What is the UAE Centennial 2071 plan and why is it important?

The ambitious blueprint will ensure the Emirates' continued success in a post-oil world

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES -September 01, 2017: HH Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces (R), speaks with HH Sheikh Mohamed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President, Prime Minister of the UAE, Ruler of Dubai and Minister of Defence (L), during an Eid Al Adha reception at Al Mushrif Palace. 
( Ryan Carter / Crown Prince Court - Abu Dhabi )
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The UAE Centennial 2071 plan is the long-term government blueprint that sets out to make the UAE the best country in the world by 2071 – the nation’s 100th anniversary – and drive its diversification from oil.

Diversifying from oil, boosting other economic sectors and ramping up renewables to ensure a bright new future is something the UAE has been focused on for years.

Long before the Emirates hosted Cop28 in 2023, where an ambitious decision for the world to transition away from fossil fuels was agreed upon, Emirati leaders were mapping out a path for its people without the need for an income generated by oil.

Launched in 2017 by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, the centennial plan aims to enhance economic diversification, boost education and train the next generation of Emiratis who will live in a very different world to that of their great-grandparents.

Sheikh Mohammed said the plan was inspired by a talk given by President Sheikh Mohamed in his previous capacity as Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, which “charted a path and laid the foundation for the future of the UAE”.

So, what is the UAE Centennial 2071 plan?

The talk that launched the future

In March 2017, Sheikh Mohamed urged a new generation of Emiratis to grasp the opportunities before them and build a bright new future.

Speaking at the first Mohamed bin Zayed Majlis for Future Generations, he challenged young people to do better and create an even more successful country.

“You are better than us, and you have to be better than us – there is no option. You have to be better than your fathers and grandfathers,” Sheikh Mohamed said.

Sheikh Mohamed said the future would bring new and complex challenges but that the country was ready to plough resources into education.

“The UAE is going through a stage where the key component of our economy, which is oil, is coming to an end,” he said.

“We have to ensure the new generation is equipped with knowledge and science so they can represent our competitive advantage in front of the whole world. Our only choice is quality.”

Sheikh Mohamed spoke of engineering as one of the most vital skills for tomorrow’s UAE.

“We need engineering, we cannot have enough of it,” he said. “A career should be a profession, not a hobby.

Annual gatherings to set the agenda

It was announced from the outset that meetings would be held every year to prepare the UAE Centennial 2071 goals.

At the gatherings, UAE government entities from federal to local level discuss challenges and strategies, while also preparing a long-term work plan for the next five decades in the country’s development path.

It was envisaged the meetings would be held over two days and include workshops and brainstorming sessions on a range of topics from housing and infrastructure to geopolitical positioning and soft power.

These include important areas such as the country’s investment environment, its legislative system, attracting and developing top talent and co-ordination between different branches of government.

Also on the agenda were topics such as education, health care, digital transformation, housing, climate change and food security.

“The agenda will include several new ideas, and initiatives that aim to contribute to the success of UAE Centennial 2071,” said Mohammad Al Gergawi, Minister of Cabinet Affairs.

“Task forces will be assigned to follow up on initiatives and projects in various fields including social, economic, environmental, developmental, knowledge-based, infrastructure and more sectors.”

At the 2022 gathering, the We the UAE 2031 plan was launched to ensure the UAE stays on the development path for the next 10 years and builds towards 2071.

Four main objectives for future prosperity

The plan will focus on four main objectives.

First is to develop a flexible government with a clear vision, which prioritises the needs of the public.

Second is to invest in education, focusing on advanced IT, and establishing professionalism and ethics in educational institutions.

Third is to establish a diversified, globally competitive economy, while fourth is to consolidate the values of tolerance, social cohesion and respect in society with an aim to make the UAE the best country in the world.

Education is seen as central to the plan, including the encouragement of future generations to pursue careers in science, technology and other fields such as artificial intelligence to inspire a new generation of Emirati inventors and scientists.

Authorities have already established Mohamed bin Zayed University for Artificial Intelligence in Abu Dhabi to train the next generation in the field.

These skills will also help to diversify the country away from oil.

More details are expected in due course, but building Emirati values and ethics for future generations is also seen as crucial.

UAE must plant the seeds today

When announcing the plan in 2017, Sheikh Mohammed underlined that the world was “rapidly changing”. Governments needed to be agile and people had to prepare to deal with it.

“We must plant the seeds today for future generations to grow and prosper tomorrow,” he said.

“The world is rapidly changing, and we must equip our youth with the new tools, knowledge and skills needed to thrive in an ever-evolving environment.”

Updated: January 01, 2024, 4:30 AM