By Nez Gebreel
The UAE will maintain its status as largest contributor to the MENA design industry in 2016.
The design sector has emerged on the international radar as an industry of growing importance, a vital source of job creation and a key contributor to economic development, estimated at $2.3tr globally. Across the Middle East and North Africa, we are seeing a mirroring of this appetite for creativity coupled with commercial value. In the region, design has always played a two-fold role by preserving and reflecting the rich cultural heritage of its people, and at the same time fuelling progress and innovation in communities.
Findings recently released through the ground-breaking MENA Design Outlook 2015 Report, a comprehensive analysis of the MENA design market commissioned by the Dubai Design and Fashion Council (DDFC), offer insights into the opportunities that lie ahead for the industry in the region.
The MENA design sector is on an impressive trajectory and has already achieved a significant market value of $100bn, growing at 7.4 percent annually, more than double the pace of the global industry over the last four years.
The sector’s growth is expected to continue outperforming the global design industry and by 2019, its contribution to the global design sector will reach 5.2 percent. The largest design market in the region with $27.6bn in design revenues, the UAE stands at the cusp of an exciting new journey as it makes significant strides towards building a dedicated design-centric ecosystem.
Thanks to the government’s visionary efforts to establish a vibrant creative community in Dubai, the emirate celebrated a number of major milestones in 2015. The region’s only purpose-built design district, Dubai Design District (d3), welcomed its first tenants and is now home to renowned design and creative firms as well as young talent from across the Middle East.
His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, issued a decree that established the Dubai Design and Fashion Council (DDFC), with a mandate to make the emirate the emerging design capital of the world.
DDFC has launched a multitude of initiatives for designers and creative entrepreneurs through collaborations with a diverse mix of stakeholders representing government, academic, not-for-profit and private sectors including the Dubai Culture and Arts Authority, Dubai Festivals and Retail Establishment, Al Tayer Group, Chalhoub Group, Tashkeel and Emaar.
The inaugural edition of Dubai Design Week, the city’s first celebration of design and innovation, took place at d3 with support from DDFC, featuring a number of art installations around the city and more than 100 events staged over the course of six days.
There are, however, a number of challenges in the market such as a lack of educational facilities, poor enforcement of intellectual property protection, and minimal prototyping and production facilities. In addition, there is still a limited recognition of design as a commercial service across the region, as well as limited platforms for designers to showcase their work.
Through initiatives that are being taken on behalf of the government, we are working to address these market gaps and further support the growth of the industry. DDFC is currently developing the strategy and plan for the Dubai School of Design, the emirate’s first higher education institution for designers that will draw students from across the region. New platforms to support and showcase talent are also being developed, with plans to re-launch Dubai Fashion Week in 2016. In addition, as d3 recently launched its “Creative Community” project, the district will continue to attract leading regional and international design companies to add to its roster of firms.
With the MENA design sector’s growth expected to continue outperforming the global design industry, the UAE will continue to maintain its status as the region’s creative hub. Complemented by the UAE Vision 2021 and by the government’s focus on the transition to an innovation-led economy, we are at an important juncture towards establishing Dubai as an international capital for emerging design.
Nez Gebreel, CEO of Dubai Design and Fashion council.