By Gavin Davids
Managing director, MENA, says emirate needs to differentiate itself from other knowledge based economies
Dubai’s next wave of investment needs to be in education, in order for it to compete with emerging world rivals like India, Singapore and China, the managing director of Accenture Middle East told Arabian Business.
As the UAE moves towards a knowledge based economy, which requires a smaller, but more skilled workforce, the education sector assumes a role of vital importance in training future generations of the country’s workforce.
“I think that the UAE has the potential to propel its education sector from primary to all the way up, much faster and quicker than in places like India and China, where the move will take a period of time,” Omar Boulos said.
“Do I think we can exceed India and China in terms of what we’re doing here? Yes, absolutely, I think Dubai could be a leading example. What’s required is making sure we understand where we want to be in 20 years,” he added.
During his address to the nation on December 2, the UAE’s National Day, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, president of the UAE, said that the country would be adopting a national strategy that would focus on youth and education. He added that the last year had seen the largest portion of the federal budget set aside for education.
Boulos added that it was essential that the UAE developed a knowledge based economy that differentiated it from other similar economies.
He said: “I believe that we need to find what differentiates us, because everyone can put up world class infrastructure if they need to, but getting differentiated world class infrastructure, both soft and hard, that’s critical.”
With over 50 percent of the population being expatriates, Boulos said that the government needed to take advantage of the skills of young expatriates, who have grown up in the UAE’s education system and nurture them into benefiting the country’s economy.
“I don’t think the government has a strategy, so to speak, to keep young expats here. It has to be part of the entire strategy; otherwise it’s just wasted infrastructure and investment. You always to have someone who understands, who has gone through your process, been through your education system,” he said.
“The key is, whether you’re a local or an expat, you need to be able to accelerate beyond [what is capable] within other countries, and this place is capable of that,” he added.
Boulos said that the private sector needed to take a larger role in setting out the agenda to the government so that there was a clear understanding of what the sector needed and the kinds of skills required.
“I think the private sector can start to become, or is, a large vessel where people are landing today. It’s reinvesting back into that education system, which the private sector needs to continuously do, that’ll enable our students to further develop,” he said.
With around $399m spent annually on research and development, Boulos said that Accenture was focused on working together with universities and local governments to develop the next generation of students.
“We expect to triple our local presence in the next ten months, expanding into the region. We’re extending our presence in Riyadh, we’ve already extended our presence in Abu Dhabi and Dubai and we’re going through a process to extend our resources in terms of numbers and we’re working closely with universities to attract local talent,” he concluded.
In the last year, the global management consultancy returned revenues of $22bn and recruited 64,000 people, Boulos said.
yes dubai should now look to education and medical facilities to emerge as a GCC & middle east powerhouse in the two sectors. It can establish its educational credentials by establishing campuses of world renowned universities and this will encourage thousands of GCC nationals & residents to study in Dubai, just like what malaysia is doing at the moment.
As I write this reply (while in Singapore), I only hope that more articles encourage such initiatives.
Unfortunately, for the past few years I tried reaching out and talking about this, but hit a brick wall as there was no "money making" involved and no one was willing to take a risk by " investing" in knowledge.
Let's hope everyone pays heed, now that a big time organization has announced it.