Dubai Advantage Conference


The ABCC hosted a Dubai Advantage Conference on 23 June 2022 with the participation of a large delegation of top executives from leading Dubai agencies and free zones who were visiting the UK to promote the latest opportunities for investors and the various business support options offered by different public entities.

The conference was organised in partnership with Dubai FDI and The Corporate Group with the support of London Chamber of Commerce. It was the largest event of ABCC’s 2022 programme to date.

Formally opening the conference, Rt Hon Baroness Symons, Chairman of the ABCC, welcomed the impressive high-level delegation from Dubai which reflected a keenness to do business and strengthen bilateral relations in the wake of the pandemic.

She stated that the ABCC was thrilled by the amount of interest in the event and the large turnout of members and other business executives present at the Chamber.

Mr Bandar Reda, ABCC Secretary General & CEO and the Deputy CEO & Secretary General, Mr Abdeslam El-Idrissi, also participated in the discussions and greeted the guests.

The event could not have been better timed as it occurred only a day after the formal announcement by the UK government of the launch of negotiations towards a Free Trade Agreement between the UK and the GCC countries.

In opening remarks, His Excellency Mansoor Abulhoul, the Ambassador of the UAE to the UK, expressed the hope of the UAE that the talks would move forward at pace. The start of the talks gave hope for closer business cooperation and the outcome would bring benefits to companies active in various sectors.

He stressed the speed at which the UAE had moved during the Covid-19 pandemic to introduce measures to keep the economy running and open to investors, such as new visa schemes and 100% foreign ownership rules for business.

The Ambassador said the world can see clearly that the UAE is looking forward to the future with great confidence.

In this regard, he mentioned the forthcoming COP28 climate summit which was to be held at the Dubai Expo City, the new smart city that is being constructed on the Dubai Expo and part of the legacy of that successful trade expo.

Rt Hon Baroness Symons remarked that the ABCC would continue to work for a speedy conclusion to the talks since reaching an agreement would give a significant boost to UK-GCC bilateral relations.

Offering a British perspective, Lord Udny-Lister, Co-chair of the UAE-UK Business Council, said it was “great” that the negotiations had started. “It’s something we’ve been pushing for hard,” he said. “We’re very keen they should get going.”

He did not anticipate major obstacles in reaching an agreement on tariffs and looked forward to building deeper bilateral relations on matters such as professional qualifications, the ease of doing business and better access to market.

Now that the UK-GCC FTA talks had started, Lord Udny-Lister pledged that the UAE-UK Business Council would be engaged in extensive lobbying to ensure the best deal was achieved for business.

Lord Udny-Lister mentioned the council’s role in supporting the Partnership for the Future agreement which was bringing major investment from the UAE into the UK economy.

The conference was designed to outline the opportunities of doing business in Dubai and the advantages that can be obtained from the exceptional business environment created by the emirate in recent years which has made it the preferred location for global investors and entrepreneurs.

Speakers highlighted the ongoing efforts of Dubai through its numerous public agencies and initiatives – including future-ready governance, development of human capital, increasing connectedness, and nurturing innovation – have positioned it as the pre-eminent global location for fast-growth businesses across a range of sectors and transcending geographical barriers.

Today Dubai represents a preferred global Foreign Direct Investment destination for more than 70 percent of the Fortune 500 corporations and entrepreneurs of the new sectors that are transforming the global economy.

Executives from leading Dubai free zones and business entities were part of the trade mission and participated in the conference:

Dubai Investment Development Agency (Dubai FDI); Dubai Industries & Exports; Dubai Culture & Arts Authority (Dubai Culture); Dubai CommerCity (DCC); Dubai Healthcare City Authority (DHCA); Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC); Dubai Multi Commodities Centre (DMCC); Dubai Silicon Oasis (DSO) and Jebel Ali Free Zone Authority (JAFZA).

Private sector consultancy, the Corporate Group, a member of the ABCC, completed the line-up of speakers.

Mr Ibrahim Ahli, Director of Investment Promotion & Attraction, Dubai FDI, delivered remarks on behalf of his CEO, Fahad Al Gergawi.

