SEA CHANGE

Sharjah 2020 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

The Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry is encouraging firms to undergo “smart transformation" when digitalizing their operations or introducing Industry 4.0 technologies.

Abdullah Sultan Al Owais
BIOGRAPHY
Abdullah Sultan Al Owais has been the Chairman of Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Expo Centre Sharjah since May 2014. He has been Vice Chairman of the Federation of UAE Chambers of Commerce and Industry since December 2014. He was head of the Executive Committee of Sharjah Institute of Technology between 2009 until 2012. He occupied several positions at the UAE Ministry of Economy and Commerce between 1990 until 2003, including secretary general of customs in the UAE. Al Owais has been vice chairman of the Arab Company for Agricultural Production in Sudan since 2007.

How would you assess the year in terms of business prosperity and economic output? What have been some of your recent achievements at the international level?

Sharjah's economy continued its growth in 2018, according to international credit rating agencies, as Standard & Poor's has maintained a long- and short-term sovereign credit rating in the local and foreign currencies for the Emirate at BBB+ and A-2, respectively. The rating agency has granted it an outlook of future stability thanks to its strong financial status and low exposure to risks, describing Sharjah's economy as diverse. Moody's has forecasted that the Emirate's GDP will increase by 2.9% in 2019, supported by the increase in capital expenditure, high oil prices, and gradual acceleration of the UAE's economy, pointing out that the economic power enjoyed by the Emirate of Sharjah reflects the significant growth of its financial dynamism, high per-capita GDP, strong competitive rates, and the financial balance of its economy. The Emirate's economic growth over the past year has been the result of cooperation between the various governmental bodies and Sharjah's private sector, with the unlimited support of Dr. Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qassimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, and the oversight of Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed bin Sultan Al Qassimi, Crown Prince and Deputy Ruler of Sharjah.

What are some of the major events the Sharjah Chamber of Commerce will organize in 2019?

A busy agenda awaits us in 2019, most notably taking part in the 11th World Chambers Congress, organized by the International Chamber of Commerce of the World Chambers Federation in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where we have partnered with the World Chambers Federation as sponsors of this key event, which attracts more than 12 chambers of commerce from around the world.

What are some of the biggest challenges investors in Sharjah are currently facing?

Most global business communities face various economic challenges as a result of global conditions that may affect international trade, supply and demand, or even consumers' ability to spend. We are an active component of the regional and global economic system, and we are susceptible to what is happening around us. However, we do take measures and steps that mitigate the negative effects of the global economic slowdown in order to enhance investor confidence in the Emirate's business environment and its efforts to spur business growth. A major challenge facing investors in Sharjah is their ability to utilize the latest technologies in their activities, as the Emirate is moving ahead with its future plans to harness technology to serve business and develop mechanisms, processes, and strategies that keep pace with Industry 4.0. Therefore, investors need to be flexible in dealing with modern technology and innovation in order to meet their customers' demands and changing tastes, while providing high-quality services to maintain their competitive edge. At this chamber, we are always investing in “smart transformation" and helping our members facilitate their work, saving them time and effort. We work to overcome any challenges and obstacles that may affect our members' and investors' competitiveness in Sharjah, in cooperation with the relevant bodies, by providing a platform for specialist business groups to discuss challenges and opportunities.

What are your main goals and objectives for 2019 and beyond?

Our strategic objectives for the near future include continuing to promote Sharjah as a regional and global business destination by strengthening our external involvement and utilizing our international network. We look forward to strengthening our role as a representative of the private sector and improving services provided to our members by supporting the smart transformation of everything we do. In the near future, we look forward to strengthening public-private partnerships by passing along the private sector's recommendations to the competent bodies. We also plan to continue this dialogue as a pillar of success and development and introduce our own contributions by proposing solutions and legislation appropriate to the private sector's needs.