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In: Insights

Reaching to the Moon: How is UAE transforming itself as a future nation?

UAE: Envisioning the transformation

The United Arab Emirates has come a long way since its establishment as an independent federation in 1971. Historically being counted in the oil-country category, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has been dramatically making its transition into being energy-focused yet finely attuned to technology. From a contribution of 60% to the country’s GDP, oil’s share has been falling since, from 37% in 2005 to further down to 30% in 2017. Oil has and will always be an indispensable part of the country’s economic policies and diplomacy. After the drastic fall in oil prices in 2014, it has served as a wake-up call and the UAE has since then acknowledged the volatility of the global market and readily invested in technological reforms to transform itself. Non-oil sectors like hotels and restaurants, retail, and services were a major contributor to the country’s GDP accounting for 72.3% in 2021. UAE is readily working towards diversifying its growth opportunities and reducing its dependence on the oil market.

Fig: Contribution of Oil to the country’s GDP. (Source: World Bank)

Government strategies to transition into post-oil economy:

The country has been advancing on several fronts in the post-oil economic strategy. The government has been instrumental in accelerating this growth. Launched in 2010, Vision 2021 has been able to replicate undeniable success. Under Vision 2021, the government has been able to garner investments and technological advancements, well twinned with raising living standards by ensuring the healthcare and education sector’s development. Setting forth bold and strategic plans for fostering development on several fronts, the government has envisioned plans and policies and laid out ‘Projects of 50’ in 2021, marking the completion of 50 years of the country. Under this banner, visa relaxations, economic agreements with 8 global markets responsible for 10 per cent of the world’s GDP and futuristic digital initiatives- UAE Data Law, 100 Coders Every Day, PyCon Summit- have been launched. UAE launched its visionary Centennial Plan 2071 in 2021, which lays a clear road map for creating future-focussed government, diversifying economy, quality education and building a happy, cohesive society. It is believed that this would further accentuate and receive attention from investors and innovators, worldwide.

Technology at the forefront to revolutionize UAE – The digital transformation:

UAE is clearly embarking on its way into the future with ambitious plans like delving into Artificial Intelligence and becoming the first country to create and fill in an AI minister position. UAE is the largest data centre hub currently in the Middle East and investments of up to $1 billion are projected by 2026. The Sharjah Research Technology and Innovation Park (SRTIP), built-in 2016, is now home to more than 240 companies. These companies are working on several technology-based projects ranging in specialities, including agritech, photovoltaics, 3D construction, mass transit innovation, AR/VR experiential centre and additive manufacturing. In April 2018, the UAE Government launched the Emirates Blockchain Strategy 2021 with a vision to transform 50 per cent of government transactions into a blockchain platform. UAE became the first Arab country and fourth globally in launching a 5G network. By the end of 2023, it is estimated that 16 million 5G smartphones will be operational in the region.

Digital transformation in the country has seen an upsurge ever since. Findings from a BCG report rank UAE 3rd, globally for digital government services. 61 per cent of UAE respondents revealed they use digital government once per week minimum, 14 per cent above the global average. Digital transformation in the healthcare sector has also been witnessed where the latest survey showed that 41% of respondents use video telemedicine.

Ease of doing business in the UAEAn evolving business hub

The UAE was ranked 9th in the IMD World Competitiveness Yearbook 2020, making it the only Arab country to maintain its position for 4 years in a row. Ranked 3rd in government efficiency and 7th in business efficiency, UAE surely poses a huge potential for garnering the interests of investors and entrepreneurs. Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) ranked UAE as the best country globally in entrepreneurship. In a favourable environment with no corporate tax and import/export duties, UAE’s 100% repatriation of revenues and profits, makes it an ideal place for business. The Entrepreneurial Nation project of UAE has proved to aid in attracting innovative companies for business establishment in the country. SMEs represent 94 per cent of the companies and institutions operating in the UAE and contribute more than 50 per cent to the country’s GDP. During the Expo 2020 Dubai, the Indian government signed the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) with the UAE to enhance bilateral trade, B2B engagement and explore investment opportunities.  

Maintaining its first rank in the MENA region, the UAE-based startups raised $1.2 billion across more than 150 transactions in 2021.

The Future Ahead: Reaching out for the space

In its future-oriented goals, UAE has shown ambitious growth to strategize its future in space. In February 2021, the UAE’s Hope probe reached Mars orbit, making the country the fifth nation to reach the Red Planet. UAE’s space agency, just 8 years old, has been envisioning plans on the ideals laid out in the future road map of the country with plans like establishing the first inhabitable human settlement on Mars by 2117. Space is readily seen as a potential for attracting innovation and investment to the country. By 2024, the UAE aims at sending 100% homemade lunar rovers to study the lunar surfaces and further use the data for scientific research studies.  

The UAE has laid down a roadmap for its future which is marked by milestones ranging from ambitious space goals, fulfilling UN Agenda, envisioning 3-D printing strategies, autonomous transportation technology along with environmental and sustainable initiatives. UAE has been readily manoeuvring its way into renewable and green energy resources despite being one of the

largest oil reserves. The country has been revolutionising the way developing countries were once seen as operational. At the global level, with its policies and diplomacy, twinned with futuristic ideals, the UAE has been looked upon today, as a global competitor and seems to creak the dawn of technological advancements.  

References: Al-Monitor, Financial Express, BBC, Forbes, Energy Tracker, Vision2021, Arabian Business, Zawya, Space News, The National News, U.AE, World Bank.