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Abu Dhabi's adaptability, strong economic fundamentals make it a global magnet for entrepreneurs - ADIO official

Abu Dhabi's adaptability, strong economic fundamentals make it a global magnet for entrepreneurs - ADIO official
18 June 2024 21:45


Over a span of half a century, Abu Dhabi has rapidly kept pace with an evolving global landscape and morphed from an oil-based economy to a leading commercial hub backed by strong economic fundamentals, said Massimo Falcioni, Chief Competitiveness Officer at the Abu Dhabi Investment Office (ADIO).

"Abu Dhabi's unprecedented journey over half a century has created one of the region's strongest, most diversified and sustainable economies," Falcioni said in an interview with Aletihad.

  • Abu Dhabi's adaptability, strong economic fundamentals make it a global magnet for entrepreneurs - ADIO official


Citing data from the Statistics Centre - Abu Dhabi (SCAD), Falcioni highlighted Abu Dhabi's strong performance of the non-oil economy, which recorded a growth of 9.1% in 2023.

"Abu Dhabi has firmly positioned itself as a global business and investment hub, supported by its advanced infrastructure and facilities, enabling regulatory environment, ambitious economic strategies and access to key international markets. To date, the UAE has signed CEPAs with seven nations and is in advanced negotiations with 12 more. These agreements play a key role in not only promoting the UAE and Abu Dhabi's economies, but also driving growth for partner nations," Falcioni said.

Moreover, to diversify the economy, Abu Dhabi has launched a number of new initiatives.

"In October 2021, it launched a Dh5 billion IPO fund to encourage and support private companies to list on the local stock market. It also rolled out its new industrial strategy to boost the contribution of the sector to the overall economy. As part of the strategy, the Emirate is investing Dh10 billion ($2.72 billion) across six industrial programmes to more than double the size of its manufacturing sector to Dh172 billion by 2031," he said.

With regard to future tech initiatives, Falcioni drew attention to the UAE's Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, His Excellency Omar Sultan Al Olama's predictions on how AI will impact the finance sector in the UAE.

"He indicated that stronger firewalls will be erected to limit the amount of information that can be freely gathered from the Internet. Furthermore, investors will see the rise of 'artisanal' large language models to guide them through hedging, ETFs and Shariah-compliant lending," the ADIO official said.

Robust Digital Infrastructure
Elaborating on the distinctive opportunities that Abu Dhabi's ecosystem offers to startups and entrepreneurs, Falcioni underlined the Emirate's business-friendly environment.

As an entrepreneur's haven, Abu Dhabi boasts "a positive investment environment, enabling regulations, stability and security, access to talent, liveability, cutting-edge infrastructure and connectivity," he added.

"The Abu Dhabi government continues to make it easier for companies to set up in the Emirate by streamlining processes, reducing business fees, simplifying setup requirements and offering an array of long-term visas."

"Abu Dhabi boasts a robust digital infrastructure, providing a strong foundation for companies to innovate and thrive in the digital era with high-speed 5G Internet. Global pioneers such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft, G42, Bespin Global, and Oracle offer the latest digital and data infrastructure, expert capabilities, and technology solutions for both public and private organisations operating in the UAE's capital."

On top of this, Abu Dhabi is home to a diverse range of 12 accelerators and incubators supporting startups across the different growth stages, providing access to funding, mentorship, co-working spaces and other support services.

"Most notably, Hub71 is Abu Dhabi's global tech ecosystem that enables founders to build globally enduring homegrown tech companies in any sector. Since its inception, the ecosystem has attracted more than 260 startups that have raised Dh5.4 billion ($1.47 billion) collectively in venture capital," he said.

"With its dynamic and modern lifestyle, impressive architecture, pioneering global green initiatives and plans for the next generation's transformation, Abu Dhabi has swiftly established itself as a home for the world's brightest entrepreneurs and business leaders. The Emirate offers boundless opportunities in different thriving sectors, including financial services, industrial, tourism, and healthcare. Capitalising on the fast-paced success of its commercial sectors, Abu Dhabi is also charting the future of sustainable living, artificial intelligence, FinTech, and AgTech, supported by forward-thinking laws, reforms and initiatives."

Innovation Fuels Economic Transformation
Delving into Abu Dhabi's leading role in the realm of emerging technologies, Falcioni said that the Emirate provides the ideal platform for innovative companies to leverage advanced technologies and generate value-driven returns.

