The Business Year

Abdulla Mohammed Al Awar CEO, Knowledge Fund Establishment (KFE)

UAE - Economy

Abdulla Mohammed Al Awar

CEO, Knowledge Fund Establishment (KFE)

Bio

Abdulla Mohammed Al Awar was formerly CEO of the Dubai International Financial Centre Authority. Throughout his eight-year tenure in DIFC, he held multiple executive positions. Additionally, Al Awar is a board member of Emaar Development PJSC and the Emirates International Accreditation Centre. He is also a member of the Oversight Committee of the ENBD REIT. Previously, he served as a member of several committees and councils in Dubai. He holds a bachelor’s degree of science in business administration from the University of Colorado at Boulder in the US and is a graduate of the Mohammed Bin Rashid Program for Leadership Development.

The overarching goal of KFE is to help create a knowledge-based society and ensure the availability of education for everyone in the UAE.

What does sustainability mean to the Knowledge Fund Establishment?

Sustainability is a broad term, particularly for KFE. It is related to the fact that we continuously enable the growth of the education sector in Dubai. It showcases the cycle of developing the sector and, by doing so, contributing to the social development of the community and providing access to excellent education for everyone. The founding father of the UAE, HH Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, once said “A country’s greatest investment lies in building generations of educated and knowledgeable youth.” It is in this spirit that KFE supports the development of knowledge and education in Dubai.

How has the Knowledge Fund reinvented its strategy to become more sustainable and align with the country’s objective to reach net-zero by 2050?

One of the activities that KFE does within its strategy is to encourage our stakeholders—for example the schools and universities—to create a sustainable environment at their facilities. KFE has undertaken several initiatives in this regard, most notably a collaboration agreement signed with Etihad ESCO, a subsidiary of DEWA, in order to increase awareness amongst our stakeholder’s network and assist them in identifying and implementing energy saving solutions in their educational buildings. This initiative will be comprised of a series of workshops where Etihad ESCO will make the technology and the know-how available to schools and other educational establishments.

How has the pandemic impacted the Knowledge Fund’s vision to create a knowledge-based society?

The pandemic affected every sector, including education. Schools were severely affected, especially nurseries, which could not provide an optimal environment for children, unable to connect virtually. In general, we provided the support needed, such as commercial discounts on land leases, and helped owners to recover and get back on track. We learned many lessons during the pandemic at educational establishments. The pandemic changed the relationship with our partners, as the goal of the Knowledge Fund is to ensure the availability of education. At the moment, there are 38 operating schools, operating on lands owned by the Knowledge Fund, which is equivalent to more than 50,000 seats. Additionally, private schools in Dubai have recorded an increase of 3.5% in the enrollment rates of their students this year. The Knowledge Fund contributes to the vision of our leadership by introducing educational initiatives and subsidies to students, with more than 1,300 students benefiting from the Knowledge Fund’s subsidies toward education fees and tuition. Furthermore, in 2021, HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum announced the “Dubai Schools” initiative. The initiative aims in partnership with the private sector to build schools to provide quality education at affordable tuition whilst maintaining the highest global education standards, and it is a perfect example of a successful public-private sector partnership. Our partners, stakeholders, and government entities are the key to our success. When it comes to urban planning, they determine the ideal areas to build educational facilities. This makes Dubai unique because government bodies work together with private entities to achieve the same goal, and it also explains why the Knowledge Fund has been successful over the past 15 years.

How has the educational system in the UAE adapted to the challenges of this century?

Educational establishments, and the sector in general, have successfully adapted. The investor base that the KFE interacts with, in other words, our clients, are at the forefront of educational trends as they closely work with the regulator, KHDA to identify the market gaps and bridge them by providing educational services that meet the need of the growing population. Moreover, I believe the pandemic has shed light on the ability of educational establishments in Dubai to successfully adapt to the changing landscape in record speed by embracing technological advancements and embedding them into the education system.

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