Power Let­ters: Top busi­ness lead­ers give their pre­dic­tions for 2019


Gulf Business - - FRONT PAGE - Fred Durie CEO of Nshama

FOR EMI­RATES, 2018 has been about mak­ing fly­ing ‘ bet­ter’ for our cus­tomers. This con­tin­ual drive for im­prove­ment has al­ways been a part of our DNA, and un­der­pins our cur­rent and fu­ture suc­cess – whether in terms of de­liv­er­ing ever bet­ter cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ences or en­hanc­ing the way we op­er­ate across the busi­ness.

Over the course of 2018 we in­tro­duced a num­ber of prod­uct and ser­vice en­hance­ments on our Boe­ing 777s and A380s, and con­tin­ued to de­liver a full cus­tomer jour­ney that is com­fort­able and en­joy­able in ev­ery cabin class. This builds on our his­tory of set­ting bench­marks that to­day have be­come the cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence blue­print for the in­dus­try. There will be more to come in the next two years, as we in­tro­duce Boe­ing 777Xs to our fleet and re­ceive the new­est gen­er­a­tion of the A380s that were or­dered ear­lier this year.

We also an­nounced in­ter­nal tri­als for an ad­vanced ‘ bio­met­rics path’ at Emi­rates Ter­mi­nal 3 in Dubai, among other in­no­va­tions. When launched, this will hugely im­prove our cus­tomers’ ex­pe­ri­ence on the ground, al­low­ing them to sim­ply walk from curb to gate while bio­met­ric tech­nol­ogy au­to­mat­i­cally scans, ver­i­fies, and clears them through check-in, im­mi­gra­tion and other air­port check-points.

On the net­work front, we of­fered bet­ter con­nec­tiv­ity to our cus­tomers through ex­pand­ing our menu of des­ti­na­tions.As we re­ceived de­liv­ery of new air­craft, we launched four new routes, added fre­quen­cies to 20 des­ti­na­tions and up­graded ca­pac­ity to eight ci­ties. We ex­panded our UK foot­print with Lon­don Stansted and Ed­in­burgh, and launched San­ti­ago in Chile, open­ing more cor­ri­dors for in­creased long-haul con­nec­tiv­ity to South Amer­ica. Our part­ner­ship with fly­dubai con­tin­ues to grow as we ex­pand ac­cess to our com­bined net­work of over 200 unique points. Over the next 12 months, we will con­tinue to en­sure that we struc­ture our ca­pac­ity and lever­age our com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tage to un­lock fur­ther growth op­por­tu­ni­ties on even more routes, as well as fur­ther en­hance in­ter-ter­mi­nal trans­fers for our cus­tomers in Dubai.

Our Dubai hub’s at­trac­tion as a ‘must visit’ des­ti­na­tion has grown even fur­ther and this is demon­strated by Emi­rates car­ry­ing 9 per cent more cus­tomers to Dubai in 2018, a tes­ta­ment to the city’s ap­peal to both first­time and re­peat vis­i­tors from around the world. As we inch closer to Expo 2020, we will see a boost in tourism and in­fra­struc­ture de­vel­op­ment, and the ben­e­fits will trickle down to other in­dus­tries. Emi­rates’ plans for Expo 2020 are start­ing to take shape and pick up mo­men­tum, and we look for­ward to be­ing part of ex­cit­ing times ahead.

Emi­rates hit two fleet mile­stones in 2018. We cel­e­brated 10 years of A380 op­er­a­tions this sum­mer, car­ry­ing over 115 mil­lion pas­sen­gers since our first A380 flight. We also took de­liv­ery of our last Boe­ing 777300ER, and in the com­ing months we will be­gin pre­par­ing for de­liv­er­ies from the Boe­ing 777X and 787 pro­grammes.

Busi­ness in 2018 was not with­out head­winds, and there were a few key wild-cards at play. Oil price pres­sures and cur­rency volatil­ity in key mar­kets eroded our prof­its, with trade ten­sions be­tween the ma­jor economies and on­go­ing geo-po­lit­i­cal ten­sions in our back­yard adding to the chal­lenge. Luck­ily, over­all pas­sen­ger de­mand con­tin­ues to be on the rise, pre­sent­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties to push our rev­enues higher and par­tially off­set our yield pres­sures.

The oil mar­ket is in a cur­rent state of sus­pense and no one will be sur­prised if 2019 proves to be an­other volatile year with signs that ma­jor economies may be in for a rough ride.

As al­ways, the Emi­rates busi­ness model al­lows us to be flex­i­ble and ag­ile when re­spond­ing to change and dis­rup­tions, es­pe­cially as Dubai’s open econ­omy and our own global foot­print means we have no respite from the im­pact of macroe­co­nomic trends.

In 2019, one of the run­ways at our Dubai hub will shut for 45 days for ren­o­va­tion. The nec­es­sary ca­pac­ity re­duc­tion will im­pact our rev­enues dur­ing that pe­riod. As we did in 2014, we are work­ing strate­gi­cally to slim down our op­er­a­tions, and are col­lab­o­rat­ing closely with stake­hold­ers to en­sure we con­tinue to de­liver a su­pe­rior cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence. The in­fras­truc­tural in­vest­ment will pay off and we will be ready to ramp up our op­er­a­tions again dur­ing the sum­mer travel sea­son.

We con­tinue to be watch­ful of the es­ca­la­tion in pro­tec­tion­ist rhetoric, on both the avi­a­tion and geopo­lit­i­cal fronts. But avi­a­tion has a unique sell­ing point and has al­ways been a force for good – it shrinks dis­tances and sat­is­fies the world’s thirst for con­nec­tiv­ity, it links busi­nesses and ul­ti­mately cre­ates jobs and op­por­tu­ni­ties. Rais­ing bar­ri­ers will ben­e­fit no one.

In spite of the chal­lenges, I am for­ever an op­ti­mist. We will buckle down and nav­i­gate through the dif­fi­cul­ties that lie ahead, and will also con­tinue to ex­plore op­por­tu­ni­ties that make com­mer­cial sense for us.

Our strat­egy will re­main as it al­ways has, fo­cus­ing on our or­ganic growth, grow­ing link­ages be­tween ci­ties, while de­liv­er­ing a su­pe­rior ex­pe­ri­ence for our cus­tomers.


SHIFT­ING al­liances and tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vances were among the key trends that im­pacted global trade in 2018. De­spite traces of pro­tec­tion­ism sur­fac­ing in some de­vel­oped mar­kets, the UAE emerged re­silient as ever in the face of rapid change, thanks to its well-di­ver­si­fied econ­omy and for­ward­look­ing poli­cies.

The in­tro­duc­tion of value added tax ( VAT) in the UAE was a nat­u­ral and nec­es­sary step for a ma­tur­ing econ­omy like ours to main­tain its sta­bil­ity. Trade, tourism and in­fra­struc­ture con­tinue to fuel eco­nomic growth, es­pe­cially within Dubai as Expo-re­lated pro­jects pro­gressed. Dubai’s non-oil for­eign trade grew to Dh­s645bn ($175.6bn) in the first half of 2018, while 8.1 mil­lion in­ter­na­tional vis­i­tors were hosted in the emi­rate over the same pe­riod.

Eco­nomic stim­u­lus plans un­veiled ear­lier this year by the Dubai gov­ern­ment can be best de­scribed as sig­nif­i­cant im­prove­ments to ease of do­ing busi­ness. Ad­vo­cat­ing on be­half of the pri­vate sec­tor, Dubai Cham­ber made im­por­tant pol­icy rec­om­men­da­tions on re­duc­ing cost of busi­ness and en­hanc­ing suc­cess­ful publicpri­vate part­ner­ships in line with the goals of the stim­u­lus pack­age. For Dubai Cham­ber, 2018 was a very pro­duc­tive year as we ex­panded our global pres­ence with the open­ing of two new rep­re­sen­ta­tive of­fices in Panama and In­dia. These of­fices com­ple­ment our global net­work and greatly sup­port our ef­forts to strengthen our re­la­tion­ships with key pub­lic and pri­vate sec­tor stake­hold­ers in Latin Amer­ica and Asia.

Dur­ing the Year of Zayed, we re­flected as a na­tion on our past, eval­u­ated the present, and worked to­wards a fu­ture that meets the as­pi­ra­tions of younger gen­er­a­tions, while we also sup­ported the re­lease of a new book cel­e­brat­ing the last­ing legacy of the UAE’s Found­ing Fa­ther.

The late Sheikh Zayed bin Sul­tan Al Nahyan’s strong fo­cus on eco­nomic di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion serves as a driv­ing force for us, as we strive to cre­ate a favourable busi­ness en­vi­ron­ment that at­tracts cap­i­tal, en­ter­prises and ta­lent in equal mea­sure.

Dubai’s win­ning bid to host the World Cham­bers Congress 2021 was an­other ma­jor suc­cess that we cel­e­brated in 2018. We look for­ward to work­ing with the ICC World Cham­bers Fed­er­a­tion over the next year to or­gan­ise and de­liver a Congress like no other.

Look­ing ahead, we ex­pect 2019 to be a piv­otal year for Dubai with prepa­ra­tions for Expo 2020 in full swing. The tourism, hos­pi­tal­ity, lo­gis­tics, trans­porta­tion and re­tail sec­tors are al­ready feel­ing the Expo ef­fect with in­fra­struc­ture and ex­pan­sion pro­jects trans­form­ing the city.

The adop­tion of dis­rup­tive tech­nolo­gies such as blockchain, ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence, and 3D print­ing will ac­cel­er­ate Dubai’s trans­for­ma­tion into one of the world’s smartest ci­ties. Dubai Cham­ber will roll out new in­no­va­tive ser­vices and so­lu­tions to our mem­bers and the busi­ness com­mu­nity that will fur­ther im­prove ease of do­ing busi­ness in the emi­rate.

We are al­ways on the look­out for new and in­no­va­tive busi­ness ideas that sup­port Dubai’s tran­si­tion to be­come a global in­no­va­tion hub. The Mo­hammed Bin Rashid Al Mak­toum Busi­ness In­no­va­tion Award, Dubai In­no­va­tion In­dex, Dubai Smart­preneur Com­pe­ti­tion and Mar­ket Ac­cess are key Dubai Cham­ber ini­tia­tives to watch in 2019 as they serve as barom­e­ters for in­no­va­tion ac­tiv­ity within busi­ness com­mu­ni­ties in the UAE and abroad. Dubai Cham­ber plans to step up its ef­forts to pro­mote Dubai on an in­ter­na­tional level through its Global Busi­ness Fo­rum se­ries. For the first time ever, the Global Busi­ness Fo­rum on Latin Amer­ica will be held out­side of Dubai as we take the high-level event to Panama City in 2019. This premier fo­rum will com­ple­ment our in­ter­na­tional outreach ef­forts, build bridges with key stake­hold­ers in the re­gion, and ex­plore new av­enues of eco­nomic co­op­er­a­tion. At the same time, GBF Latin Amer­ica 2019 sup­ports our strat­egy of ex­plor­ing promis­ing mar­kets around the world and iden­ti­fy­ing busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties for our mem­bers, while the fo­rum is an ideal plat­form to po­si­tion Dubai as a global gate­way for Latin Amer­i­can com­pa­nies.

All of these strate­gies and plans have been de­vel­oped with the aim of sup­port­ing the strate­gic ob­jec­tives out­lined in the Dubai Plan 2021. With the valu­able sup­port of pub­lic and pri­vate sec­tor play­ers in Dubai, I am con­fi­dent that we can fast track the emi­rate’s progress and ce­ment its rep­u­ta­tion as a global busi­ness hub of­fer­ing end­less po­ten­tial and pos­si­bil­i­ties.

ETI­SALAT has laid a solid foun­da­tion in fu­tur­is­tic so­lu­tions and next gen­er­a­tion tech­nolo­gies over the last year to de­liver the best-in­class ser­vices while main­tain­ing our fo­cus on dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion and the over­all cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence.

We have demon­strated a strong com­mit­ment to sus­tain­ing tech­no­log­i­cal lead­er­ship by in­vest­ing in emerg­ing and next gen­er­a­tion tech­nolo­gies such as 5G, which is a ma­jor en­abler for the next gen­er­a­tion of broad­band ser­vices and the In­ter­net of Things.

With its im­ple­men­ta­tion, 5G will pro­vide op­por­tu­ni­ties for eco­nomic growth and mas­sive de­vel­op­ment in the ar­eas of ICT in­fra­struc­ture, ed­u­ca­tion, em­ploy­ment, trans­porta­tion and more.

Last year, Eti­salat suc­cess­fully launched the first 5G fixed broad­band ex­pe­ri­ence in the re­gion, with a com­mer­cial 5G net­work de­ployed in cer­tain lo­ca­tions within the UAE. Our main ob­jec­tives are to gen­er­ate in­cre­men­tal 5G rev­enue via new use cases, adding value to share­hold­ers and de­liv­er­ing world-class cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence. Our work with Expo 2020 is a tes­ti­mony to these ef­forts, with the event site be­com­ing the first ma­jor com­mer­cial cus­tomer for 5G in the Mid­dle East, Africa and South Asia. Such an im­ple­men­ta­tion is a dec­la­ra­tion of a new era of dig­i­tal con­nec­tiv­ity and an ac­knowl­edge­ment of 5G’s rich an­tic­i­pated po­ten­tial.

The fifth gen­er­a­tion net­work will de­liver faster speeds and lower la­tency and be­come a crit­i­cal build­ing block in the eco­nomic com­pet­i­tive­ness of the UAE. 5G data rates will far ex­ceed the cur­rent 4G, pro­vid­ing un­lim­ited ac­cess to all kinds of ap­pli­ca­tions and ser­vices while driv­ing in­no­va­tion, ef­fi­ciency and pro­duc­tiv­ity to a wide range of busi­ness and in­dus­trial sec­tors in the coun­try.

Else­where, our re­sults in the first half of 2018 show­cased our abil­ity to lead and in­no­vate, amount­ing to a 6 per cent in­crease in net profit year over year (Dhs4.3bn).

Eti­salat has al­ways be­lieved in in­no­va­tion and tech­nol­ogy trans­for­ma­tion through a back­bone en­com­pass­ing the most ad­vanced, fastest and widest net­work in the re­gion. In­fra­struc­ture in­vest­ments have been key to this growth and lead­er­ship in the mar­ket; in 2018 we have con­tin­ued in­vest­ing in the mod­erni­sa­tion of mo­bile and fi­bre-op­tic net­works and in­fra­struc­ture de­vel­op­ment, as well as tech­nolo­gies such as IoT and ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence.

Our con­tin­u­ous in­vest­ments over the years have led to ma­jor achieve­ments in­clud­ing 3G net­work cov­er­age reach­ing 99.98 per cent of the UAE pop­u­la­tion and 4G LTE cov­er­ing 98.98 per cent. Fi­bre-tothe-home (FTTH) cov­er­age now reaches 94.3 per cent of homes across the coun­try, thus main­tain­ing the UAE’s po­si­tion as a global leader in FTTH, ac­cord­ing to the lat­est re­port from the FTTH coun­cil.

Eti­salat’s net­work cloud­i­fi­ca­tion is con­sid­ered one of the key in­no­va­tion pro­jects in the com­ing year. This will bring in ef­fi­ciency, as we will be able to de­liver ser­vices in a more cost ef­fi­cient man­ner com­pared to the cur­rent model.

In the past few years, we have evolved into an ICT ser­vice provider by en­abling an ecosys­tem with an ad­vanced net­work and fu­tur­is­tic so­lu­tions like ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence and robotics. The UAE ranks num­ber one in dig­i­tal adop­tion among Mid­dle East­ern coun­tries hav­ing im­ple­mented core digi­ti­sa­tion ini­tia­tives.

As a com­pany our vi­sion ‘Driv­ing the Dig­i­tal Fu­ture to Em­power So­ci­eties’ is fo­cused on mak­ing this dig­i­tal fu­ture a re­al­ity by fa­cil­i­tat­ing in­no­va­tion, creativ­ity and bring­ing new tech­nolo­gies to our cus­tomers across our mar­kets.

In turn, our in­fra­struc­ture plays a key sup­port­ing role in the coun­try’s am­bi­tions to get dig­i­tally com­pet­i­tive and bring in dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion. The UAE to­day leads in global ICT com­pet­i­tive in­dexes mainly due to the con­tin­ued de­vel­op­ment and in­creased adop­tion of dig­i­tal strate­gies in var­i­ous pro­jects and ini­tia­tives im­ple­mented.

As part of our dig­i­tal jour­ney and strat­egy, we be­lieve in in­vest­ing in a fu­ture that will lay a foun­da­tion of ideas. Our part­ner­ship with gov­ern­ment-sup­ported ac­cel­er­a­tor pro­grammes and the launch of the in­no­va­tion pro­gramme ‘Fu­ture Now’ is a tes­ti­mony to the com­pany’s be­lief and phi­los­o­phy of work­ing hand in hand with the next gen­er­a­tion by pro­vid­ing them the build­ing blocks to cre­ate and in­no­vate to make the dig­i­tal fu­ture a re­al­ity.

We are also work­ing with en­trepreneurs to in­crease cus­tomer adop­tion of dig­i­tal self­care chan­nels thereby en­hanc­ing cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence and cut­ting calls to Eti­salat cus­tomer care by 50 per cent through AI, an­a­lyt­ics and in­sights and ma­chine learn­ing.

Ar­ti­fi­cial In­tel­li­gence is go­ing to be the game changer in busi­ness, con­tribut­ing $96bn to the UAE econ­omy by 2030 - nearly 13.6 per cent of its gross do­mes­tic prod­uct (GDP).

We also be­lieve that au­to­mated trans­port will be­come the norm in the fu­ture, and peo­ple will no longer dif­fer­en­ti­ate be­tween a ‘cloud’ and a ‘lo­cal’. As for play and leisure, the use of ro­bots will be­come com­mon­place as will hu­man aug­men­ta­tion.


THE DE­MAND for en­ergy and water is at an all-time high, and the tra­jec­tory is only head­ing up­wards. In­creased pop­u­la­tion growth, in­dus­tri­al­i­sa­tion and ur­ban­i­sa­tion are driv­ing un­prece­dented need for re­li­able power and clean drink­ing water while con­tribut­ing to an ever-widen­ing gap be­tween the sup­ply and de­mand of these two com­modi­ties.

It is now glar­ingly ob­vi­ous to even the most priv­i­leged of com­mu­ni­ties that im­me­di­ate ac­tion must be taken to se­cure power and water sup­plies for the gen­er­a­tions to come.

Col­lab­o­rat­ing with gov­ern­ments and pub­lic en­ti­ties un­der pub­lic-pri­vate part­ner­ships, ACWA Power is right at the heart of en­ergy tran­si­tion and in seek­ing to re­de­fine the way water and power is pro­duced.

Our strong­est pre­dic­tion for 2019

The swing to re­new­able en­ergy will be faster than any one ex­pects and what can be rea­son­ably fore­casted, with an in­creas­ing pace of ac­tiv­ity in parts of the re­gion. In 2019 we will see a marked ac­cel­er­a­tion in the de­ploy­ment of re­new­able en­ergy. Not only will am­bi­tious tar­gets keep get­ting an­nounced, but we will also see more sig­nif­i­cant con­struc­tion ac­tiv­ity un­der­way. We will also wit­ness some firm foun­da­tions laid on the de­vel­op­ment of a re­new­able en­ergy re­lated com­po­nent in man­u­fac­tur­ing ca­pac­ity across the re­gion.

As the MENA re­gion is quite re­liant on de­sali­nated water, the en­ergy water nexus has al­ways been un­der­stood. Thus, there has been some dis­cus­sion around the de­vel­op­ment of ‘so­lar de­sali­na­tion’, which links a re­verse os­mo­sis de­sali­na­tion plant with so­lar en­ergy to pro­duce part of the elec­tric­ity be­ing gen­er­ated by the plant. All in all, 2019 will keep the sec­tor of power gen­er­a­tion and de­sali­nated water pro­duc­tion ‘en­er­gised’ but now with re­new­able en­ergy.

Why is this so im­por­tant?

With 30-40 per cent of MENA’s pop­u­la­tion below the age of 15, the de­mand for elec­tric­ity and water will dra­mat­i­cally soar over the next decade as more and more peo­ple move into the em­ploy­able and eco­nom­i­cally ac­tive de­mo­graphic bracket, thus fu­elling the need for so­cial ser­vices, in­dus­tri­al­i­sa­tion, and eco­nomic ex­pan­sion.

Nev­er­the­less, there are mul­ti­ple fac­tors that will aid in ac­com­mo­dat­ing the up­surge of de­mand. Tech­nol­ogy is grant­ing us the tools to de­liver truly cost com­pet­i­tive so­lu­tions, and at the same time gov­ern­ments are recog­nis­ing the need to elim­i­nate sub­sidy and util­is­ing re­new­able en­ergy at a faster pace.

The lower cost of gen­er­a­tion and elim­i­na­tion of fuel sub­si­dies will lead to an over­all re­duc­tion in the pro­vi­sion cost of elec­tric­ity. And the sta­bil­i­sa­tion of that cost due to the re­duc­tion of the mar­ket­priced linked fos­sil fu­els in the en­ergy mix will also de­liver sig­nif­i­cant eco­nomic value to all coun­tries in the re­gion, re­gard­less of whether they are fuel ex­porters or im­porters.

What else can we ex­pect?

In the quest to in­crease ef­fi­ciency and move cap­i­tal ex­pen­di­ture from sov­er­eign bal­ance sheets, gov­ern­ments will con­tinue to seek in­vest­ment from the pri­vate sec­tor to match the ex­po­nen­tial growth in water and power.

De­mand can be catered for with a steady pipeline of pro­jects, but in or­der to sus­tain these pro­jects coun­tries in the re­gion need to cap­i­talise on their strong re­new­able en­ergy po­ten­tial, well-es­tab­lished con­tracts of PPP mod­els and well-struc­tured pro­cure­ment poli­cies and pro­cesses which have al­ready de­liv­ered lower tar­iff lev­els to set new global bench­marks.

Saudi Ara­bia’s Vi­sion 2030 is a good ex­am­ple. Be­yond di­ver­si­fy­ing the econ­omy from re­liance on hy­dro­car­bons and in­creas­ing lev­els of pri­vate sec­tor par­tic­i­pa­tion in the elec­tric­ity and water sec­tors, it in­cor­po­rates spe­cific am­bi­tion on the es­tab­lish­ment of a re­new­able en­ergy sec­tor that will ac­count for 9.5GW and an ad­di­tion of over 3 mil­lion cu­bic me­tres per day of de­sali­nated water pro­duc­tion ca­pac­ity.

We be­lieve that de­sali­na­tion ef­fi­ciently in­te­grated with re­new­able en­ergy through con­cen­trated so­lar power (CSP) and molten salt stor­age ca­pac­i­ties will be­come a par­tic­u­lar fo­cus in the re­gion for the years ahead. In the case of CSP with molten salt stor­age, the com­bi­na­tion af­fords an in­ter­me­di­ary stor­age so­lu­tion to elim­i­nate the in­ter­mit­tency is­sue of PV and wind gen­er­ated elec­tric­ity. CSP is al­ready gain­ing at­ten­tion in the re­gion with its stor­age ca­pa­bil­i­ties that en­able it to dis­patch elec­tric­ity to meet the fluc­tu­at­ing daily de­mand pro­file through­out the day and night. ACWA Power and the Dubai Elec­tric­ity and Water Au­thor­ity (DEWA) are lead­ing the de­vel­op­ment of the 950 MW Noor En­ergy 1 plant, which will gen­er­ate 700 MW through CSP and 250MW PV and is con­sid­ered the largest sin­gle-site con­cen­trated so­lar power plant in the world. ACWA Power re­mains com­mit­ted to re­li­ably de­liv­er­ing elec­tric­ity and de­sali­nated water at the low­est cost while striv­ing to in­crease lo­cal con­tent and max­imis­ing lo­cal em­ploy­ment for a health­ier, wealth­ier and hap­pier 2019 and be­yond.


MI­CROSOFT GULF has had a busy 2018, forg­ing key part­ner­ships in the gov­ern­ment and pri­vate sec­tors. Our mis­sion is to em­power ev­ery in­di­vid­ual and or­gan­i­sa­tion to achieve more, and right now that means step­ping up and en­abling them to over­come the chal­lenges pre­sented by the Fourth In­dus­trial Revo­lu­tion.

But this is only pos­si­ble for or­gan­i­sa­tions that em­brace what we call a ‘tech in­ten­sity’ cul­ture, which re­flects a com­pany’s abil­ity to de­velop dig­i­tal ca­pa­bil­i­ties and drive tech adop­tion.

Dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion has the po­ten­tial to en­gage cit­i­zens and cus­tomers, em­power pub­lic ser­vants and em­ploy­ees, op­ti­mise op­er­a­tions and rein­vent prod­ucts, ser­vices and busi­ness mod­els. In re­sponse to over­whelm­ing de­mand for the trusted Mi­crosoft Cloud, in March we an­nounced the build­ing of data cen­tres in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, which will serve our cus­tomers in the Mid­dle East.

There are many ex­am­ples from 2018 of re­gional or­gan­i­sa­tions that have placed their trust in the Mi­crosoft Cloud. Dubai Air­ports an­nounced its mi­gra­tion to Mi­crosoft Azure. Telecoms giant du re­cently part­nered with us on an AI pro­gramme that will in­clude as­sess­ment of tech­nolo­gies such as cog­ni­tive ser­vices and fa­cial text speech for in­tel­li­gent cus­tomer care and pre­dic­tive main­te­nance. And ENOC teamed up with Mi­crosoft to de­velop the Ser­vice Sta­tion of the Fu­ture, lev­er­ag­ing mo­bile apps and AI to per­son­alise the cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence.

In Saudi Ara­bia, Mi­crosoft signed the first Azure trans­for­ma­tion en­gage­ment with Ithra – a world cul­ture cen­tre de­vel­oped by Aramco – to per­form an Azure Cloud readi­ness as­sess­ment. Also, THIQAH Busi­ness Ser­vices, owned by the Saudi Au­thor­ity for Ac­cred­ited Valuers ( TAQEEM), adopted our mod­ern work­place so­lu­tions to en­hance se­cu­rity, mo­bil­ity and col­lab­o­ra­tion. Ad­di­tion­ally, the Saudi Min­istry of Hous­ing joined with Mi­crosoft to em­power their em­ploy­ees and bet­ter en­gage with cit­i­zens.

As we en­ter 2019, and pre­pare to say good­bye to an­other decade, we stand on the brink of many break­throughs, but also many chal­lenges. Pri­vate cit­i­zens will see a lot more ben­e­fits in their every­day lives be­cause of AI. From health­care to re­tail ex­pe­ri­ences, from travel to pub­lic safety, we will all see the fu­ture in front of us.

But the re­gion’s cit­i­zens, res­i­dents, gov­ern­ments, busi­nesses and non-prof­its must face up to the fact that we all bear re­spon­si­bil­ity for sur­mount­ing the chal­lenges that ac­com­pany the ben­e­fits. First, we must safe­guard the liveli­hoods of those dis­placed by au­to­ma­tion. Mi­crosoft is com­mit­ted to this goal, through life­long learn­ing pro­grammes and the steady creation of jobs. An IDC study shows that cloud com­put­ing, in­clud­ing the Mi­crosoft ecosys­tem, will cre­ate more than 520,000 jobs across key mar­kets in the MEA re­gion in the com­ing five years. Our data cen­tres (set to open this year) will play a large part in this. But crit­i­cally, the World Bank tells us that for ev­ery tech­nol­ogy job cre­ated, 4.3 more are gen­er­ated across in­dus­tries and in­come groups.

The com­ing years could also see a widen­ing skills gap in the re­gion, and this is some­thing Mi­crosoft has taken very se­ri­ously. Our ini­tia­tives – in­clud­ing the Mi­crosoft Cloud So­ci­ety, and part­ner­ships with en­ti­ties such as Dubai Fu­ture Foun­da­tion (on AI Sum­mer Camps and the One Mil­lion Arab Coders pro­gramme in the UAE) and the MiSK foun­da­tion and Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion in Saudi Ara­bia – are aimed at up­skilling and reskilling the re­gion’s peo­ple to fill the jobs that have yet to be cre­ated.

Fur­ther into the New Year, as the next wave of in­tel­li­gent cloud and in­tel­li­gent edge com­put­ing con­tin­ues to take cen­tre stage, quan­tum com­put­ing will also gain trac­tion across the world. These next-gen­er­a­tion ma­chines will be able to solve in hours prob­lems that the en­tire world’s su­per­com­put­ers run­ning in par­al­lel would take the life­time of the uni­verse to crack. We could fi­nally take on cli­mate change, cre­ate new su­per­con­duct­ing ma­te­ri­als and take mas­sive leaps for­ward in AI.

Mi­crosoft also be­lieves we will see a con­tin­u­a­tion of the main­stream adop­tion of mixed-re­al­ity so­lu­tions. While we con­tinue to guard the dig­i­tal es­tates of our cus­tomers, en­abling them to in­no­vate free from bound­aries, we will also see a swell in the num­ber of de­vices and vol­ume of data. This will lead to a more sin­is­ter cy­ber-threat land­scape, even as the need for com­pli­ance with pri­vacy and pro­tec­tion reg­u­la­tions es­ca­lates.

The fu­ture is bright, but it will take bold pol­icy-mak­ing to keep us on the right track. We look for­ward to play­ing our part in em­pow­er­ing the re­gion’s gov­ern­ments, busi­nesses and in­di­vid­u­als to em­brace their ‘tech in­ten­sity’ and achieve more each day.


I HAVE OF­TEN been asked what the one dif­fer­en­ti­at­ing strength of a de­vel­oper is. My an­swer in one word is ‘trust.’ De­vel­op­ers gain trust by de­liv­er­ing on their prom­ise.

And there are no short cuts in achiev­ing cus­tomer trust. The mar­ket will al­ways have its chal­lenges; there are go­ing to be pe­ri­ods of lows and highs, as is nat­u­ral in any eco­nomic cy­cle; and there are go­ing to be road­blocks in any pro­ject man­age­ment.

It is when de­vel­op­ers fo­cus on be­ing ag­ile and flex­i­ble in their de­vel­op­ment strat­egy that they can over­come the odds and achieve the mile­stones they have set. Man­ag­ing ef­fi­cient work pro­cesses does not mean cut­ting corners: It means iden­ti­fy­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties that can help max­imise value.

At Nshama, we have been dili­gent in our plan­ning and ex­e­cu­tion. As the pioneer of ele­gant and thought­fully de­signed homes in trendy neigh­bour­hoods, our pri­or­ity from our in­cep­tion has been to fo­cus on re­source op­ti­mi­sa­tion.

We have seen our flag­ship com­mu­nity – Town Square Dubai – come to life and thrive as a pre­ferred neigh­bour­hood for fam­i­lies by de­liv­er­ing on our prom­ise of help­ing peo­ple shift from rental liv­ing to an owned-home life­style. But we have also re­vis­ited our strat­egy to ad­dress rel­e­vant in­dus­try white space – for ex­am­ple the de­mand for co-liv­ing and co-work­ing spa­ces that are soughtafter by the mil­len­nial gen­er­a­tion. We can shift our de­vel­op­ment ap­proach – and di­ver­sify our of­fer­ing – be­cause we op­er­ate with flex­i­bil­ity. As the mod­ern adage goes, build and they will come. But from our proven ex­am­ple, it is when you build for them, that they will stay with you.

The need for the real es­tate in­dus­try to­day is to in­no­vate and think be­yond con­ven­tions. Of course, no win­ning idea will be ex­clu­sive: Ev­ery de­vel­op­ment ap­proach will find its em­u­la­tors, but many tend to for­get that be­yond price con­sid­er­a­tions if there is one fac­tor that will help win re­peat busi­ness – which is im­por­tant for any de­vel­oper here for the long-term – it is the trust you build among cus­tomers.

One of the driv­ing forces of Dubai’s de­vel­op­ment strat­egy for the prop­erty sec­tor has been the ad­di­tion of new ge­ogra­phies. A new high-growth cor­ri­dor is evolv­ing through the Al Qu­dra and Al Mak­toum In­ter­na­tional Air­port perime­ter, where in­vestors can record strong re­turn on in­vest­ment and rental yields. And with af­ford­able homes be­ing given pri­or­ity by the gov­ern­ment, to meet the needs of the com­mu­nity, there will be even more de­vel­op­ment ac­tiv­ity in this zone.

We are wit­ness­ing the evo­lu­tion of a new sky­line that stands di­a­met­ri­cally op­po­site to the cityscape formed along Sheikh Zayed Road. The hec­tic pace of ac­tiv­ity is of­ten con­strued as lead­ing to over­sup­ply and con­cerns about price. This has also led to de­vel­op­ers tend­ing to fo­cus on be­ing price­sen­si­tive than qual­ity con­scious, which, in the long run is detri­men­tal to their in­ter­ests as well as to the mar­ket.

While fac­tor­ing in price for the end-user is im­por­tant it must not be at the ex­pense of their well­be­ing. Cut­ting corners on space plan­ning, in­clud­ing the size and lay­out of the houses, and un­der­min­ing the need to de­liver the right ameni­ties – with just price serv­ing as the bench­mark – is not healthy.

For cus­tomers, it is not just a house that de­vel­op­ers of­fer: It is also the ex­pe­ri­ence that awaits them. It is the sense of place and be­long­ing that com­mu­ni­ties must strive to of­fer. By de­sign­ing, de­vel­op­ing and main­tain­ing ele­gant neigh­bour­hoods with rel­e­vant ameni­ties that en­hance the life­style of res­i­dents, you earn cus­tomer con­fi­dence, which sus­tains your busi­ness and en­ables de­vel­op­ers to grow. For us at Nshama, trust is about keep­ing our prom­ise to our cus­tomers through in­te­grated de­vel­op­ments that pro­mote well­be­ing and com­mu­nity spirit. From care­fully select­ing lo­ca­tions in high-growth cen­tres of the fu­ture to de­sign­ing homes that add to the well­ness of our res­i­dents, and show­cas­ing ameni­ties that en­hance their life­style, we pri­ori­tise the fun­da­men­tals that are cru­cial for long-term suc­cess.

And that is what we will con­tinue to fo­cus on. We have am­bi­tious new de­vel­op­ments planned for 2019, and new con­cepts be­ing fi­nalised that will de­fine our com­mu­ni­ties as trend-set­ting des­ti­na­tions de­liv­er­ing sus­tained value.

We also know that with trust comes ac­count­abil­ity and greater re­spon­si­bil­ity – and that is why ev­ery brick we lay to build our com­mu­ni­ties is backed by a com­mit­ment to cre­at­ing sus­tained value for our cus­tomers.


LAST YEAR fol­lowed on from a se­ries of mile­stone mo­ments for the Mid­dle East­ern art scene, high­lighted by the land­mark open­ing of the Lou­vre Abu Dhabi in 2017, and, closer to home, Sotheby’s gallery space and in­au­gu­ral auc­tion in Dubai.

To­day the UAE is recog­nised as a hub for art, span­ning clas­si­cal to con­tem­po­rary, with the fun­da­men­tal mes­sage that the very best from all cul­tures should be shared to pro­mote cul­tural ex­change and in­spire new di­a­logues.

Set­ting the stage for the com­ing year are two re­cent trans­for­ma­tive de­vel­op­ments – one in­ter­na­tional and the other home­grown.

The first is the mag­nif­i­cent Al­bukhary Foun­da­tion Gallery of the Is­lamic World in the British Mu­seum in Lon­don. Is­lamic art is now placed in the run of main gal­leries and into the heart of the British Mu­seum’s story, a rev­e­la­tion that pre­sents Is­lamic art as a liv­ing tra­di­tion.

The se­cond is the open­ing of the Jameel Arts Cen­tre in Dubai, a space for se­ri­ous cu­ra­to­rial ex­plo­rations and a wel­come foray into work­ing from the ground up. The cel­e­brated in­ter­na­tion­al­ism of the Dubai art scene may have oc­ca­sion­ally over­looked a fo­cus on lo­cal de­vel­op­ments and this is ex­actly what the Jameel Arts Cen­tre will rem­edy. Launch­ing in the same week as the 10th an­niver­sary of the Abu Dhabi Art Fair, it feeds into the ex­cep­tional art ecosys­tem in the UAE – a mix of com­mer­cial, in­sti­tu­tional and gov­ern­men­tal ini­tia­tives along­side in­ter­na­tional brands, in­clud­ing Sotheby’s auc­tion house and its sto­ried 275-year his­tory.

Since Sotheby’s opened its gallery in Dubai in 2017, we have been con­tin­u­ously look­ing to ex­pand what we of­fer clients and the wider pub­lic in the re­gion, and to bring the ex­per­tise of our in­ter­na­tional spe­cial­ists di­rectly to their doorsteps.

One of the high-points of the year was un­doubt­edly bring­ing to Dubai the im­pres­sive pearls and di­a­monds that adorned the ill-fated Queen Marie-An­toinette, an ex­hi­bi­tion that sparked a sen­sa­tion amongst jew­ellery lovers and his­tory buffs alike. In No­vem­ber, once its world-tour had ended, the Bour­bonParma col­lec­tion sold in Geneva to set a new record for a sale of Royal Jewels at $53.1m, led by a world auc­tion record for that colos­sal nat­u­ral pearl at $36.2m. At the same time, one wall across from the jew­ellery, we un­veiled a re­dis­cov­ered mas­ter­piece by master of the Dutch Golden Age, Rem­brandt, in­au­gu­rated by guest of hon­our HE Noura Al Kaabi, UAE min­is­ter for cul­ture and knowl­edge de­vel­op­ment.

This year also marked Sotheby’s firstever watches auc­tion in the Mid­dle East, which took place in No­vem­ber and was a fan­tas­tic op­por­tu­nity to share yet an­other pas­sion with both es­tab­lished and first-time col­lec­tors. The auc­tion ham­mered down $2.6m in a packed sale­room, with 25 per cent of the par­tic­i­pants com­pletely new to our auc­tions. We will be host­ing our se­cond Dubai Watches sale in March this year.

One of my per­sonal high­lights – also a ca­reer high­light – was Sotheby’s sale of the in­de­scrib­ably rare inky-blue Iznik ‘De­banne’ Charger, which broke the auc­tion record for an Is­lamic ob­ject at $6.9m. Fiercely com­pet­i­tive bid­ding started at GBP300,000 ($378,000), and con­tin­ued for over 20 min­utes with nine col­lec­tors and in­sti­tu­tions from all over the world par­tic­i­pat­ing in the room, on the tele­phones and even on­line. The piece en­cap­su­lates the four key things that col­lec­tors are al­ways look­ing for – rar­ity, beauty, con­di­tion and prove­nance.

Last but not least, it has been a great year and a buoy­ant mar­ket for mod­ern and con­tem­po­rary masters from the Mid­dle East, and we have achieved 16 artist records in­clud­ing new bench­mark prices for GCC artists Has­san Sharif, Mo­hammed Kazem, Maha Mal­luh and Ab­dul­rah­man Al Soli­man. These are artists that have re­ceived a tremen­dous amount of at­ten­tion in the re­gion re­cently, and we felt that it was im­por­tant that they get the recog­ni­tion they de­serve in­ter­na­tion­ally, in the con­text of a Lon­don auc­tion.

In­sti­tu­tion­ally, there is more ex­cit­ing news for these names, as the in­cred­i­ble Sharif ex­hi­bi­tion that was at Shar­jah is set to travel to Italy and Ger­many in 2019 and po­ten­tially to New York. From now un­til March, hang­ing in Sotheby’s Dubai for pub­lic view is a se­lec­tion of works by Mod­ern Arab and Ira­nian masters, which are for pri­vate sale – in­clud­ing pieces by Mah­moud Saïd, Ay­man Baal­baki and Nabil Na­has.

Over the last four years, Sotheby’s has sold over $152.9m worth of Is­lamic and Mid­dle East­ern Art, with thou­sands of clients from around the world bid­ding in these sales. What was par­tic­u­larly ex­cit­ing about 2018 is that a quar­ter of these bid­ders were new to Sotheby’s. Broad­en­ing this out to our global sales, but fo­cus­ing on clients from the UAE, we saw a 20 per cent in­crease in buy­ers and bid­ders from the re­gion last year.

What has not changed is the ethos that un­der­pins our ex­hi­bi­tions and sales – our de­sire to speak to the univer­sal na­ture and time­less ap­peal of great works of art. The past two years have been just the be­gin­ning of many ini­tia­tives Sotheby’s is plan­ning to launch in the UAE, and so we look for­ward to what 2019 has to bring – from the ex­tra­or­di­nary ob­jects still out there wait­ing to be dis­cov­ered to our evolv­ing cal­en­dar of events.


RE­FLECT­ING on the past 12 months, there is no doubt that in the busi­ness world, there has been one word on every­one’s lips across the UAE –VAT.

When a coun­try un­der­takes such a dra­matic change in its tax­a­tion pol­icy, there is bound to be some de­gree of ap­pre­hen­sion about its po­ten­tial im­pact from an op­er­a­tional per­spec­tive, and also what im­ple­men­ta­tion may mean for the wider econ­omy.

