THE INVESTOR FIRST

Dubai 2018 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Fahad Al Gergawi, CEO of the Dubai Investment Development Agency (Dubai FDI), on investor service innovation, the Dubai technology advantage, and the future of FDI.

 Fahad Al Gergawi
BIOGRAPHY
Fahad Al Gergawi is CEO of Dubai FDI, Vice President of the World Association of Investment Promotion Agencies (WAIPA), and most recently led the formation of the Hamdan Centre for the Future of Investment (HCFI). Prior to joining Dubai FDI, Al Gergawi held senior posts with Dubai World Trade Center, Dubai Chamber of Commerce, and Dubai Holding’s Dubai Properties Group, where he led trade, industrial, and business development activities. Al Gergawi holds a bachelor’s degree from the United Arab Emirates University. He is an inaugural graduate of the elite Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum program for Young Business Leaders and a member of young Arab Leaders Foundation UAE chapter.

Dubai attracted USD7.4 billion of inward FDI in 2017, a 7.1% increase from 2016. What measures and policies have catalyzed this success?

There are many factors that have contributed to Dubai's success in sustaining and growing FDI capital flows despite a global decrease in FDI last year. First, Dubai's value proposition for investors is unique. Whether the investor is a multinational company, a medium-sized family business, or a startup, Dubai's strategic advantages as a city of the future, gateway to regional growth markets, and global business hub offers the right opportunities for growth and expansion. Second, Dubai has sustained its global ranking among the top-10 cities in the world in capital flows, number of projects, and reinvestment over the past three years. Last but not least, our strategic focus on future readiness has inspired a host of investor-centric innovative services. Today, Dubai FDI provides a portfolio of in-person and on-demand smart services that cater to the investors' declared and undeclared needs at every stage of their journey and experience. The Dubai FDI Monitor is a good example of Dubai's global leadership on providing an on-demand, Open Data platform to inform investment decisions. Our latest services to be introduced this year include a dedicated investor information portal and the first-of-its-kind FDI Policy Accelerator to keep pace with the shifts and transformations of industry, new business models, and new forms of investments (NFIs).

What is the significance of the sharp rise of technology and knowledge-based FDI that Dubai is experiencing? How do you assess Dubai's attractiveness as a global destination to invest in technology and technology transfer?

Our leadership has declared the UAE a global laboratory for 4th Industrial Revolution technologies, and strategies and roadmaps are in place for a smart city, deployment of autonomous vehicles, 3D printed buildings, and artificial intelligence, and the Dubai government will be running on blockchain by 2020. Moreover, digital transformation has increased Dubai-based businesses' competitiveness, productivity, and profits. Today, Dubai is already leading the world on FDI technology transfer and ranks third behind Singapore and Shanghai in FDI capital flows into AI and robotics, according to a recent FDI benchmarking study by FT Markets. According to Dubai FDI Monitor data, an average of 60% of all FDI projects in Dubai over the past three years have an advanced technology component, classified medium to high per OECD definitions

Dubai Plan 2021 involves the transformation of Dubai into one of the smartest and most sustainable cities in the world. What opportunities does this offer to international investors?

Dubai Plan 2021 is a strategic framework that encompasses all aspects of living and working in Dubai with clear social, environmental, and economic goals. Many economic sectors offer great opportunities especially in trade, logistics, tourism, real estate, and financial services. In recent years, healthcare and education have grown and matured exponentially, offering lucrative returns thanks to new strategies like medical tourism and population growth, and the attraction of international students as Dubai grows its global reputation of excellence in health and education. By hosting Expo 2020, Dubai is providing another platform for business growth and expansion for both traditional and new economic sectors as we see increasing activity in the digital, startup, creative, and sharing economies, driving entrepreneurship and increasing FDI flows into research, development, and innovation.

How do you see Dubai's international leadership in what is known as “the future industry"?

Dubai is the most diversified and knowledge-based economy in the MENA region. This achievement wouldn't have been possible without a leadership vision of the future. Leading “the future industry" is deeply grounded in how Dubai anticipated change and shaped its own future. Today, the Dubai 10X program is at the heart of this transformation, with a clear objective to put Dubai 10 years ahead of any other city in the world. Dubai provides a rare opportunity for global business leaders, forward-thinking companies, and entrepreneurs to shape the future of cities and the way we work, live, learn, and play.

What is your outlook for the year ahead?

We remain positive about the outlook for FDI inflows to Dubai in the coming years, thanks to having the leadership vision and guidance to continually improve on the business environment and provide the economic incentives that enhance business sector sustainability, competitiveness, and productivity. Dubai also enjoys a high level of investor confidence and a true partnership between the public and private sectors. This partnership creates new FDI opportunities and facilitates the flow of capital, technology, knowledge, and talent into productive assets that enhance Dubai's economic sustainability and competitiveness.