"Abu Dhabi is committed to empower the growth of tech entrepreneurs both locally and on the global stage, viewing innovation as pivotal in fuelling economic transformation," he said, noting that a good example of this was the latest Impact Summit event, which convened renowned speakers and visionaries to highlight Abu Dhabi's prominent role as a thriving global business and investment hub.

Quickly grasping the importance of AI, the UAE and Abu Dhabi have placed it at the very forefront of economic development.

"At the beginning of 2024, President His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan unveiled the Artificial Intelligence and Advanced Technology Council (AIATC). Among its core priorities, the council will develop and implement policies and strategies related to research, infrastructure, and investments in AI and advanced technology in Abu Dhabi," he said.

Falcioni also referred to AI71, a pioneering AI company launched by Abu Dhabi's Advanced Technology Research Council (ATRC) and VentureOne.

AI71 leverages globally top-ranked Falcon AI models across multi-domain advancements, initially targeting the medical, education, and legal sectors.

Through strategic partnerships, AI71 aims to redefine accessibility to AI, ushering in a new era for the UAE's knowledge economy and positioning the nation as a leading contender on the global AI stage, he continued.

Alongside the AIATC, the country has also laid out a national roadmap for AI in the 'UAE National Strategy for Artificial Intelligence' 2030, he noted.

"These important initiatives signify the UAE's intent with the country showing exactly what it takes to embrace the future of AI. In parallel, AI also has vast economic potential, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers forecasts AI could contribute up to 14% of the UAE's gross domestic product by 2030," he said.

According to Falcioni, from an investment perspective, priority industries like energy, renewables and utilities, as well as mobility and transport across the UAE offer much opportunity within the AI space.

Acknowledging the need to address the pressing issues of our time, Falcioni stressed that ADIO's key focus is to join hands with companies that offer solutions for global challenges with real impact outcomes.

He pointed out that during COP 28, the Abu Dhabi Department of Energy (DoE), ADIO and Masdar, signed a trilateral agreement to accelerate the hydrogen economy in Abu Dhabi and position the UAE as a global leader for the production and export of low-carbon hydrogen.

"By connecting production centers, offtakers, and H2 storage across the UAE, the collaboration provides a landmark opportunity to deploy shared hydrogen infrastructure that generates economies of scale and creates a world-class production and export hub for clean hydrogen and its derivatives, enabling further decarbonisation of hard-to-abate sectors," he said.

Falcioni also mentioned the opening of Siemens Energy's global innovation centre at Khalifa University of Science and Technology in Abu Dhabi, intensifying efforts to reach net-zero targets both in the region and globally.

The centre will develop new partnerships, technologies and co-create research opportunities, thereby promoting knowledge transfer, capacity building and employment prospects. Located within Khalifa University's Sas Al Nakhl Campus, the Siemens Energy Abu Dhabi Innovation Center was established in partnership with Khalifa University and ADIO, he noted.

Touching on ADIO's role in fostering innovation and entrepreneurship, Falcioni said Abu Dhabi's position atop the MD's 2023 World Talent Ranking confirms that the UAE capital continues to be a destination of choice for the brightest global minds.

"At ADIO, we continue to work across the wider ecosystem in the Emirate to support the scaling of innovative unicorns. For instance, Hub71-backed ABHI, an embedded finance platform founded in Pakistan, is advancing to its next growth stage by establishing its global HQ in Abu Dhabi with support from ADIO to grow its international operations."

"ABHI joined Hub71, Abu Dhabi's global tech ecosystem, in 2022 where the company flourished by tapping into an extensive network of corporations, investment partners and government entities, unlocking the advantages of Abu Dhabi's marketplace. ABHI is now working with ADIO as the FinTech scales up its operations to capture growth opportunities in emerging markets."

"ABHI is a great example of how fast companies can start, scale and succeed in Abu Dhabi," he added.

Supporting Priority Sectors
As for future plans, ADIO's focus is on enhancing priority sectors through promoting strategic clusters, he said, adding that it will continue supporting local and international investors in setting up their operations in Abu Dhabi."

"Abu Dhabi is a diverse and globally connected city, backed by strong economic fundamentals. It is also a significant global financial centre, a growing innovation hub, a leading energy producer and a world-class tourist and cultural destination," Falcioni said. He also urged potential investors with global ambitions to connect with ADIO as the one stop-shop office for investors' orientation."

"The Emirate should not just be viewed as a destination, but the gateway to expanding their business to more than 64 international destinations through Abu Dhabi's port hubs, and countries around the world through its four airlines."

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