An oil giant to a tech hub-Dubai sure has travelled !
Updated: Apr 22
From a small fishing and trading village to being the technology hub of the global community, Dubai is synonymous with transformation and is a power to reckon with.
With a gross domestic product of USD $410.16 as of 2021, Dubai is the business gateway of Asia, at par with Singapore and Hong Kong.
On one hand, is the Burj Khalifa, towering over the world, a symbol of the city’s mind-boggling architecture, on the other hand, is the stunning sands and seas, only to be contrasted with the footprints of the biggest tech and IT giants of the world. Dubai indeed is the ultimate mix of work and pleasure, technology and tourism, buildings and beaches.
This city calls out to the world!
The wealthiest of the seven emirates constituting the UAE, Dubai was originally established as a fishing village in the 18th century, and as a city in 1971 post-independence from Britain. It is today the melting pot of cultures, technologies, businesses, and investments from around the world. Predominantly an Islamic country, Dubai is tolerant of other religions and hosts a confluence of cultures. A relatively low-crime city Dubai has always been known for wealth, tourism, real estate, oil, gold, and diamonds and is now gravitating rapidly towards the title of a technology and science kernel.
Dubai today has the world’s attention.
Described by the International Herald Tribune as the “centrally-planned free-market capitalism”, Dubai allowed free trading in gold and was the smuggling hub of the 90s.
For a country like India where gold import was restricted Dubai was always an attractive destination to set shop. The gold trading business was prevalent since the 1940s and in 2014 Dubai accounted for nearly a quarter (25 percent) of the world’s annual gold trade.
A 2019 Reuters investigation stated that gold worth nearly $300 billion was smuggled from Africa to Dubai through Venezuela and Uganda.
However, in November 2020, London Bullion Market Association (LMBA) threatened to ban countries with large gold markets, including the UAE from entering the mainstream market unless they met the stated regulatory standards.
The city sure loves its jewels!
Along with gold, Dubai is also one of the world’s largest diamond trading centres.
Through the 2000s Dubai sped up the diamond ladder, leaping up to a trade value of $35 billion between 2013 and 2014. Dubai’s diamond trading business is managed by the DMCC (Dubai Multi Commodities Centre). In September 2019, DMCC launched the world’s largest trading floor, with 41 secured tables and top security measures at the DDE (Dubai Diamond Exchange ) at Almas Tower.
Two other sectors where Dubai has shown astronomical growth are real estate and tourism.
In 2017, tourism was 46 percent of the GDP, contributing $41 billion and providing 5,70,000 jobs, which accounted for 48 percent of total employment. The Emirates airline, founded in 1985, still state-owned, carried over 49.7 million passengers in 2015.
The years 2020 and 2021 saw the world getting trampled by the pandemic and economies toppling over. Tourism as a sector took one of the biggest hits. Despite the slump, owing to a high vaccination rate of the UAE population, coupled with ease in travel restrictions, the airport handled a whopping 10.6 million passenger traffic in the first half of 2021 and 4.9 million in the second half. Today the airport serves 68 percent of the destinations in 94 percent of the countries.
The property boom between 2004 and 2008, coupled with the government’s decision to shift from a trade-based oil-reliant economy to a service and tourism-based one, saw construction taking place at an unimaginable scale, transforming Dubai into one of the fastest-growing economies of the world.
The 828m tall Burj Khalifa, encompassing 160 floors, is the tallest building in the world standing right beside the Dubai Mall, which at its time of construction (2006) was the world’s largest shopping mall.
Real estate companies in Dubai attract major foreign investments and partnerships. But what grabs eyeballs is Dubai’s zest to becoming the smartest city the world has seen. Hosting the world’s largest software players like Microsoft, Nexus, Dell, IBM to mention a few, Dubai is moving at a scorching pace towards an enviable digital future. With dedicated free zones for high-tech startups along with progressive government policies, Dubai is a magnet to regional and international techpreneurs. Most of Dubai’s key sectors have begun integrating augmented and virtual reality projecting a compounded annual growth rate of 55 percent between 2017 and 2023, promising a tall $4.1 billion contribution to the GDP by 2030. Construction, real estate, and travel, sectors that have defined the economy of this city are bringing in the much-needed innovations and adopting these technologies to propel further development.
A city that is already testing driverless cars, taxis, robot policemen, digital robot advisors, and more, growth in robotics technology seems but natural for the Emirate of Dubai. The Virgin Hyperloop, an underground transport system having pods inside vacuum tubes to carry passengers at high speeds, spells out the future of mobility. In the words of Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem, Chairman of Virgin Hyperloop and CEO of DP World (the lead investor), “New technology is really the backbone of our economy today. Electronic government, smart government, the port uses all kinds of technology. And so it’s fitting for us .”
As a part of “Projects of the 50”, the UAE government launched the Fourth Industrial Revolution network with a strategy to set UAE on the world stage as the technology and innovations hub of the world. The project aims to grow 500 national companies stocked up with the latest technologies prepared for the coming 30. A fertile business environment is sure to attract foreign investment and high technology entrepreneurs across the globe to set up shop. Dubai intends to make continuous investment in AI-based technologies setting up an AI ecosystem. The government of Dubai has a Minister of Artificial Intelligence, a first in the world. With a dedicated government entity shouldering the responsibility to ensure a digital ecosystem, the city sure is surely gearing up to be the forerunner in the global tech race.
In the wake of climate change and global warming, when countries across the world are forced to pull up their socks, Dubai back in 2018 conducted more than 200 cloud seeding operations to generate rain.
The government is seen offering generous grants and funding for innovators and researchers in this space.
Dubai’s race is not restricted to the earth alone. She wants to reach for the moon!
The Emirates Lunar Mission -2024, aims to send a rover (Rashid) named in honor of the late Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, the former ruler of Dubai, to parts of the Moon not explored before. This mission aims to study the formation and components of the lunar soil, thermal properties of the lunar surface through a series of tests and measurements. Their purpose is to conduct the study in a fashion that paves the way for discoveries that can contribute to the development of high-precision technologies in space science. The UAE’s journey to the moon is not just for the development of the country but for answering questions and creating a knowledge base to facilitate lunar study for global space scientists.
The Emirates Lunar Mission, announced in 2020, is one of the key components of the new Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre Strategy 2021-2031. This strategy is with the aim of building the center to match and eventually be a beacon for global space research, build international knowledge partnerships, and develop Emirati capabilities in space exploration.
This center is the result of a partnership between the UAE Space Agency, UAE University, and the Telecommunications and Digital Government Regulatory Authority represented by the ICT fund.
Their dream is not just to touch the Moon but to reach Mars, be the first Arab and Islamic country to be able to send a spacecraft to the planet. Their journey to reach Mars began with UAE’s Hope probe in July 2020, from Japan’s Tanegashima Space Centre in Kagoshima Prefecture, southwest Japan.
UAE aims to conduct a complete study of the planet and provide reasons for the absence of life there- a question that has been plaguing space scientists of the world for years now.
The growth of Dubai, as the star of UAE, is a journey symbolizing determination, courage, and zeal to win.
A tiny village to a smuggling hub, an oil giant to a global tech power-this trajectory is nothing short of a spectacle isn’t it?