Very few countries can lay claim to a GDP not far off $800 billion, a logistical portfolio that contains some of the world’s busiest waterways and ports, a vast young and educated population and natural resources as diverse as oil and gas, gold, silica sand and renewable energy.
Yesterday, three countries in the Middle East, the UAE, Egypt and Jordan, came together as part of a new industrial strategy to pool such assets and create one of the most profitable multilateral frameworks to come out of the region in recent years, further integrating some of the most important alliances in the Middle East.
Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs, said: “Industry is the backbone of large economies and we are confident that the UAE, with what it has from resources, active policies, a will for development and advanced technology and advanced logistical infrastructure, is capable of building a strong economic foundation to benefit from the industrial partnership between the countries of the region.” He stressed that this partnership presents promising opportunities for future generations in the region.
The Industrial Partnership for Sustainable Economic Growth includes a $10bn investment fund, which will help advance prosperity by focusing on priority industrial sectors, such as agriculture, pharmaceuticals and minerals, all of which have been chosen for their growth potential and ability to bolster a cross-border industrial base.
At the announcement of the initiative, Dr Sultan Al Jaber, Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology, drew on a number of examples. “In the field of agriculture and food, we have an opportunity to increase the production of wheat and corn in the three countries from 16.5 million tons to about 30 million tonnes annually.”
Highly profitable, agriculture also plays a key role in the very security of the region, which currently finds itself navigating one of the toughest food markets in decades caused in large part by the war in Ukraine. In the background, rising temperatures, water shortages and desertification make investment in agricultural technologies even more important. Egypt in particular has a historic farming tradition, which has sustained its economy for millennia. Now, new investment can help keep the country a farming power of the region. Egypt also has some of the region’s best universities, particularly when it comes to medicine and engineering.
Jordan has a young and increasingly resilient and competitive economy to contribute. Earlier this month, the country was praised by the IMF for its efforts to build a stronger economy, which has been rebounding steadily since the huge challenge of the pandemic - by 2.1 per cent in the first nine months of 2021 to be precise. Below ground, Jordan has a huge array of minerals, including phosphates, gypsum (a fertiliser), copper and stones such as marble and limestone. With such a young population, the IT sector has great potential, too, accounting for more than 80,000 jobs and 12 per cent of GDP.
For the UAE’s part, all these pieces of the puzzle and many more can come together in the region’s, and indeed one of the world’s, most diverse, competitive and tolerant societies. The logistical and supply chain contribution of the Emirates is vast, with key ports and airports offering quick access to much of the world. The government has also made preparation for future challenges and opportunities a priority for years, from its golden visas to bring in talent, government support for key future-focused industries, the emphasis on sustainability and the environment to even creating a museum dedicated to tomorrow, the Museum of the Future.
Industry, as much as it was responsible for raising living standards in past centuries, will be a crucial part of doing so for the Middle East going forward. At the heart of the new multilateral strategy is preparing for a changing idea of what industry entails in the 21st century. It is incumbent upon governments to prepare for these days ahead and build societies that are stable, prosperous and tolerant.