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GULF STATES – ECONOMICS & FINANCE
UAE’s digital strength clicks

The UAE jumped five places to 12th position in the IMD World Global Digital Competitiveness rankings, thanks to improvements in capital availability and supportive regulation for technology development, helping the nation maintain its top spot in the Arab world.

Importantly, the UAE registered improvement in all key factors – knowledge, technology and future readiness. Almost all sub-factors saw an improvement as well, with the UAE proving several overall strength points landing first in international experience, immigration laws, wireless broadband, use of big data and analytics, agility of companies, public-private partnerships and business opportunities, according to IMD World’s latest data released on Thursday.

Dr José Caballero, senior economist at the IMD World Competitiveness Center, said the UAE improved in all digital factors. “At the sub-factor level, it improves in training and education, regulatory framework, capital, technological framework, adaptive attitudes and it integration. At the indicator level, the largest improvements are in the availability of digital/technological skills, prioritisation of employee training, the easiness of starting a business, protection of intellectual property rights, the effectiveness of the banking and financial services in terms of supporting businesses, communications technology and e-participation,” he said.

Dr Caballero suggested that further improvement in the UAE’s ranking can come under scientific concentration particularly in aspects related to research and development such as total expenditure on R&D as percentage of GDP, total R&D personnel per capita, and R&D productivity by publication.

“Also, under-training and education, total public expenditure on education, higher education achievement, pupil-teacher ratio [tertiary education],and graduates in Sciences can also be targeted for improvements in the UAE’s ranking,” he added.

Hamad Obaid Al Mansoori, director-general of the Telecommunication Regulatory Authority, said technology today is the cornerstone of the economic and social development strategies and plans adopted by the world’s advanced economies.

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Dark clouds? UAE tackles issues hindering adoption

The UAE’s cloud market industry is taking bold steps in addressing the issues that hinder cloud adoption among businesses, despite being host to the most competitive cloud market in the Mena region. The UAE is making a conscious effort towards positioning itself as the ‘regional data and cloud hub’ with the public cloud and cloud services markets projected to reach $410 million and $290 million, respectively, by 2020.

Tge UAE’s massive bet on disruptive technologies – smart cities, artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things and blockchain, most of which should be preceded by the provisioning of reliable cloud platforms – promises a hockey-stick increase in the size of the cloud market in the country. The UAE can maintain and even enhance its standing by introducing a world-class data protection law that would inject more transparency into what can and cannot be done when it comes to the cloud.

Recently, the Middle East and North Africa Cloud Alliance (MENACA) – a home-grown, vendor-agnostic industry association focused on monitoring, identifying and resolving issues around cloud adoption in the Mena region – strived to give the industry a unique voice and to provide a wide range of stakeholders with unbiased insights into the region’s cloud ecosystem.

Omid Mahboubi, founder of MENACA, said: “On a foundational level, the biggest hindrance [and the enabler] of adoption is trust. It could be the case where you as a business simply cannot put all your trust in a vendor’s promise to protect your data, or you are reluctant to trust the enforcement process to be able to protect your rights in case things go wrong, or event perhaps trusting your specific industry authority’s ‘no cloud policy’ a little too much, it all boils down to trust. Now the good news is that we are slowly but surely moving to not-only a cloud-first policy mindset, but a smart-cloud mentality. However, there are few bumps in the road to get there.”

Mahboubi points out that on data protection front, the broad consensus among industry thought leaders is to first make sure that the existence of a crippling confusion in the market is acknowledged which is significantly inhibiting the adoption of many great solutions.

Emirates NBD launches UAE’s first digital business bank

Emirates NBD on Wednesday announced that it has created E20., the UAE’s first digital business bank for entrepreneurs and small and meduim-sized Enterprises, SMEs, businesses.

In a press release issued by Emirates NBD, E20. will enable start-ups, sole proprietors, freelancers, gig economy workers, fintechs and insurtechs and small-to-medium sized companies to open a bank account and carry out their day-to-day banking requirements easily through a mobile app as well as access a variety of services to help them in managing their business.

Commenting on the announcement, Hesham Abdulla Al Qassim, Vice Chairman and Managing Director of Emirates NBD, said, “Emirates NBD has a shared commitment to the growth and development of young businesses in the UAE and we are pleased to be launching E20, a custom-built digital business bank that will support the courage of entrepreneurs and enable start-ups as well as emerging and established small business owners to access banking services and more, seamlessly and conveniently, helping them focus more of their time on growing their business.”

According to a recent report released by Dubai Chamber in conjunction with the UAE Ministry of Economy on the banking challenges faced by new and emerging businesses, nearly 65 per cent of UAE entrepreneurs surveyed believe that banking is the first challenge they face, with opening a bank account taking up to three months in some cases.

However, the digital bank will enable business customers to promptly open a bank account, carry out local and international transfers, as well as make bill payments, all on their smartphones.

Customers will also be able to obtain a cheque book and debit card, and have access to Emirates NBD’s extensive ATM & CDM (cash and cheque deposit machines) network to help manage their day-to-day banking needs.

For his part, Shayne Nelson, Group CEO of Emirates NBD, stated that the new bank will have seamless digital account opening which leverages new local advancements such as e-KYC modules as well as the UAE Pass for digital biometric-based identification along with easy, intuitive tools.

 

Emiratis, expats express pride in Hazzaa’s mission

UAE residents – both Emiratis and expats – have expressed pride in Emirati astronaut Hazzaa AlMansoori’s mission to the International Space Station (ISS). Hazzaa carried out the historic mission onboard the Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft and headed to space with Russian commander Oleg Skripochka and Nasa astronaut Jessica Meir. The launch took place at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Reserve Emirati astronaut Sultan AlNeyadi was also at Baikonur with Russian commander Sergey Ryzhikov and Thomas Marshburn from Nasa. At 5.57pm local time on Wednesday, the FG rocket took off from Baikonur, powering the Soyuz spacecraft that carried a three-member crew, including Al Mansoori.

We are proud of Hazzaa Al Mansoori, the first Emirati to be in space and the first Arab astronaut to go to the International Space Station (ISS). This great achievement will inspire more Emirati young people to participate in space exploration missions and contribute to the UAE’s competitiveness in the space industry. I congratulate the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre on this new milestone and commend their efforts in building a sustainable space science and advanced technology sector that contributes to establishing a knowledge-based economy in the UAE.

Hazza Al Mansoori’s mission to space marks a historic and proud moment for the UAE. As the first Emirati in space and the first Arab to board the International Space Station, Hazza is sending a message of hope and inspiration to the people of the UAE and the wider Middle East region, while he opens the door for others who dream of pursuing similar ambitions. The UAE’s foray into space reflects the country’s progressive vision which is centred on striving for greatness, achieving new milestones and creating new possibilities. I wish Hazza and his accompanying team of astronauts all the success in their journey.

UAE NRIs hail India’s ‘big bang’ reforms

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government surprised domestic markets on Friday as Finance Minister Nirmala Seetharaman announced ‘big bang’ reforms to revive confidence in the flagging Indian economy by introducing a cut in corporate tax to 25 per cent from 30 per cent along with other measures.

The Sensex’s spurt, closing at a historic high, only affirms that the economy has high appetite for more reforms to build a resilient economy.

Uday Kotak, head of Kotak Mahindra Bank, said on Twitter that reducing corporate tax rate to 25 per cent is “big bang reform… it signals that our government is committed to economic growth and supports legitimate tax abiding companies. A bold, progressive step forward.”

Indian benchmark indices logged the biggest-ever gains in over 10 years. The Sensex advanced by 1,921.15 points to 38,014.62 while the Nifty jumped 570.65 to 11,275.45.

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Dubai is the ‘city of the future’ for investments

His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of the Dubai Executive Council, emphasised that foreign direct investment (FDI) flows into Dubai in 2019 continued to grow remarkably, making the emirate one of the top three global FDI locations.

This achievement has been made possible by the vision and leadership of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Hamdan said.

He further said that such an achievement reflects the confidence of the local and global investor community in Dubai’s strategic plans and vision for the future.

In this context, Sheikh Hamdan has issued directives to hold the fifth edition of Dubai Investment Week (DIW 2019) from September 29 to October 3, under the theme ‘Investing in the City of the Future’. He said the week-long programme of events will showcase how Dubai has transformed the challenges of future cities into opportunities for growth, partnership and innovation to cope with the needs of the present and lead the world as the smart and sustainable city of the future.

“Dubai leadership’s push in adopting Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies and creating regulatory frameworks for new business models have further developed Dubai’s investment environment and opportunities as well as its human capital, and hard and digital infrastructure advantages,” said Sheikh Hamdan. “Today, Dubai is a preferred global FDI destination in the fields of artificial intelligence and robotics,” he added.

Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed hailed the role of Dubai Investment Week, organised by the Dubai Investment Development Agency (Dubai FDI), an arm of Dubai Economy, in enhancing the readiness of the investment environment and investor confidence in the emirate, as well as highlighting current and future investment opportunities in the strategic and emerging economic sectors in the emirate.

He also praised the progress achieved in facilitating investments and supporting the success and expansion of businesses through the introduction of new and innovative legislation and services.

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