He pointed to an 8% growth in bilateral trade achieved during the Covid-19 lockdown. Trade was about £4.7 billion in 2021. The UK was the leader in FDI into Dubai in the same year, Mr Ahli said.

The level of investment indicated that businesses were placing trust in Dubai as a destination with as reputation for sustainability, transparency and resilience.

Turning to the latest trends, Mr Ahli said that there was growing interest in sectors such as healthcare and fintech. Dubai’s free zones were attractive to UK investors looking for joint ventures.

Looking forward, Dubai’s early adoption of the new technology of the 4th Industrial Revolution had given the emirate significant advantage and the expansion of digital was currently attracting more investment.

Mr Walid Abdulla Marhoon, also from Dubai FDI, described the strongest sectors for investors such as finance and insurance, construction, real estate, manufacturing and retail.

Dubai was a growing attraction for visitors, boosted by an increase in the frequency of flights into Dubai Airport. Dubai Expo, which had attracted 24 million visitors, had contributed to the expansion of the tourism industry.

The expansion of hotel capacity, transport and other facilities were improving the quality of the visitor experience in Dubai.

New building was going on all the time, adding to the ambitious modern infrastructure for which Dubai was renowned. The ongoing development of the Dubai Metro was a prime example of the new infrastructure.

Dubai was determined to remain a leader in innovation and was taking ambitious steps to develop high tech industries like digital, blockchain and Artificial Intelligence.

Ms Salama Al Ketbi, a Senior Officer, Dubai Culture (Dubai Culture & Arts Authority), explained the policy of Dubai in respect of promoting the emirate as a hub for the cultural industries and the major opportunities available in this sector, touching on an area rarely addressed in business discussions about Dubai.

Her starting point was to outline the definition of the creative sector adopted by Dubai, which she explained involved activities related to preserving heritage, to the performing arts, visual art, painti9ng and photography, literature and publishing, multimedia, video, design and architecture.

Ms Al Ketbi stressed that the economic significance of the creative industries could easily be explained by their positive contribution towards GDP.

The emirate now ranked high in world standing as a creative city and the growing sector comprised around 4,000 different businesses.

Mr Devere Forster, the Chief Operating Officer, Dubai Commercity (DCC), introduced the new e-commerce zone that Dubai had recently established to build the e-business sector, including online stores and retail industry.

The zone had been designed to provide all the services that an e-commerce business required to successfully operate such as self-contained business units, warehousing facilities, website design, payment solutions and e-fulfilment processes.

Speaking via video link, Mr Jaffar Bin Jaffar, Director Property & Sales, Dubai Healthcare City Authority (DHCA), described the steady growth of the UAE’s healthcare sector to the extent that it currently represented some 20% of the Gulf regional healthcare market.

He explained the growth of healthcare in Dubai with the rise of medical tourism, a mandatory residential insurance policy, the introduction of a retirement visa to attract affluent expatriates and the growth in the local population.

All combined these factors meant that Dubai was witnessing increasing demand for all healthcare services. There was strong and growing demand for wellness services, rehabilitation, mental healthcare, homecare and tertiary healthcare, and others, Mr Jaffar explained.

Mr Ali Hassan, the Senior Representative for Europe and North America, Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), outlined the zone’s attractions to investors.

The official stated that upwards of 3,700 firms had opted to use the DIFC as their base in the region attracted by its international legal standards and courts.

As a regulator, the DIFC remains fully in step with the latest developments in international law pertaining to financial services and digital assets.  It had a reputation for transparency, flexibility and acted as a hub for nurturing talent.

Speakers at the conference highlighted the various attractions of doing business in the Dubai Silicon Oasis and Jebel Ali Free Zone.

Rounding off the conference, Mr Ayman Al Awadhi, Group Managing Director, The Corporate Group, provided an update on the latest legal changes that have been adopted by the UAE in the first half of 2022 designed to make the market more attractive to businesses.

He mentioned in particular a new trademark and copyright law, the reform of the labour law, the corporation tax coming in 2023 and regulations introduced relating to digital assets.  The Corporate Group was a strategic partner with Dubai FDI in organising the trade mission, which had visited Scotland as well as London.

The auditorium at the ABCC reached its full capacity for this event.