Dubai: When we launched the Dubai Capital of Islamic Economy initiative, we were aware that its success in globalising Islamic economy was only possible by leveraging the participation of large international financial centres and their long-standing economic experiences. London is the largest Islamic economy centre outside the Islamic world. In addition, the UK is the largest foreign investor in the UAE and our key economic partner.
In 2016, the total non-oil foreign trade between the UAE and the UK exceeded Dh26.3 billion ($7.2 billion). Over 384 British companies and 859 British trade agencies operated in the UAE by end- 2015, with more than 14,250 British brands registered with the UAE Ministry of Economy.
Global economies, including those of the UAE and the wider GCC region, have witnessed major transformations following the decline in oil prices in 2014. Looking back, we can confidently say that Dubai and the UAE well anticipated the drop and implemented a strategy to decrease reliance on oil, cushioning the country’s economy to a large extent and enabling us to recover rapidly following the decline.
The UAE Vision 2021 has set ambitious goals based on enhancing cooperation with global economic centres to raise the contribution of non-oil sectors to the national GDP to 80 per cent by 2021.
The updated strategy of the Dubai Islamic Economy Development Centre focuses on the need to raise the contribution of the Islamic economy to the GDP and to develop mechanisms to monitor this contribution and its outcomes on the national economy. This makes Islamic economy a key driver and component of the UAE’s vision and Dubai’s strategy for growth.
Not surprisingly, this ambitious vision coincides with the aspirations of the UK and the UAE to increase bilateral trade to Dh120 billion by 2020.
The economic transformations have opened up opportunities for further collaborations between our two countries. The UAE leadership has long-term plans to transform Dubai into a global hub for halal industries, a reference for standards and legislative practices, and a transit point for Islamic commodities and products transported across the globe. As part of this priority, the emirate is working to advance its infrastructure, transportation, storage facilities, and air, land and sea connectivity.
The areas of cooperation between our two countries within the framework of Islamic economy and its sectors are too many to discuss here. It is important to remember that the halal products sector gains priority over others because it is the driver of a real and productive economy. Halal products are not only those free from materials forbidden by Islamic law. They include all products that reach the markets following a comprehensive process that complies with ethical human principles and factors in the sustainability of natural resources, workers’ rights, product quality and competitive pricing.
Next on the scale of importance is Islamic finance. It is possible through our cooperation to establish global financial centres in our two countries that can collaborate in drafting the laws, legislations and guidelines indispensable to the sustainability of the Islamic economy sector and related fields.
Today we have a unique opportunity to collaboratively contribute to the promotion of international trade through halal products. Dubai, as also the wider UAE, ranks among the most important export and re-export centres in the world due to its geographical location and advanced air and sea networks.
We look forward to strengthening cooperation in technology in general and financial services technologies in particular. Dubai today hosts several of the world’s leading e-services and information technology companies. Since the UAE is located in a region where these services are still in their infancy, the opportunities for growing this sector are no doubt considerable. Furthermore, we are witnessing enormous opportunities as a result of the transition from an oil economy to a balanced and multi-sectoral economy. Notably, this transition is taking place locally as well as regionally.
With its openness to all cultures and civilisations, the enabling legal and regulatory structure of its banking sector, and its cutting-edge technology focus, the UK is an ideal destination for Islamic investments today, and a gateway to facilitate Islamic economy’s foray into the West. Furthermore, with its technical competencies, fertile soil and optimum climatic conditions, the country is the perfect trading partner to help narrow the food gap in the GCC region that imports nearly 90 per cent of its food requirements. We look forward to building greater bonds here.
Islamic economy intrinsically believes in the universality of growth, well-being and progress rather than growth that is restricted to a select few. I would like to share our vision at DIEDC of how cooperation can help achieve these goals that are consistent with the objectives of sustainable development adopted by international organisations and also ratified by our two countries:
1. Expanding the scope of cooperation among developed countries to include investments in the real economic sectors of developing countries. To achieve this objective, we need to work in partnership with local institutions in these countries that have goals beyond profit to finance their economic and social structure.
2. Investing in developing countries that offer an abundance of resources and manpower means that we must take on the responsibility of shaping infrastructure and services, especially in the health care and education sectors.
3. Investing in developing countries yields high returns, but long-term returns are more critical to benefit the global economy and ensure the fruition of the United Nations’ programmes.
4. Through leveraging our experiences in developed countries, we can improve lives in developing nations and ensure they become an integral part of the global production and consumption cycle. When we provide people with jobs and invest in their infrastructure, we automatically eliminate the reasons for poverty.
5. The world’s need for food, clean water, resources and raw materials requires companies to invest in developing countries. While many companies are already doing their part in making these investments, they must realise that they are responsible for social development as a method of giving back to the community that enabled them to make profits.
— Abdulla Mohammed Al Awar, CEO of Dubai Islamic Economy Development Centre. This column is part of a keynote address at IFN Forum in London