The UAE is well known for its modern infrastructure, international events and status as a trade and transport hub. It’s political and economic stability, and fast-growing capital markets, contribute to its attractiveness as both a place to invest and to operate businesses with a regional focus. It has the most diversified economy in the Gulf, but Covid-19 has had a significant impact on the non-oil sectors of transport, tourism, hospitality, real estate and retail, on the back of a shock to the economy from the drop in global oil prices.
High levels of PCR testing have been key to the UAE’s Covid-19 management strategy and are closely tied to vaccination levels. In a population of 10 million people the UAE has now administered over 12 million vaccine doses and conducted more than 47 million tests.
The UAE’s long-term economic strategy is centred on diversification away from oil. This includes a focus on tourism, real estate, retail, financial services, the provision of high standard medical care, and reinforcing its already leading role as a global logistics hub for shipping and airlines.
The UAE is also focused on increasing its reputation as a regional hub and business-friendly country. Examples of recent initiatives include the new “golden visa” which encourages expatriates to stay in the country long-term, including into retirement, more favourable rules for ownership by foreign companies which means foreigners of any nationality for the first time can now own 100 per cent of their business in the country outside of free zones, and a new “remote work visa” that enables employees from all over the world to live and work remotely from the UAE, even if their companies are based in another country.
The Abu Dhabi Investment Office and Dubai’s investment office ‘Dubai FDI’ are providing various support packages to foreign companies looking to establish or expand in the UAE.
The sectors that offered the best opportunities in recent times for Australian capabilities are agrifood, health, defence, education, and niche capabilities in infrastructure. There are opportunities for companies across all sectors that offer solutions that save money and create efficiencies, particularly around automation and digitisation. The UAE is increasingly examining, including artificial intelligence, for example to scan medical images, and data analytics that allow executives to see where money and resources are being spent, digitisation of records and reporting tools, and precision medicine (looking at genes and customising treatment to be more effective). These areas may also provide opportunities for Australian companies.
The UAE will host World Expo in Dubai from October 2021 to March 2022. The Australian pavilion will provide a platform to showcase Australian ingenuity and innovation, and an opportunity to pursue trade and investment opportunities via a targeted business program in sync with Expo 2020 Dubai themes for: Food&Agribusiness, Healthcare, Infrastructure, Resources&Mining, Advanced Manufacturing, Renewables&Energy, Digital Tech and Education. The UAE’s organising committee has recently announced a hybrid delivery of in-person and virtual events in order to reach a larger international audience.The focus of participating nations is now trade and investment opportunities as part of their COVID-19 economic recovery strategies. Australia will leverage this event to support market diversification strategies for Australian industry and exporters, by delivering ‘B2B’ and ‘B2G’ activities at major commercial exhibitions occurring around Expo 2020 Dubai.For more information in relation to Expo 2020 Dubai and opportunities to participate, please email: Expo2020@austrade.gov.au