A Bold Aspiration

Abdulnasser bin Kalban, Chief Executive Officer, Emirates Global Aluminium shares the four decades old journey of the company and the plans for the road ahead

Published: Fri 5 Aug 2022, 2:51 PM

Last updated: Fri 5 Aug 2022, 2:53 PM

How does EGA contribute to the economy of the UAE?

Emirates Global Aluminium was founded as Dubai Aluminium as part of one of the earliest waves of economic diversification in the UAE. We can trace our history back to 1975. Our original plant was built at the same time as other important foundational UAE projects like Jebel Ali Port.

Our biggest contribution to the economy is our own business activity. We are the largest industrial company in the UAE, outside oil and gas. Our metal is the biggest Made-in-the-UAE export after oil and gas.

We also contribute to the economy by buying goods and services we need locally. Last year, we spent $1.6 billion on goods and services in the UAE, which was 45 per cent of our total procurement spend. We are looking to grow this further, including through the In-Country Value (ICV) programme and Make it in the Emirates.

Local companies also make products using our metal. We have 26 local customers, making everything from window frames to car parts for local use and export around the world. We sell 10 per cent of our metal locally. The aluminium sector is a great example of what can be achieved through Operation 300bn and Make it in the Emirates to further diversify our economy.

What is the scale of EGA’s contribution to the economy of the UAE?

Our purpose at EGA is ‘Together, innovating aluminium to make modern life possible’. One important way we make modern life possible in the countries where we operate — the UAE and the Republic of Guinea, where we have a mining operation — is by driving sustainable economic growth. We have calculated our total economic impact — that’s direct (our own activity), indirect (our supply chain and customers) and induced (spending of wages earned in the aluminium sector) — and it is Dh20 billion a year, that’s 1.4 per cent of the entire national economy. In total, we support more than 60,000 jobs — that’s one in 100 UAE jobs. It’s a significant contribution and we want to grow it further.

What are your plans to grow your contribution to the UAE economy in line with Operation 300bn?

We have a goal and we call it a ‘bold aspiration’. It translates to doubling our economic contribution in the countries where we operate by 2040. That means taking our economic contribution in the UAE from Dh20 billion today to Dh40 billion by 2040.

It’s a big goal, and we are approaching it in four ways; by growing our business, increasing local procurement, growing our local customer base and lastly, by increasing our Emiratisation. The latter is already at 40 per cent of in-focus roles.

Operation 300bn has an important role to play in this — particularly the ICV programme on local procurement, and the Make it in the Emirates brand to boost demand for UAE made products. We are aiming to play a full part in it.

How do you see the future of the aluminium industry, particularly with regards to sustainability?

Aluminium is lightweight but strong, electrically and thermally conductive, and corrosion-resistant. Most importantly, it is infinitely recyclable. It is part of everything from electric vehicles to windfarms. The International Aluminium Institute forecasts that demand will grow by between 50 per cent and 80 per cent by 2050. However, it also matters how sustainably aluminium is made.

At EGA, we believe that all aspects of sustainability are important, but we recognise the particular significance of greenhouse gas emissions. Aluminium is one of the more carbon intensive metals to produce. Decarbonisation is the most significant challenge our industry has ever faced, but at EGA we are making progress. We have developed our own aluminium smelting technology for more than 25 years, and our latest technology is amongst the most efficient in the industry. But we also need to make step changes. This was the thinking behind our development of the world’s first low carbon aluminium produced using the power of the sun through a partnership with Dubai Electricity and Water Authority, which operates the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park in the desert outside Dubai.

The launch of EGA’s CelestiAL solar aluminium was not only a milestone in our industry’s drive to net zero but will also contribute to the achievement of the global Net Zero ambitions and the UAE’s Net Zero by 2050 strategic initiative. Our customers for this metal include BMW Group and a Tier 1 supplier of Mercedes-Benz.

What are EGA’s expansion plans?

EGA announced last year that it had completed an expansion of the Al Taweelah smelter in Abu Dhabi ahead of schedule and under budget. We added 66 reduction cells in total through extensions to all three potlines in Al Taweelah, bringing the total number of reduction cells to 2,743. In2021, EGA sold 2.54 million tonnes of cast metal, and the new cells add to our smelting capacity. In the past decade, we expanded EGA upstream and internationally with the construction of a bauxite mine in the Republic of Guinea in West Africa and an alumina refinery at Al Taweelah in Abu Dhabi.

Our focus is to creep the production at the assets we have, while growing strategically including to localise our supply chain and make progress in sustainability. We have announced two projects recently — a plant to make silicon metal, which is added to aluminium to make high strength alloys, particularly for the automotive industry; and an aluminium recycling plant, which will be the biggest in the UAE.

Ultimately, all these efforts are designed to strengthen our business, and in so, doing support the achievement of our bold aspiration to double our economic contribution in the countries where we operate by 2040.

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