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Fri 21 Dec 2018 01:27 AM

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Opinion: Behind every great nation are great people

It takes bold, ambitious and relentless men and women to transform a desert country into a globally-recognised powerhouse

Opinion: Behind every great nation are great people
Legal eagle Habib Al Mulla heads up one of the region’s biggest law firms

How can you measure what makes a country great? Some might say that it is gross domestic product, rate of employment, or social progress. But many will miss the most overlooked, underrated yet significant factor which primarily measures the greatness of a nation: its people. And so in this issue, Arabian Business took the chance to recognise the men and women who made a difference in the Emirates in 2018.

UAE: where legends are made

There is Huda Kattan, who proved to the world that you can build a $1bn beauty business in Dubai from a $6,000 loan in the span of just eight years, amassing over 30 million global followers and taking the local brand global with offices across the US, UK and Europe. Then there is BR Shetty, the healthcare magnate who established the UAE’s largest private healthcare provider NMC Healthcare across ten countries to treat more than 8.5 million patients a year, only to acquire a US-based antibiotic manufacturing factory through his pharmaceutical Neopharma.

There is Dr Habib Al Mulla, the former founding chairman of DIFC, who was turning heads as early as 1997 when he suggested the UAE’s long-term visa system and 100 percent foreign ownership law. Today, he is no less ambitious, having called for regulatory changes in areas ranging from consumer law to bounced cheques. In July this year, he urged investors to avoid negative feedback related to blockchain and cryptocurrencies, dubbing them ‘the future.’

Then there is Reem Al Hashimy, the UAE’s Minister of State for International Cooperation and Managing Director of Expo 2020, who is leading the completion of the Dubai site well before the mega event opens to 25 million visitors in two years’ time, while tech duo Mudassir Sheikha and Magnus Olsson created a ground-breaking ride hailing app that turned the heads of global giants including Uber and encouraged the rethinking of the region’s entire transport system.

This is without mentioning the likes of Fadi Ghandour, the founder of Aramex and executive chairman of Wamda Capital who continues to be a leading advocate for the creation of a start-up ecosystem in the region. This year, he launched a fellowship programme, Wamda X, to attract promising entrepreneurs from the MENA region with grants of $16,000 plus support including mentorship and a working space in Dubai Design District (d3).

And who can forget real estate titan and Emaar Properties chairman Mohamed Alabbar, who got the whole world to tune into Dubai as he built the world’s tallest tower, only to announce a few years later that he would break his own records with the $1bn Dubai Creek Tower in Dubai Creek Harbour. Emaar announced this year that construction for the project is on schedule, revealing nearby projects including the Sunset residences near Dubai’s Creek Beach.

Others include the audacious Sir Tim Clark, president of Emirates Airline, who laid out a vision in which robots would ID bags, place them in prescribed bins and later take them out of the aircraft. He said this year that Emirates is close to producing a walk-though security system that doesn’t require passengers to remove boots and belts and offload mobile phones and keys, turning the entire process, from arrival at the airport, check-in, immigration through all the way to the boarding gates, seamless and uninterrupted. Similarly, Helal Al Marri, director general of the Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM), helped launch Tourism 2.0, a blockchain-enabled marketplace that directly connects potential buyers to hotels and tour operators to enhance the tourism sector in the emirate and ultimately complete its goal of attracting 20 million visitors per year to Dubai by 2020.

And there are many more stories to be told of the forces behind the UAE, but while every year comes to an end, the same cannot be said for the ceaseless ambition of the people of this young nation.