Dubai adopts action plan outlining its digital economy ambitions
Plan revolves around three pillars – enhancing the digital business environment, supporting digital companies and attracting leading digital companies to Dubai
The Dubai Digital Economy Retreat concluded on Wednesday with the adoption of a new action plan designed to develop Dubai’s digital economy strategy.
Discussions at the event generated several practical recommendations to address existing challenges in the market.
The two-day retreat, organised by the Dubai Chamber of Digital Economy, supports the vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, to position Dubai as a global digital economy capital.
The event was attended by Omar Sultan Al Olama, Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, Digital Economy and Remote Work Applications, and Chairman of the Dubai Chamber of Digital Economy; Hamad Buamim, president and CEO of Dubai Chamber; and members of the advisory board of the Dubai Chamber of Digital Economy who represent digital companies in Dubai.
Interactive workshops during the event identified key market issues and challenges, including the need to attract more digital companies and specialised talent to Dubai, high costs for companies operating in this sector, encouraging more digital startups and enhancing investments in growing these businesses, widening acceptance of e-commerce payments and removing barriers of entry and enhancing the quality of services operating in this space.
The action plan is structured around three pillars, namely enhancing the digital business environment, supporting the development of digital companies and attracting leading digital companies to Dubai.
The plan emphasises the importance of understanding the current and future infrastructure needs of the digital economy, facilitating access to funding and managing relationships and networks abroad with digital-related entities.
Addressing participants, Al Olama said the newly announced action plan lays the groundwork for developing Dubai’s digital economy strategy and ecosystem, while it is expected to create new jobs and growth opportunities.
He noted that the retreat achieved its objectives of involving private sector stakeholders in key discussions with their public sector counterparts that will shape Dubai’s future vision and enhance the emirate’s economic competitiveness in the long term.
Buamim said the retreat complements Dubai Chamber’s efforts to facilitate and streamline public-private sector cooperation, support and protect the interests of its members and meet the changing needs of Dubai’s fast-growing business community as it adapts to a new reality in the Covid-era and beyond.
Buamim described the retreat as an ideal platform for open and constructive dialogue that is crucial in paving the way for major initiatives that will accelerate the next phase of Dubai’s economic growth and development.
Digitisation, talent, future of work are key investments for organisations
Organisations that are looking to achieve sustainable growth over the coming years will need to prioritize their digitisation initiatives, talent drives, and future of work policies, new research by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) has shown.
The report, titled ‘Creating People Advantage 2021: The Future of People Management Priorities’, noted that HR leaders need to have a clear set of objectives on which to concentrate their efforts, especially as the post-pandemic era approaches and workplace environments undergo rapid change.
“No matter the vertical in which they operate, every company today shares a common goal – building a workforce and workplace capable of thriving well into the future,” said Dr. Christopher Daniel, managing director and partner, BCG Middle East: “To create and capture such success, organizational strategies must be implemented without delay, frameworks that consider different aspects and deliver on internal priorities.”
The authors surveyed 106 UAE respondents – 64 per cent of which currently hold HR positions – with 57 holding managerial or senior managerial positions at leading companies and startups nationwide. When it comes to identifying areas where innovative action is essential, the report pointed to digitisation, including the implementation and continuous use of new technologies such as people analytics, cloud-based applications, AI, and robotics.
This was followed by talent, comprising strategic workforce planning, leadership development, upskilling and reskilling, and working with an ecosystem of employees, contractors, and other types of labor. Crucially, UAE respondents ranked future importance of talent ecosystem management much higher in comparison to the global average. Lastly, the report identified the future of work, including more agile HR, and the incorporation of smart work, and change management as crucial to sustainable growth.
“Companies today must navigate an exceedingly challenging business environment and strong, proactive people management is the only way to ensure that companies have the right talent in place to succeed,” said Bob Morton, president of the World Federation of People Management Associations, and a coauthor of the report. “A data-driven, objective approach that places people at the front and center of work can help HR leaders allocate scarce resources to the most urgent priorities.”
Another key finding in the report is the need to create personalised experiences for employees. Many UAE survey respondents reaffirmed their belief that focusing on employee needs and expectations is a key success factor in the intensifying competition for talent, underscoring the importance of an employee-centric approach with a strong emphasis on implementing digital tools that offer a seamless, personalized experience and ensure daily tasks are made easier.
In addition, clear concepts for how best to organise remote work, actively incorporating and addressing the needs and aspirations of employees are also important. Lastly, business leaders must also demonstrate genuine appreciation for employees and actively engage with them through, for example, personalized ‘thank you’ messaging in light of work-related achievements.
Revamped Dubai fees a ‘token of gratitude’
Dubai’s new waivers and reduction in fees of 88 services provided by government entities is part of a series of initiatives undertaken to boost economic growth in the emirate and it certainly brought cheer to the business community.
The waivers and reductions relate to fees for services provided by the Dubai Land Department (DLD), Dubai Maritime City Authority (DMCA), the Roads and Transport Authority, Dubai Municipality, Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing, Dubai Courts, Dubai Economy and the Dubai Health Authority.
The DMCA waive some fees related to various types of residency visas. Fees will also be reduced on issuance and renewal of annual representative office licenses and replacement of lost certificates and licences, among others.
