By Hamad Buamim
Despite a slower global economy and low oil prices, the emirate is well placed for a buoyant 2016.
Even though the oil sector contributes only 2 percent to Dubai’s GDP, we have been wary about the effect of low oil prices on the economy. I believe we have not been impacted as much as others because of the government’s conscious efforts towards diversification. However, we do need to tread carefully in 2016 and continue our efforts to explore new markets, diversify and strengthen our non-oil economy further.
More than ever, diversification is the need of the hour with a continued focus on crucial sectors, such as trade, tourism, logistics, and hospitality, and the government is very much aware of that.
I also believe that we need to focus on sectors that offer growth and investment opportunities. For instance, renewable energy, exploring new markets in Africa, Central Asia and Latin America, the Islamic economy and sustainable development.
In November 2015, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, unveiled the Dubai Clean Energy Strategy 2050, as part of our efforts to develop the ‘green economy’ and reduce dependence on fossil fuels.
On our part, we have been focusing on energy saving methods for the last 15 years, through retrofitting green buildings and are committed to pursuing this in the long run. We are also integrating sustainability across all our operations.
In the coming year, we will continue to focus on innovation, which has become the norm rather than the exception, for organisations, both government and private, in Dubai. The Innovation Index for Dubai Businesses, the first-of-its-kind index in the world focusing on the private sector, and the Innovation Lab, which aims to produce innovative ideas that meet the Chamber’s priorities in supporting the growth of the private sector, will provide the much-needed benchmark for measuring
Dubai Chamber is also promoting innovation through our existing programs, such as the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Business Innovation Award, which was launched in cooperation with the UAE Ministry of Economy, to recognise innovative businesses.
We must also take advantage of our strategic location, as we have in the past, to promote trade and investment. Dubai International Airport overtook Heathrow as the busiest international airport in early 2015, and the first eight months of the year saw passenger traffic close to 52.3 million passengers, up from 46.5 million passengers during the same period in 2014.
In the first half of 2015, non-oil trade reached AED652bn ($177.5bn). China continued to be our top trading partner with bilateral trade of AED90bn ($24.5bn), followed by India and the US. Our growth in logistics, especially air transport, has been crucial in promoting trade and movement of people.
From May 2016, Emirates will start flying four times a week to Yinchuan and Zhengzhou, China. The airline already flies to Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. This, again, will give a big impetus to trade relations between Dubai and China. Also, China’s growing interest in Europe and Africa positions Dubai as a major crossroad hub.
The visit of Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, to China in December 2015 further cemented this relationship with a historic $10bn agreement signed between the UAE and China.
The past 18 months have seen Dubai taking the first step towards being the global hub for the Islamic economy by overtaking other financial centres for listing Islamic bonds on its exchanges. Continuing our focus on the Islamic economy, we will be organising the Global Islamic Economy Summit in 2016. I believe the Islamic economy has immense untapped potential. For instance, the global Muslim market spent $142bn on travel in 2014, and this amount is expected to reach $233bn by 2020.
Islamic finance is also gaining momentum, not only in the region but also in other regions, such as Africa. The African region requires somewhere near $98bn a year to fund its infrastructure needs, and Islamic finance can play a major role.
In order to identify these opportunities and to continue with our strategy to explore new markets, we will be opening two new offices in Mozambique and Kenya in the first quarter of 2016. In the beginning of 2015, we opened our second office in Africa in Ghana, after Ethiopia.
With the theme, “New Drivers- New Partners”, the 3rd Africa Global Business Forum was held in November 2015 with the aim to steer the dialogue towards what will spearhead Africa’s growth in the coming years, other than commodities. The Forum helped us identify new avenues of growth and mutual cooperation between Africa and the Arab region.
Events are a very crucial platform to bring the various stakeholders together to initiate dialogue and provide an opportunity for networking.
In 2016, we will also be continuing with our Global Business Forum series by focusing on two new regions – the CIS and Latin America, which will be the first step towards building trade and investment linkages with those regions.
We will also be organising the 10th World Retail Congress in 2016 and this will be the first time that this congress will be held outside of Europe. For us, this will be a milestone event, as it will give us the opportunity to further promote Dubai’s retail sector and also showcase our strength as a world-class MICE destination.
Besides these events, we are also working towards bringing more international exhibitions and conferences to Dubai.
Moving forward, and despite certain variables that affect the global economy, we believe Dubai has all that it needs to continue its economic progress. With the Expo 2020 just four years away, coupled with a strong government, a resilient economy and an eye on the future, we can look towards 2016 with optimism and build on our goal of diversification.
Hamad Buamim, President & CEO of Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry.