ESSA KAZIM

Dubai 2020 | FINANCE | INTERVIEW

The DIFC is taking a unique phased approach to deliver on Dubai's ambitious growth agenda while remaining focused on diversifying its ecosystem and advancing the financial sector.

Essa Kazim
BIOGRAPHY

Essa Kazim is the Governor of Dubai International Financial Centre, Chairman of Borse Dubai and Dubai Financial Market, Deputy Chairman of the Supreme Legislation Committee in Dubai, and a member of the Dubai Supreme Fiscal Committee. He began his career as a senior analyst in the Research and Statistics Department of the UAE Central Bank in 1988 before moving to the Dubai Department of Economic Development as Director of Planning and Development in 1993. He was then Director General of the DFM from 1999 to 2006. He holds an honorary doctorate from Coe College, a master's in economics from the University of Iowa, a master's in Total Quality Management from the University of Wollongong, and a bachelor's from Coe College.

How do innovation and technology intersect with the creation of an enabling environment for businesses and start-ups?
Technological innovation in the financial sector is driving economic development in the region by creating new opportunities and delivering great value to businesses and consumers alike. Since DIFC's inception in 2004, we have focused on creating an enabling environment for all types of businesses. Improving the ease of doing business provides young, bright local entrepreneurs the opportunity to establish and grow their companies by tapping into the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia region (MEASA). We also have a USD100 million fintech fund that provides funding to exciting new start-ups seeking financial support, not to mention an accelerator program dedicated to fintech scale ups, helping them grow through strategic partnerships. With its large young population that has some of the greatest mobile penetration in the world—21% higher than Western Europe—MEASA also presents significant opportunities for digital start-ups, particularly in mobile payments, which remains underpenetrated.

Seeing as nearly 20% of DIFC 2.0's masterplan is dedicated to innovation, can you elaborate on the significance of integrating technology and innovation in DIFC 2.0?
The center's success is being powered by our focus on sector diversification, investment in innovation, and our unwavering commitment to attracting the best global and local talent. This comes in line with the UAE's Vision 2021 that aims to diversify the country's economy away from oil. In addition, as a leading international financial center, the DIFC is one of the pillars of the development of Dubai Future District, which was launched by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. Our priority is to develop the future of finance for the region from Dubai. Growth will be a key priority in 2020, as the DIFC's expansion plan will support Dubai's economic growth and financial services sector for the next few decades. We plan to take a phased approach that will enable us to steadily deliver on Dubai's ambitious growth plan while remaining focused on diversifying our ecosystem and advancing the financial sector.

Having been named the eighth best financial center globally, how can DIFC's 2024 Growth Strategy help transform Dubai into the best financial hub?
Despite our successes, our relentless focus on being a world-leading global financial center will continue. We will continue to grow our global reputation for being a dynamic, vibrant, and technologically advanced business hub that will transform the future of finance. Toward this aim, the 2024 strategy will consolidate our position as a major global financial and business hub while supporting Dubai's overall strategic drive to diversify its economy. We are already making great progress in executing DIFC's 2024 strategy. Our numbers manifest delivery excellence, which aligns with the vision of our leadership. We will execute this vision of a technology and innovation-driven future of finance with the same passion and effectiveness. In the meantime, we are continuously tracking and assessing our performance against our 2024 strategy to ensure a seamless delivery of our ambitious plans to shape the future of finance.

Part and parcel of advancing DIFC is Islamic finance. How do you evaluate the advancement of Islamic finance in Dubai, and what is DIFC's role in promoting Dubai as its capital?
As DIFC progresses in driving the future of finance, Islamic finance and the principles that guide it will continue to play a significant role in supporting sustainable growth within the regional financial services sector. What's more, Islamic finance is growing 1.5 times faster than traditional finance, with almost USD1 trillion in Islamic finance assets based in the GCC alone. 6