Energy Sector in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) (II): The United Arab Emirates (UAE)
9월 26, 2012
Photo: The UAE on the map

Photo: The UAE on the map

During the first part of the articles on energy sector in the Middle East and North Africa, I shared general and brief information about investments and plans related this sector made by the regional governments and private companies. Continuing it, I will share detailed information on specific regions and business opportunities for entrepreneurs and start-ups. In this article, The United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Abu Dhabi, “Masdar City” a global center of excellence in the renewable energy and clean technology will be introduced and potential business opportunities will be discussed.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE):

The United Arab Emirates, simply called the Emirates or the UAE, is an Arab country located in the southeast of the Arabian Peninsula in Western Asia on the Persian Gulf, bordering with Iran, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Oman. The UAE’s rich culture, openness, and unique location at the crossroads of the Middle East, Asia and Africa, have created opportunities for people from more than 200 nationalities. Since its establishment on December 2, 1971, the UAE has experienced a fast pace of development and political stability. It has spent billions of dollars on establishing a world-class transportation network, modern telecommunications infrastructure and scores of special economic zones. Its substantial investment on manufacturing and service sectors as well as a massive construction boom has helped the UAE diversify its economy and develop a vibrant, business-friendly market economy that has made it the regional business, trading and leisure center. In addition, the country is a leader of the region in terms of internet and mobile systems with a wide-spread wireless internet access across a plenty of places such as airports, cafes, shopping malls and hotels. Its two major business and leisure cities, Abu Dhabi and Dubai, adjoin each other by sharing various services. Not only inside these cities, but also between these two major cities there are plenty of recreational amenities, luxury hotels, colossal shopping malls, art centers, theaters and more.

Business Culture of the UAE:

The business environment in the UAE like every other country in the Middle East, it has its own specific issues and customs which must be considered by outside investors and entrepreneurs. The most important factor is that here business is conducted on the basis of personal relationships and mutual trust. However, this is changing quickly; still companies are often a family affair, with the ultimate decision-maker being the head of the family, and consequently, the initial business meetings will be held by a lower level people. Hence, it is paramount to recognize and identify who the decision-maker is! Another crucial thing is that hospitality is a way of life in the Arab world and businesses are usually conducted over lunch or dinner. As people are pretty hospitable and respectful, giving a local gift or souvenir is a badge of honor and declining it is considered rude. There are some other issues that are highly acknowledged in the business environment of the UAE such as good manners and attributes, always be patient in establishing the relationships, do not be put off if your meeting is interrupted by other guests or telephone conversations, and once a deal is made, orally or verbally, an Arab businessman’s word is his bond, and you are also expected to perform accordingly.

Abu Dhabi:

Abu Dhabi (Arabic: أبو ظبي‎ and pronouanced as 'Abou Zabi') is the capital and the second largest city of the UAE in terms of population. Located at the crossroads of Asia, Africa, Europe and the Far East, Abu Dhabi is a home to avant-garde skyscrapers, business centers, luxurious hotels, famous museums and a ambitious and successful world-class projects by its diverse and dynamic population. Vibrant lifestyle available in Abu Dhabi consists of water sports, nightlife, rich cultural and symphonies which have intrigued large amount of people from around the world. Additionally, world-class academic institutions are located in Abu Dhabi such as New York University, Paris-Sorbonne, INSEAD, and recently Masdar launched Masdar Institute in cooperation with the MIT as the first graduate-level research focused university dedicated to teaching and research in renewable energy and              sustainable technologies.

Photo: Abu Dhabi Night Skyline Panorama

Business Infrastructure of Abu Dhabi:

Sowwah Island is Abu Dhabi’s central business district where significant developments are taking place, and it will offer 24/7 urban waterfront environment set against the stunning backdrop of the Arabian Gulf. Sowwah Island which is connected to neighbor cities and districts by state-of-the-art bridges will provide a lively business center for entrepreneurs and companies. The local government has invested enormously on expanding transportation, high-speed passenger and freight railways including a metro (which stops at Masdar City) and a network of light rail lines (one of which will pass through Masdar City), streetcars and buses. Its economy is gaining a sustainable foothold and growth in the world by massive financial resources and an ambitious long-term 20-year development plan “Abu Dhabi 2030 plan”. Valued about US$163 billion, the plan incorporates a variety of sectors and areas such as land use, buildings, transportation for the entire metropolitan area, including the districts surrounding Masdar City. The key goals of “Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030” is to diminish the oil and gas sector’s share of the economy and to diversify significantly the scope of economic activity to cover education, banking & finance, tourism, media and manufacturing in sectors such as aluminum and petrochemicals. In fact, the Emirate’s investments in diversified sectors and industries including roads, public transportation, electricity, water, wastewater and telecommunications across the country will generate tremendous business opportunities for entrepreneurs and private companies. Accordingly, Abu Dhabi through a supportive regulatory environment, a clear road map for development and restructured government departments dedicated to serving businesses and residents has created a vibrant environment for business opportunities for entrepreneurs and firms from the UAE and the rest of the world.

Masdar City:

Masdar City, located in Abu Dhabi, is the world's most ambitious green project, and an emerging global hub for renewable energy and clean technologies. Masdar City, as a modern Arabian city where businesses can thrive and innovation can flourish, is a model for sustainable urban development regionally and globally, seeking to be a commercially viable development that delivers the highest quality living and working environment with the lowest possible ecological footprint. Masdar City serves as an open technology platform that gives partner companies an unmatched opportunity to develop, test and validate their technologies in a large scale, real-world environment and in particular, with consideration to the region’s climate conditions and consumption patterns.

Photo: Masdar City, Abu Dhabi

In the next article, Masdar City, its plan, and its market for businesses will be discussed in-depth.

About the author:

Ali Masoudi is an Iranian Master’s candidate in Industrial and Management Engineering at POSTECH, Korea, and is doing research on green and sustainability. He is passionate about start-ups and entrepreneurship.

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