UAE to invest $18B towards creating an innovation-based economy

Published November 17th, 2015 - 08:19 GMT

The UAE is preparing to invest $18 billion in realising its aspirations to become a knowledge-based economy by 2021, said UAE minister of economy Sultan bin Saeed Al Mansouri.

Opening the 17th Arab Businessmen and Investors Conference, in the capital organised by the Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the minister said that the UAE is focusing on boosting innovation in every aspect of governance, public sector and economy, and investing heavily in becoming one of the top 20-countries in terms of innovation by 2021, to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of the founding of the federation.

The minister estimated that an amount as huge as $18 billion will go into establishing the innovation based economy in the next five years. In this regard, Al Mansouri informed the Arab investors and entrepreneurs that the government has promulgated a new law to focus on the small and medium enterprises, which are the engines of economic growth so that they can lead the drive towards innovation.

The law has removed all the obstacles which were hindering the progress and development of the SMEs sector so this sector can create jobs, economic activity and add to the nation's domestic product, he said. The UAE has declared 2015 as the year of innovation, in order to create awareness on innovation, which is vital to building the future for the Emirati youth.

The minister said that the 17th Arab Investors and Entrepreneurs Conference is taking place when the Arab region is facing political crisis, and new challenges, while oil prices fluctuations have affected the economies of oil producing countries, and global economic slowdown has had negative impact. The situation calls for a very proactive cooperation between the Arab countries, which need to trade more than ever before to boost intra-Arab trade which is not on a very encouraging level at the moment, he said. "There is a need to concentrate on specific product development and industries in the Arab countries," he said. Arab countries need to exchange information and experiences and help each other, in order to overcome their economic woes, he added. Speaking on the increasing unemployment in the Arab countries, Al Mansouri urged for national level strategic plans for the Arab countries for building the SME sector on sound footing which can revitalise those economies and create much needed jobs. "We have a big gap to finance SMEs," he said, estimating that shortage of funds is as high as $110 billion. Arab development banks and financial institutions have to do hard work to provide a conducive environment for the SMEs, so this sector can play its role in economic stability and job creation.

The minister said that technology is playing an important role in increasing business opportunities.

Later the minister awarded the Mother of the Nation, Shaikha Fatima bint Mubarak for her contribution to the empowerment of women, while leading banker and businessman Abdullah Al Ghurair and Prince Walid bin Al Talal were recognised for their contribution to the entrepreneurship and to charitable causes. Both billionaires earlier this year donated a third of their wealth for charitable purposes.

Abdullah Al Ghurair's award was collected by his son Essa Al Ghurair. When asked what business opportunities the innovation based economy presents in the country, the chairman of Al Ghurair Investments, Essa Al Ghurair said that innovation and knowledge-based economy will open new avenues of economic growth in the next five years. And heavy investments going into innovation related businesses and projects would create business opportunities, the leading entrepreneur told Khaleej Times. However, Al Ghurair disagreed that the sector needs lower interest rates to finance innovation based economy in order to encourage them.

By Haseeb Haider

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