It is expected that the UAE will attract as many as 250 start-up businesses before the close of 2021. This represents the biggest surge of talent for the past five years. But what are the causes of this considerable growth and what does it mean for the country as a whole?
On June 22nd The Work Crowd hosted a panel event, exploring the UAE’s economic boom as a global hub for business and innovation. We considered the opportunities for start-ups, scale-ups, and freelance talent in this highly prosperous country.
The panel was chaired by Felice Hurst, Managing Director (MENA) for The Work Crowd’s sister company Hanson Search. And the discussion featured Alice Weightman – CEO of The Work Crowd and Hanson Search, Selina Bieber - General Manager and MEA at Godaddy, Issam Kazim - CEO of the Dubai Corporation of Tourism & Commerce Marketing and Mohammad Alblooshi - Head of the Fintech & Innovation DIFC Authority.
Read on as we highlight the key takeaways from the event.
Impacts of the Pandemic
The pandemic has brought about unprecedented challenges, with flexibility and adaptive ability being key to success across the altered global economy. The UAE leadership has proven its strength and agility during this most trying of times, bouncing back to reinforce the country’s presence on the global stage. The prospects of long-term economic sustainability are great.
Mohammad Alblooshi began by addressing the government’s handling of the pandemic and the resulting elevation of Dubai’s position as an international tourist destination and business hub. He said, ‘I think kudos or hats off to the leadership within the city of Dubai from both the public side, as well as the private side, who have been very decisive and tak[en] action swiftly. It gave us a chance to slowly open up and find that perfect balance between the hygiene and safety measures, as well as business continuity.’
Government Initiatives for New Business
Although the pandemic has forced the closure of many international businesses, the UAE government has introduced a number of effective initiatives for the retention and attraction of talent. The introduction of new visas has made it easier to set up and work remotely from Dubai. And much of the restrictive red tape has been removed, allowing for the complete foreign ownership of a company within the UAE.
Mohammad Alblooshi said, ‘we saw people stuck in Dubai when the lockdown happened. Borders were closed [and] they couldn't travel back again. So the leadership immediately said, let's extend their visas for free so they feel safe and secure. And then we noticed that a lot of people started to work virtually from here, enjoying the infrastructure that Dubai has. COVID gave us a chance to really put these things into play and [a] virtual working program was rolled out.’
Reasons for the UAE’s Popularity
The UAE has taken a responsible and proactive approach to the handling of the pandemic, giving the international workforce considerable confidence. This has undoubtedly had a positive impact on the attraction of entrepreneurs, companies and freelancers. People are realising how efficiently they are able to connect and work from this advanced business hub.
Alice reflected on the UAE’s popularity among freelancers, saying, ‘the UAE [is] actually one of the fastest growing freelance economies. In fact, it has one of the highest per capita of freelancers in the world. There is already this strong community of freelancers contribut[ing] to the tech ecosystems who can be much more agile. These individuals can go to an environment which has low taxation, low regulation, and really quite a nice way of living. I think it has a very unique standpoint.’
The Remote Working Visa
As mentioned, the introduction of working visas has opened up the opportunities for setting up business and working remotely from the UAE. People who’ve previously decided against making the move due to restrictive government policies are now realising the opportunities within this thriving country.
Issam Kazim said, ‘We want people to explore for one or two years and then end up staying here [in Dubai] - setting up shop and setting up life. A lot of mothers who decided to lead a career to look after their kids in the early years, [are] now venturing out in business, setting up shop in Dubai and uncovering those stories, and you know, sharing that with the world.’
UAE’s Commitment to Digitalization
There’s a great hunger for tech talent within the UAE. GoDaddy are calling on the support of the UAE government for the rapid expansion of their product and tech team, with the number of employees set to triple in just one to two years.
Selina Bieber said, ‘it's our role as all stakeholders here [to] do our part in actually facilitating an environment that, you know, allows them to feel comfortable to come here know[ing] that they're going to get the support. They have the regulatory framework that support[s] them. But then they also have the platforms, the technology and the knowledge.’
The Growth of Innovation & Business Opportunities
The start-up ecosystem of the UAE is growing at a rapid pace. There’s been a surge in the demand for talent, with skilled workers either setting up their own businesses or being employed by companies across the country. The expectations of economic growth are clearly set out within the documented government plans for 2030 and beyond. From the development of creative spaces to the growth of e-commerce and fintech businesses, this discussion highlighted the many excellent reasons for excitement and optimism within the UAE.
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