Complex Made Simple

UAE Economic Outlook forum focuses on knowledge economy enablers and best models worldwide

The ‘UAE Economic Outlook 2015’ forum held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince and Chairman of the Executive Council of Dubai, concluded today after a series of high level sessions on optimising economic prospects in the country and expediting the march towards a knowledge based economy.

Organised jointly by the Department of Economic Development in Dubai and the Department of Economic Development in Abu Dhabi, the two-day forum held 16-17 December 2014 brought together over 300 executives from the government and the private sector together with economic experts and heads of various international and local businesses.

“With the global economy facing back-to-back challenges, nations are looking for innovative strategies capable of sustaining growth. While Dubai, and the UAE in general, remain resilient and determined to keep growing the present challenges have increased the need for a clear shift to knowledge based economic activity. The UAE Economic Outlook Forum 2015 and its focal points were of great importance in this context,” remarked His Excellency Sami Al Qamzi, Director General of the Dubai Department of Economic Development. “As a joint initiative between the Departments of Economic Development in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, the forum attracted international attention to the most important drivers of development in the UAE and gather intelligence on the road ahead,” added Al Qamzi.

Pariticipants at the forum shared their perspective of the UAE economy in the context of the prevailing global trends as well as their experiences and strategies in integrating the advances in knowledge and technology to governments and enterprises. The second day’s sessions were specifically focused on engaging the private sector to achieve knowledge based economy.

Professor Thorvaldur Gylfason from the University of Iceland highlighted the success of Nordic countries in converting their natural resources into productive and sustainable social capital while speaking at the first session of the day on international experiences and the UAE vision on building a knowledge based economy.

“Finland and Sweden outgrew their dependence on natural resources while Norway has managed its oil exceptionally well, chiefly through economic and political diversification,” Professor Gylfason said.

Paul Moreno-Lopez, World Bank GCC Programme Leader of Economic Management said that raising the profile of knowledge and innovation will create more jobs to complement the ongoing social, economic and political transition in the Arab world.

“Countries need to combine a national vision with top level co-ordination and bottom-up participation. Arab States especially should deepen and expand reforms in key policy fields, chiefly in education, innovation, information and communication technology and the business environment, to expedite the emergence of a knowledge based economy,” said Moreno-Lopez.

Olav Wicken, Professor of Centre for Technology, Innovation and Culture, University of Oslo, also spoke of the strategy adopted by Scandinavian countries and other natural resource based economies to transform into knowledge based economies.

Sami Mahroum, Director, INSEAD Innovation & Policy Initiative, speaking on the ‘UAE Road to the Knowledge Economy’ listed existing trends such as investment in advanced infrastructure, higher education & training, liberal policies on skilled expats and trade, special economic zones as well as tax and subsidy incentives as key facilitators of a knowledge based economy.

“The UAE currently has high capacity in majority of the drivers of knowledge economy, including access to technology, ease of doing business, high literacy, research and development instituions and access to venture capital. Total foreign direct investment in the UAE was $105bn in 2013 of which a significant chare went into knowledge-intensive manufacturing and services industries. Improved knowledge creation and investor protection can facilitate the UAE’s evolution into a knowledge based economy,” said Mahroum.

Elaborating the company’s partnership with local and international initiatives and institutions in translating knowledge into business advantage, Aysha Sultan Al Junaidy, Director of Corporate Strategy at DP World said that the approach has proven advantages in terms of creating jobs and opportunities for local businesses and communities.

“Our example shows that efficient, smart and sustainable transport and logistic ecosystems serve as vital economic lifelines and gateways, which not only deliver goods and services but also create prosperous communities,” said Al Junaidy.

Dr. Azza El Shinnawy, Director, Government Solutions in Microsoft, spoke of the company’s commitment to empowering youth in the UAE and to innovations in the start-up community, highlighting the various Microsoft initiatives such as ‘Fursati’ student-to-business employment programme, ‘DreamSpark’ providing full free access to Microsoft software for students and universities, and the opportunity extended to UAE students to compete in the UAE-level and worldwide ‘Imagine Cup’ event for innovations and ideas.

Al Qamzi, on behalf of the organisers, honoured the speakers for their participation and contribution to the success of the forum.