CAPITAL EXPECTATIONS

Dubai 2020 | OPPORTUNITY | INTERVIEW

Encouraging knowledge, the Islamic digital economy, and devising better Islamic standards to govern economic activity are crucial to achieving the center's three economic pillars.

Abdulla Mohammed Al Awar
BIOGRAPHY

Abdulla Mohammed Al Awar is the CEO of DIEDC, in which capacity he oversees the center's work. He also collaborates closely with DIEDC's stakeholders to implement the Dubai: Capital of Islamic Economy strategy through enabling private- and public-sector organizations to innovate and promote sharia-compliant economic products and services. Prior to his current role, he was the CEO of Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) from 2009-2012. During his eight-year tenure with DIFC, he leveraged his exceptional skills in strategic planning, operational management, and financial control to help develop DIFC into a global financial hub.

Looking at the three pillars of the center's strategy—Islamic finance, the halal industry, and Islamic lifestyle—how is work under each pillar progressing?
The three economic pillars of the DIEDC strategy were inspired by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, to transform Dubai into the global capital of the Islamic economy. The center's activities, initiatives, and projects feed into one or more of the three economic pillars to boost economic activity within each. Naturally, increasing the economic activity of Islamic economic sectors will increase the contribution of the Islamic economy to Dubai's GDP and help Dubai's efforts to economically diversify, further reinforcing the Emirate's position as a global Islamic economic capital. To complement these pillars, we devised three enabling pillars that are also part of the DIEDC strategy and provide the needed support to achieve our aim of boosting the Islamic economic contribution to Dubai's GDP. The first enabling pillar is knowledge, including research, education, and bridging the talent gap. The second is the Islamic digital economy, because we need to adapt to various trends that allow us to reach a wider audience more quickly and efficiently. If the Islamic economy sectors were to flourish, they would need to embrace technological and other innovative developments such as fintech. The third is the development of Islamic standards to govern economic activity. All 36 initiatives that have been launched feed into one or more of these six pillars.

How do you measure the ways in which the Islamic economy contributes to Dubai?
We have been working closely with the Dubai Statistics Center, a strategic partner of DIEDC, for some time now to develop the best ways to measure and quantify the contribution of Islamic economic sectors to Dubai's GDP. Initially, it wasn't easy to take these statistics and conduct an accurate analysis, since some of the sectors had experienced growth independent of the growth of the Islamic component. Therefore, we had to develop surveys and communications to gain a more nuanced perspective. DIEDC, in collaboration with other institutions, has been doing that for the last two years. Last year, for the first time, we issued the study of the Dubai Statistics Center on the contribution of the Islamic economy to Dubai's GDP. Measuring Islamic finance and internal halal trade in Dubai, the contribution to Dubai's GDP was close to AED31 billion as of 2016. In June 2019, we announced the new results with two new updates. First, the study was expanded to cover more than just Islamic finance and the halal trade, so some of the lifestyle components such as sharia-compliant food in hotels were measured, and other leisure activities were added. Some of the manufacturing was also measured, such as fabrics being produced that are used in sharia-compliant clothing. Taking into account the additions, the Dubai Statistics Center revised last year's study to make comparisons possible. Using the expanded scope, 2016 registered a contribution of AED39.9 billion, which increased to approximately AED41 billion in 2017, registering a growth rate of 2.4% and accounting for 10% of Dubai's GDP.

How does DIEDC coordinate this contribution to GDP?
We are committed to advocating for the Islamic economy and promoting Dubai as the global capital of the Islamic economy. In that regard, we work closely with our strategic partners to advocate for and implement various initiatives and projects. We also leverage our international network of industry stakeholders to ensure complete backing and support. For example, halal certification was unheard of three to four years ago. While most items that are imported into the UAE are sharia-compliant, companies did not go beyond in getting the halal stamp on their products. Now, a significant percentage of commodities in retail outlets are stamped with the UAE halal mark.