Fifty years ago, a group of seven Trucial Arabian Gulf states made their tryst with destiny on this day, December 2 1971, to form the United Arab Emirates, a nation born with modest ambitions and dreams. Half a century on, this nation of 10 million people is envisioning itself to emerge as the best country on the planet by 2071 when it will mark its centenary year.
The goal may appear to be a pipe-dream for any other nation. Not for this dynamic nation, given the astounding pace of its breathtaking transformation and exemplary track-record of countless achievements under the wise and benevolent guidance of two generations of visionary and pragmatic leadership.
Flip through the annals of world history. It is hard to find a nation that has undergone such a strikingly holistic evolution as the UAE in such a short period. Having emerged as a global model for economic development, built on competitive advantages and an advanced business ecosystem, the UAE is now geared up to fully leverage the potential of 4IR technologies to develop a sustainable and diversified economy over the next 50 years of its journey.
The future-ready nation has already charted a new trajectory for the next growth phase even as it forays into new frontiers of regional peace and prosperity on the back of a series of path-breaking reforms and political initiatives. From this point, it is “all systems go” as the Arab world’s second largest economy embarks on its expedition into a technology-driven future, while positioning itself among the ranks of the most advanced countries in the emerging post-Covid world order. Setting the course of the next 50-year mission was the Hope Probe’s dream tryst with the Red Planet. It was a defining moment for the Arab world’s momentous breakthrough in space technology.
The historic Abraham Peace Accord with Israel, the recent bilateral agreement with Turkey, the recent unveiling of the most extensive legal reforms in the country’s history, the game-changing 100 per cent business ownership law for foreign investors, the Hope Probe’s breakthrough Mars expedition, on-going sweeping digital drive, the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) programme and a series of other technology and innovation initiatives, the10-year golden residency rule and other residency law reforms for expatriates, ease-of-doing business measures, competitive business environment, superb start-up ecosystem and a world-class infrastructure are among the remarkable feats that will have far-reaching ramifications on the UAE’s next phase of journey.
With the rolling out of the landmark foreign direct investment law from December 1, 2020, the UAE entered a strategic inflection point in its efforts to become the most sought-after destination for global investors by allowing foreign investors 100 per cent ownership in 122 categories of business. As per the new FDI regime, several categories of business licences no more require Emiratis as sponsors with 51 per cent shareholding rights.
Under the directives of President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, to mark the ‘Year of the 50th’ celebrations running until March 31, 2022, the nation has called upon all nationals to contemplate the values and achievements of the past in honour of the UAE’s Founding Fathers. "Our sole, abiding mission is to provide the best possible life for citizens and residents of the UAE. The economy will lead the UAE’s path for the next 50 years, with a political approach that is based on peace and dialogue. The upcoming phase will see comprehensive and balanced development of all the UAE’s regions and sectors," Sheikh Khalifa has said.
As envisioned by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, the nation also seeks from its dynamic youth their vision for the next 50 years. Another objective of the ‘Year of the 50th’ mission is to champion long-term initiatives and impactful policies to empower citizens and residents to do their part.
“The UAE is one destination, one economy, one flag, one leader, and over the next 50 years, everyone will work as one team to achieve our goals. Our values during the next 50 years will remain as set down by the founders to be the best, most noble and most generous people," the Vice President has said.
‘The Principles of the 50,’ unveiled as part of the ‘Projects of the 50’ campaign, seeks to chart the strategic roadmap for the country’s economic, political and social growth. Of this, 10 principles act as guidelines for all of the UAE’s institutions as the country approaches a new phase of development over the next 50 years.
As Sheikh Mohamed has noted, the 10 principles for the next 50 years would be the core guidelines for all our institutions to strengthen the Union, build a sustainable economy and harness all possible resources to build a more prosperous society. “Fostering positive regional and global relations to achieve our national goals and support peace and stability across the world will be the centre of our priorities over the upcoming phase.”
Over the past 50 years, the UAE fulfilled its goals by ranking first worldwide in 121 indicators, becoming the first among Arab countries in 479 indicators, and among the top five globally in 189 indicators. For the next 50 years starting from the UAE’s Golden Jubilee in 2021 until the UAE’s Centennial in 2071, the UAE has chalked out a comprehensive development plan. The 50-year Development Plan, envisages building on the legacy of the founding fathers and the nation’s achievements over the past 50 years, and seeks to make the UAE the best country in the world by 2071.
Another landmark project to usher in the next era of growth is the Industrial Strategy ‘Operation 300bn’. The 10-year comprehensive strategy aims to empower and expand the industrial sector to become the driving force of a sustainable national economy, increasing its contribution to the GDP from the current Dh133 billion to Dh300 billion by 2031.
Leading the strategy, the Ministry of Industry and Advanced Technology has rolled out programmes and initiatives to support 13,500 industrial small and medium enterprises (SMEs). The industrial strategy aims to double the industrial sector’s contribution to national GDP in less than 10 years. It focuses on sectors that contribute to producing high added value. It also centres on diversifying the economy, achieving sustainable growth, and enhancing industrial competitiveness, particularly through the adoption of cutting-edge technology.
Focusing primarily on future industries that implement advanced technology and the 4IR solutions and applications, the strategy works towards advancing the national economy and contributing to sustainable development.
The UAE has also launched the Unified Industrial Brand Identity under the slogan ‘Make it in the Emirates’. As an extension of the UAE Nation Brand, the new campaign stems from a vision based on distinction, uniqueness and the efforts to build the credentials of UAE products by enhancing their quality and global competitiveness. Ultimately, ev¬ery product made in the UAE will comply with the highest international quality standards and have its rightful place among the best international products.
The industrial strategy will achieve a giant leap in the UAE’s industrial sector, to become the main driving force of the national economy and lead the journey of the next 50 years with greater confidence and speed.
According to Sheikh Mohammed, the industrial sector is the backbone of large economies, and the UAE has effective resources, policies and leadership to build a global economic base. “Developing the industrial sector and achieving self-sufficiency in some vital sectors safeguards our economy against emerging global crises."
Under the 50-project initiative, the nation will provide an opportunity for every¬one to participate and harness their knowledge and creativity in building a better and exciting future. Under this scheme, 50 new national projects have been rolled out to extend the country’s development journey for generations to come. The projects are described as laying the foundations for a new era of growth for the UAE — both domestically and internationally, as well as ensuring a decent life for all who call this nation home.
For the UAE, ranked as the first Arab country in the Future Readiness Index report, these ‘Principles of the 50’ and ‘Projects of the 50’ are part of its sustained efforts to promote future readiness. The 10 principles act as a roadmap for the future and focus on building the best and most dynamic economy in the world, investing in human capital, developing the educational system, recruiting talent and continuously building skills, as well as promoting digital, technical and scientific excellence of the UAE.
Indeed, all systems go for the UAE in its leap to the new orbit.