Complex Made Simple

Why are the French so interested in the UAE?

Government and business leaders from the UAE and France called for strategic cooperation between the two countries in the areas of innovation, mobility and sustainability, during the UAE-France Business Forum in Dubai on Thursday.

The event was organized by the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry in cooperation with the French Embassy in the UAE, Business France, and the French Business Council in Dubai.

In his welcome remarks, HE Hamad Buamim, President and CEO of Dubai Chamber, spoke about the strong trade and investment ties that the UAE and France share, and noted that there is plenty of scope to expand collaboration to new sectors and areas such as smart city solutions, sciences and healthcare, block chain and other innovative technologies.

Read: Why the Abu Dhabi Louvre is a big French deal

Fana”techs”: French tech innovators in force at GITEX 2017

An innovative platform

Dubai Chamber’s President and CEO stressed on the importance of the Forum as an innovative platform for new partnerships between French and UAE businesses, adding that the event supports the aims of both countries to diversify their economies and develop capabilities in new industries.

Benjamin Griveaux, State Secretary to the Ministry of Economy and Finance, France, said that the decision of Emmanuel Macron, President of France, to visit the UAE on his first mission to the Middle East is not a coincidence, and reflects the strong relations between the two countries.

Griveaux noted that the forum provided an ideal opportunity for the UAE and France to celebrate their partnership and strengthen bilateral relations in the future, especially with Dubai Expo 2020 around the corner. He pointed out that mobility-focused French companies have been very active in the UAE, adding that a number of them are developing Al Maktoum International Airport, which is set to become the biggest airport in the world.

Read: Macron wins French elections: What it means for the Middle East?

Opportunity, Mobility, Sustainability

Three panel discussions were held during the event, which focused on the three sub-themes of Opportunity, Mobility and Sustainability, where industry experts shared knowledge and insights, and discussed prospects for future cooperation in these areas between UAE and French businesses.

The first panel discussion entitled “How to Nurture Innovation: Perspectives from UAE and France”, saw the participation of Hisham Al Shirawi, 2nd Vice Chairman of Dubai Chamber; Benjamin Griveaux, State Secretary to the Ministry of Economy and Finance; Dr. Noah Raford, Chief Operating Officer and Futurist in Chief at the Dubai Future foundation; and Idriss Al Rifai, CEO and Founder of Fetchr.

Al Shirawi explained how the UAE has adopted a holistic approach to fostering innovation which involves close cooperation between government entities, the private sector and academic community. He added that this model has served the country well, enabling it to accelerate progress in this area.

Providing long-term mechanism

Griveaux shared his view that governments have a primary responsibility to provide a long-term mechanism to stimulate innovation, and explained that market alone cannot fund innovation and needs government support through appropriate legislation and spending on innovation-focused initiatives and incentives.

“I’m surprised by the number of French entrepreneurs (in the UAE) – there are a lot. It comes back to French people being innovators. As you can see right now with what’s going on in France, if you have the right conditions for technology to blossom, you will have numerous French entrepreneurs. It’s the DNA of the nation,” said Idriss Al Rifai, co-founder of Fetchr and a panelist at the Forum.

Rich participation

The event also involved the participation of La French Tech, a movement for and by entrepreneurs backed by the French Government.

Members of the French Tech Hub Dubai also participated in the Forum and shared their views on cooperation between the UAE and France on nurturing innovation. French Tech Hub Dubai UAE gathered more than 370 people, from around 50 companies