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Shaping the growth of a nation: The UAE after 42 years of history and a promising future


By Ahmed Sultan bin Sulayem, executive chairman of DMCC, the UAE’s largest and fastest-growing free zone.

December 2, 2013 5:02 by

Today, we will be commemorating the 42nd anniversary of the UAE as an independent nation. Under the leadership of His Highness Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan (the late President and Founder of the UAE), the Emirates has embarked on a furious ascent in the world economic order – going from a small fishing, pearling and trading establishment to become an example of growth and determination, and the leader of the Arab world. It was the vision of the late Sheikh Zayed to unify the nation and establish a system of government that would encourage competitiveness and growth, and 42 years later, we still celebrate his visionary leadership and achievements.

The UAE’s transformation into a modern nation capable of contributing to the global socio-economic development has not gone unnoticed.  The UAE is now considered by the World Economic Forum (WEF) to be on a par with the most advanced societies globally, in the highest stage of development called the ‘innovative-driven’ stage. What is unique about the UAE is how it has reached its accomplishments, while the entire history of the nation is compressed in less than two generations. Many leaders of the UAE were born before the union was established and their traditions of leadership and success have been quickly forged through their insatiable thirst for development.

The UAE has been blessed with natural resources – extensive oil and gas reserves have paved the way for wealth and development. It also has responsible and visionary leaders that have always sought to leverage their present to build a prosperous future. A testament of the UAE’s economic prowess is its GDP growth that more than tripled in the past ten years to reach $375 billion. Currently the UAE ranks as the 28th largest economy in the world based on GDP and the 16th largest based on GDP per capita (according to the World Bank).

The emirate of Dubai has been a major contributor to the UAE’s economic vision by focusing away from oil and into diversification of the economy by creating a competitive business environment to attract foreign investment and skilled labour to the UAE. Under the leadership of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Prime Minister and Vice-President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, it has been the fastest-growing emirate, leading in diversifying the UAE economy.

His Highness established the Dubai Multi Commodities Centre in 2002 to be a centre of economic diversification. Building on the UAE’s geographic location and connectivity, DMCC has attracted clusters of commodity traders from different industries to relocate to Dubai. Precious metals, valuable stones and agricultural commodity trading are now significant contributors to the UAE’s economy and match the contributions from tourism and financial services. In 2012, when DMCC counted 5,000 members, it estimated its contributions to GDP to be in the range of $9bn to $12bn, which would represent more than ten per cent of Dubai’s GDP. Today, the DMCC is 11 years old, but it is already a milestone in the UAE’s history of success, emerging as the largest free zone in the nation and attracting 8,000 companies (of which, 95 per cent are new to Dubai) to invest and develop their business in the nation.

The UAE is already home to citizens from more than 200 nationalities; the fairness, openness and welcoming spirit of the UAE government and people make it a safe place to live and work for all. In a recent poll by the Dubai Police, 96 per cent of residents stipulated that it is a safe country, further re-enforcing the above notion.

The UAE has been shaped by its history and it would be difficult to project what is expected for the future without understanding where it came from. The UAE does not rest, it pushes ahead and runs over obstacles in a hurry just to find itself more driven and with a greater sense of urgency once it reaches its objectives. On November 27, Dubai won its bid to host the World Expo 2020 and while many would see this as the culmination of two years’ efforts, for those living in Dubai, it is clear that this is only the beginning of something new, an opportunity in the horizon to demonstrate the UAE’s ability to excel. In the words of His Highness: “In the race to success there is no finish line.” I wish the UAE many more fruitful years to come and I am more than proud that DMCC is part of the UAE’s success stories.

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