Leroy Dias, managing director of SteelCorr, said: “The waivers and reduction in fees decree will be welcomed with open arms by the maritime community. It is a sound testimonial to the leadership’s vision of retaining Dubai’s position as a leading global maritime hub. The maritime industry has had its share of challenges with regards to its ship crew changes and onboard personnel vaccinations. So, easing some of the financial burdens is a good token of gratitude to the industry that has continued to move 90 per cent of the world’s goods even during the pandemic.”
The DLD, meanwhile, will waive fees related to replacement of broker cards for real estate agents, and amendment of information on real estate brokers, among others.
Farooq Syed, CEO of Springfield Properties, said: “I believe removing the fees for replacement of broker cards will be a huge relief for companies like ours that have close over 80 brokers as these fees amount to huge amounts. It will definitely make the business more attractive and reduce the pressure on business owners.”
Fees that will be waived by Dubai Tourism include those for tourism permits and replacement of lost tourism permits, tourism permits for people under 16 years, and permits for fashion shows, among others.
Hemali Shah, managing director of City One Tourism and Travel, said: “We welcome this move; the tourism permits are for people who have faced major setback of this interesting times. This move will help boost the events and hotel industry, and it will attract more people to come to the country and helping tourism.”
Dubai Economy will reduce fees related to issuing and renewing licences of business centres and issuance of licenses for providing government services, among others.
Kamal Vachani, group director and partner at Al Maya Group, said: “Dubai’s attractiveness as a business and investment hub is evident with business-friendly policies it has introduced, giving a confidence-booster to businesses. The waivers and reduction in fees is a positive move which would provide a great relief, spurring economic growth in key sectors.”
“This is a great decision… [that] will pave the way for greater ease of doing business and further enhance Dubai’s position as a preferred destination for business. As a company with strong presence in Dubai for the last 15 years, we stand to benefit from this decision as it will ensure more seamless deployment of modern digital networks. Also, our plans to expand our portfolio and market share will get great push with the increased flexibility that comes with this decision,” added Ankit Agarwal, CEO of connectivity solutions business at Sterlite Technologies.
Dubai Next offers strong platform to entrepreneurs
The platform — which has already hosted 543 campaigns — is giving start-ups and ideas initiated by both Emirati and international talent, the chance to launch their venture in Dubai.
The small and medium enterprises (SME) sector of any vibrant economy is the nursery of its next generation of entrepreneurs and is usually also a substantial contributor to GDP.
According to a report issued by the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry, SMEs constitute about 95 per cent of all companies in Dubai, employ 42 per cent of the workforce, and generate 40 per cent of the GDP. Empowering, mentoring, and nurturing, this SME sector is not only significant for Dubai’s current economic health; it is also crucial to ensuring that the emirate thrives in the emerging new global economy.
In recent months, the Dubai administration has launched several new initiatives to foster a future-ready entrepreneurial ecosystem. The Dubai Entrepreneurship Academy (DEA) has launched a three-month ‘Certified Professional Entrepreneurship Diploma’, and a ‘Masters’ Programme in Intellectual Property Management and Innovation’.
The Ministry of Economy has launched the ‘Skill-Up Academy’, to nurture business leadership; the ‘Scale-up Platform’, to support start-ups in their growth; and the ‘Grow in UAE’, platform, which provides up to date information on investment policies and opportunities.
One such initiative, which has garnered a lot of attention, is the ‘Dubai Next’ crowdfunding programme that will decentralise venture capital, the platform has already hosted 543 campaigns, which are giving start-ups and ideas initiated by both Emirati and international talent, the chance to launch their venture in Dubai.
“Dubai has always been the proverbial city of dreams, for innovators and entrepreneurs,” said Prabhu Ramachandran, CEO, and founder of Facilio Inc., the AI-based property operations platform that found a receptive market for its breakthrough technologies in the Emirate. “Identifying the ‘next-big-thing’, or even a great idea that fits the emerging economy can be tricky. The Dubai Next platform not only showcases the next generation of entrepreneurs, it puts them in touch with investors too.”
Crowdfunding has indeed served as a kind of vetting mechanism for start-up ecosystems around the globe, and the Dubai Next platform — the very first official platform of its kind in the emirate – could help entrepreneurs put their ideas to the ultimate test: their target audience.
Ram Mohan, COO and Founder of Rent-A-Towel, a service provider enabling more sustainable linen-management in the hospitality industry, believes Dubai is a particularly receptive market for innovative start-ups. “When we launched our Dr. Linen range, we were introducing an entirely new fiber, apart from a disruptive model for linen-management. The response we got tells me that Dubai is one of the markets most open to new ideas and approaches, globally. The Dubai Next platform could be the perfect way to tap into this appetite for innovation.”
Creating a financing mechanism that is more likely to break with convention, will unlock a brand new avenue for growth, in the Dubai economy. The Dubai Next platform will not only be a shot in the arm for future-ready entrepreneurship, it will add to the volume of employment generated by the SME sector. As Dubai strides boldly into the new economy, its first official crowdfunding platform could be the enabler that unlocks the next generation of unicorn startups, to emerge from the region.
Abhay Pandey, a home-grown entrepreneur who built the techno-consultancy MAST Consulting Group from scratch within the UAE, makes the case that the Dubai Next platform will encourage entrepreneurs to pursue more unique business models. “At our inception, we were a completely self-funded and bootstrapped firm, introducing a new service model, across multiple verticals. A platform like Dubai Next would have been an ideal interface with prospective investors for us, at the time. I believe its launch will enable many more entrepreneurs to take a new and unprecedented business approach and scale better and faster.”