UAE is focusing on the future with $80bn manufacturing boost

'Operation 300bn' prepares the nation for an uncertain global economy after the pandemic and beyond
Launch of the industrial indentiy of the UAE. Dubai Media Office

The UAE has announced a programme that seeks to boost the country's manufacturing economic output to Dh300 billion (over $80 billion), more than double current levels. The strategy includes establishing 13,500 new industrial companies and Dh57bn of investment in research and development. The overall aim is to create jobs, stimulate innovation, boost competitiveness and build strategic resilience by increasing the nation's domestic manufacturing capacity.

As part of the industrial strategy, products manufactured in the UAE will fall under a unified industrial brand identity for which the slogan "Make it in the Emirates" was also launched on Monday. "Make it in the Emirates" aims to create a sense of pride in locally made products, so that the "Made in UAE" label on a product motivates people around the world to buy it for its superior quality. This is another important aspect of the overall push to make the country's manufacturing base as competitive as possible on the global stage.

An economic reorientation of this magnitude will become all the more significant after the Covid-19 pandemic, although it is more than a response to the pandemic's effects on the global economy. It is a response to larger-scale changes that have been occurring in manufacturing sectors around the world.

Skyscrapers along Sheikh Zayed Road, skyline from Jumeirah, Jumeirah, Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Getty Images
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Without action the Middle East risks becoming a region that is left behind by this new world order

Globalisation and specialisation are inevitable outcomes of a technologically advanced world. However, domestic manufacturing is vital for economic diversification, competitiveness and developing domestic talent.

Operation 300bn, as the new UAE strategy is known, aims to build a local value chain that is firmly rooted in future-oriented industries. Aside from the obvious benefits to the Emirati economy and the UAE’s position as a global economic hub, it can help to distribute the rewards of the technological revolution to regional neighbours, through knowledge transfer, private investment and trade deals.

The UAE’s prime location for trade is a powerful factor. Geography still matters for manufacturing, even in the age of remote working. UAE airports are a single short-haul flight away from a large number of the world's most rapidly developing economies. In the coming years, these countries are expected to see the steepest growth in their middle classes – a total global rise of an estimated 2 billion people by 2030 – and, therefore, demand for consumer goods.

The prioritisation of knowledge transfer and production, a cornerstone of Operation 300bn, is key. The country has taken major steps in recent years to instil that principle in economic policy, by turning the Emirates into a more open and dynamic place for people from all over the world to live and work. Fostering openness as the country develops a world-leading manufacturing sector not only secures its future, but also gives a greater share of the global population a stake in the technological revolution.

Operation 300bn is a scheme that understands the need to respond to tremendous change, with an equally tremendous strategy.