The Director General of the Western Region Development Council (WRDC), Mohamed Hamad Bin Azzan Al Mazrouei, is a busy person. He has just discussed bilateral cooperation with the British Ambassador to the UAE, Dominic Jermey, at the WRDC's headquarters at ICAD in the Musafah Industrial Area in Abu Dhabi.
"What we tried to explore was how we could serve our partners better. Basically we brainstormed how we could assist each other. The UK-based companies should know more about the region, and be made aware of the major contracts and projects happening here. Some of them are well-known, especially in the oil and gas sector, but we should explore other opportunities and learn from each other." Al Mazrouei says similar bilateral cooperation agreements are underway with countries as diverse as Korea, Australia and Canada.
Cementing the WRDC's growing international profile is the fact that the Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development has included it in its official delegation to Hannover Messe 2011 in early April, the largest technology and investment event of its kind in the world, with 145,000 visitors from 71 countries. The theme of this year's exhibition is ‘smart efficiency', which Al Mazrouei says presented an excellent opportunity to further position Abu Dhabi, in particular, as a holistic industrial hub.
Al Mazrouei began his career at the Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce in 1993, having graduated in aviation management and thereafter pursuing a Master's in global business management. He joined the WRDC in September 2006 as its first employee.
"Since then I have been steering all the development initiatives in the Western Region. One of our major successes over the period of four years has been developing the Al Gharbia 2030 strategy. This came about through the cooperation of all strategic partners in Abu Dhabi and the government, and the rest of the federal entities involved in the Western Region."
Al Mazrouei explains the function of the WRDC as "studying opportunities within the Western Region, coordinating efforts and projects and ensuring that all the necessary strategic resources are in place."
A regional planning committee was established in 2007 to dovetail with the Urban Planning Council (UPC) and the Western Region Municipality (WRM). "This committee will take a look at all of the projects submitted by private investors or the entities looking to develop the Western Region, and ensure these match the Al Gharbia 2030 strategy. At the moment we have memorandums of understanding with a good number of entities within Abu Dhabi." Al Mazrouei says all the WRDC's efforts are directed at providing better services to the residents of the Western Region.
"We have four main goals. The first, and the most important aspect, are the people of the region. We have to provide better opportunities for jobs to boost their living standards. Our second goal is to provide better infrastructure. We think the infrastructure available at present is short of being adequate. We need to put more into it. The third goal is we need to work hand in hand with the SMEs to develop the region. We have been working with the Shiekh Khalifa Fund very closely. The fourth goal is basically that we should let people know exactly what the Western Region is all about, and to promote it as a hub for development."
While the Western Region comprises 60% of the landmass of the emirate of Abu Dhabi, it only accounts for 8% of the population, amounting to 120,000 residents. Its oil and gas sector is also responsible for 50% of the emirate's GDP. Al Mazrouei says the WRDC is striving to maintain a balancing act between the traditional way of life of its residents, and at the same time to expand and diversify its economic base. This is being done by paying particular attention to the individual identities and histories of the seven main cities.
"Liwa is the old tribal city. About 200 years ago it was the capital of what was then known as Abu Dhabi," says Al Mazrouei. The city's main development area is sprawling and crescent-shaped, and will host the future headquarters of the WRDC.
"The first phase will hopefully start in mid-year. We are talking about a couple of governmental headquarters, mainly the WRDC and WRM. There will be a second and third phase. We have done three detailed plans for Liwa, Mirfa and Ruwais. We have chosen these ahead of the rest as these three cities need attention sooner than the rest, which are well established already."
Al Mazrouei explains that Liwa will be the administrative capital, Mirfa the coastal tourist centre and Ruwais the industrial heartland. "At the moment our strategic partners, the UPC and WRM, are working hard on developing detailed plans for the remaining four cities." One of the ‘quick wins' targeted in this regard is housing.
"Residential is high on the list of priorities. We know that the housing within the Western Region is lacking, so we are implementing some of the findings of the Al Gharbia 2030 sooner than the rest. At the moment there are a couple of mega housing projects. Some of them have been signed off to the contractors, such as at Sila, and some of them are at the tendering phase. Mirfa will be signed soon. Ghayathi is on the list, and hopefully Liwa will be awarded very quickly."
Al Mazrouei says a 700-villa project underway at Madinat Zayed, where 62 villas have already been signed over to the locals, will be used as a template for similar projects elsewhere.
"The main issue is that most of the houses were built a long time ago, and we need to push the infrastructure very hard to compensate for this and to address the backlog. We are basically implementing a plan whereby even the old houses get maintained more regularly."
In terms of tourism, Al Mazrouei says Ruwais and Mirfa, the main coastal cities, will be the focus of waterfront development.
"We know for a fact that the nuclear power plant will be in Baraka, which is about 40km to 50km away from Ruwais. Masdar is also developing a major hydrogen plant. There are also a couple of oil and gas sector expansions, so the area is developing very quickly and very heavily."