Abu Dhabi’s success is a blueprint for other emerging economies

Not a single Fortune 500 company had its headquarters in Abu Dhabi in 1970.

The total population was about 66,000, and the city’s first international airport had just opened on a sandy airstrip.

Today, more than two million visitors pass through Abu Dhabi International Airport every month.

The emirate’s GDP has grown almost 200-fold since the formation of the UAE, the population has surpassed two million and a quarter of the Fortune 500 companies have regional headquarters in the UAE.

This level of growth and profound transformation demonstrates the concrete results of a long-term economic diversification strategy.

Its aim is to reduce the UAE’s reliance on hydrocarbons and to invest in industrial and service sectors to ensure sustainable economic growth and stability for generations to come.

Non-oil based GDP accounted for only 20 per cent of Abu Dhabi’s economy just over 30 years ago.

Last year, 49 per cent of the emirate’s GDP was non-oil based. Industries such as aviation, defence, manufacturing and renewable energy are now among the sectors playing significant roles in powering the UAE’s future.

Experts from academia, business, civil society, international organisations and governments will assemble this week at Yas Marina Circuit as the capital hosts the World Economic Forum Summit on the Global Agenda 2015.

Abu Dhabi in many ways represents a blueprint for emerging economies across the region and around the world to leverage their natural resources as a tool for sustainable economic transformation and global competitiveness.

Under the leadership of the President, Sheikh Khalifa, we undertook a highly disciplined and deliberate approach to diversify the Abu Dhabi economy and balance the contribution of non-oil GDP.

We fostered the development of strategic industrial and service sectors, and invested heavily in education and healthcare assets – essential infrastructure components to achieve the long-term goal of moving to a sustainable, knowledge-based economy.

We have both a responsibility and an opportunity to help other emerging economies model this approach, and the summit provides a forum to make that happen.

Playing host to the summit creates other opportunities for Abu Dhabi as well.

It gives our leaders of the private and public sectors an opportunity to contribute to global discussions on the world stage.

Also importantly, it is a platform for the next generation of Abu Dhabi leaders.

Through initiatives such as the Observers Programme, the Student Journalism Programme and our Young Ambassadors Initiative, a range of young professionals have the opportunity to participate in the summit in meaningful ways.

They will be part of many discussions that may ultimately further shape their contributions to the global community in dynamic, positive and meaningful ways.

These future leaders will also face unprecedented change with the coming of the fourth Industrial Revolution – a topic that will be much discussed at the summit.

In another 40 years, their children’s children will find it hard to imagine a time when technologies such as artificial intelligence and precision medicine were just gaining traction.

We hope to look back and know that by encouraging our young leaders to contribute to global dialogues and take an active interest in this country’s future, we will be better prepared for another chapter of transformative development.

Ali Al Mansoori is the chairman of the Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development and the co-chairman of the Summit on the Global Agenda 2015.

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