cepas with nations in Africa, Asia, Europe and South America and position ourselves as a driver of a newly invigorated Global South, and a fulcrum between East and West. We are a global market – and the gateway to the world’s fastest-growing economies.

Importantly, this activity is helping to attract new investments, new businesses, and new talent to the UAE.

According to the Institute of International Finance, the UAE will attract $22 billion in Foreign Direct Investment inflows by the end of 2022, the highest in the Mena region.

Not only are we leading in FDI attraction, we are also redefining it. In July 2022, the Ministry of Economy launched the initiative NextGenFDI, designed to attract leading advanced technology and Web3 companies to the UAE – and facilitate the development of a world-class digital ecosystem. In just a few months, NextGenFDI has welcomed pioneers in robotics, food technology, cloud computing, blockchain and fintech to the UAE, with dozens more 4IR companies from across the world actively signing up. This approach is more focused on technology transfer and driving long-term value creation than just attracting short-term capital inflows.

Throughout 2022, we have turned policy into results. The extent of our success is reflected in the latest UAE Central Bank forecast, which projects that the UAE’s GDP growth in 2022 will be 7.6 per cent – the highest in over a decade. With the International Monetary Fund predicting global growth slowing from 3.2 per cent in 2022 to 2.7 per cent in 2023, the UAE is now one of the centres of global growth.

We are also an international meeting point. In 2023, we aim to follow Dubai’s Expo success by hosting the international climate conference Cop28, which will be succeeded by the 13th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organisation in early 2024, when the leadership of the WTO’s 164 member states will gather in Abu Dhabi to shape the future of trade.

Momentum is on our side. As we approach 2023, and set our sights on the goals of “We The UAE 2031”, we can say with confidence: no matter the scale of the ambition, the UAE is already well on the way to achieving it.

Published: December 26, 2022, 4:00 AM
Updated: December 27, 2022, 5:44 AM