A year on, I think it is safe to say that the ar­rival of VAT has be­come widely ac­cepted and is seen by many as help­ing to pro­vide the UAE with a source of rev­enue that will play an im­por­tant role in im­prov­ing in­fra­struc­ture and pub­lic ser­vices and en­hance its global com­pet­i­tive­ness.

Ar­guably, the in­tro­duc­tion of a ro­bust, mod­ern tax­a­tion sys­tem re­flects the grow­ing ma­tu­rity of the na­tion and strength­ens its place as a global eco­nomic player.

Un­der­scor­ing the pos­i­tive ef­fects of VAT im­ple­men­ta­tion, a re­port pub­lished by Moody’s in Septem­ber shows that the in­fla­tion­ary im­pact has in fact been mod­est. Any ma­jor sway on house­hold pur­chas­ing power has been mit­i­gated by zero-rated and ex­empt items, as well as trends in the real es­tate mar­ket. Mean­while, the IMF has re­cently in­creased its fore­cast for the UAE’s 2019 GDP growth to 3 per cent – an­other pos­i­tive in­di­ca­tor for the coun­try’s eco­nomic out­look. The UAE gov­ern­ment an­nounced a num­ber of new busi­ness-friendly stim­uli in 2018, in­clud­ing 100 per cent for­eign own­er­ship of on­shore en­ti­ties and a 10-year visa for pro­fes­sion­als and in­vestors. This has the po­ten­tial to drive in­creased con­fi­dence in the mar­ket. It has also an­nounced a re­duc­tion in mu­nic­i­pal­ity fees and waived a num­ber of fees re­lated to the avi­a­tion in­dus­try, in or­der to at­tract for­eign in­vest­ment.

The in­tro­duc­tion of new for­eign di­rect in­vest­ment (FDI) laws also aims to pro­mote the coun­try’s in­vest­ment en­vi­ron­ment in line with na­tional de­vel­op­ment poli­cies.

But all this op­ti­mism must be tem­pered with some re­al­ism, given In­ter­na­tional Mon­e­tary Fund fore­casts of slow­ing growth among sev­eral ma­jor world economies in 2019. This means that or­gan­i­sa­tions may have to re-ex­am­ine their busi­ness mod­els and find new ways to man­age op­er­a­tional costs to main­tain prof­itabil­ity over the next 12 months.

Look­ing at the UAE, tech­nol­ogy is in­creas­ingly emerg­ing as a ma­jor dis­rup­tor, chal­leng­ing the way busi­nesses op­er­ate. KPMG’s 2018 CEO Out­look re­port found that the prospect of driv­ing growth from new dig­i­tal busi­ness mod­els and rev­enue streams, par­tic­u­larly as they re­place his­tor­i­cal ones, is one of the biggest chal­lenges fac­ing ex­ec­u­tives to­day.

Dig­i­tal in­no­va­tion has the po­ten­tial to cre­ate sig­nif­i­cant value across busi­ness mod­els, cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence and op­er­a­tions, but with greater con­nec­tiv­ity comes in­creas­ing cy­ber vul­ner­a­bil­ity. Re­gional CEOs feel a cy­ber at­tack is a case of ‘when’ not ‘if ’. In­vest­ing in ro­bust cy­ber de­fences and a strong cy­ber strat­egy will there­fore be crit­i­cal for busi­nesses to se­cure trust with their stake­hold­ers.

To drive long-term growth, or­gan­i­sa­tions will also need to ap­peal to con­sumer mar­kets of the fu­ture and mil­len­ni­als, who have spend­ing power but are en­gag­ing with or­gan­i­sa­tions and brands in new ways in­clud­ing dig­i­tal chan­nels.

But while dig­i­tal is be­com­ing in­te­gral to busi­ness suc­cess, the real test will be to cre­ate busi­ness value while com­ple­ment­ing, not re­plac­ing, hu­man in­ter­ac­tion.

In this re­gard, the ef­fi­ciency of the labour mar­ket can­not be stressed enough, as a skilled and pro­duc­tive work­force is the pil­lar of any eco­nomic vi­sion. For­tu­nately, the UAE con­tin­ues to at­tract global ta­lent, seek­ing to live in a world-class city with ex­cit­ing ca­reer op­por­tu­ni­ties and favourable work­ing con­di­tions.

Equally, it is im­per­a­tive to har­ness the enor­mous po­ten­tial of the lo­cal work­force. Ac­cord­ing to the UAE Na­tional Agenda, the coun­try plans to in­crease Emi­rati­sa­tion in the pri­vate sec­tor ten­fold in the years ahead. A lo­cal work­force com­mit­ted to tak­ing its coun­try to the next stage of growth and evo­lu­tion is piv­otal in ful­fill­ing the na­tional vi­sion.

So what can we ex­pect for 2019? I be­lieve the next year will be one of re­newed op­ti­mism, as the broader econ­omy starts to wit­ness the im­pact of these growth stim­uli. Some of the ini­tia­tives that will set the stage for a dig­i­tally in­clu­sive so­ci­ety are the UAE Strat­egy for Ar­ti­fi­cial In­tel­li­gence, Smart Dubai 2021 and the Emi­rates Blockchain Strat­egy 2021.

And as the count­down be­gins in earnest to Expo 2020, both the pub­lic and pri­vate sec­tor will likely be re-en­er­gised. This is the right time for or­gan­i­sa­tions to em­brace change and tech­no­log­i­cal in­no­va­tion as we en­ter a new pe­riod of na­tional de­vel­op­ment.


Sir Tim Clark Pres­i­dent of Emi­rates

Ha­mad Buamim Pres­i­dent and CEO of Dubai Cham­ber of Com­merce and In­dus­try

Saleh Ab­dul­lah Al Ab­dooli CEO of Eti­salat Group

Paddy Pad­manathan CEO and pres­i­dent of ACWA Power In­ter­na­tional

Sayed Hashish Re­gional gen­eral man­ager of Mi­crosoft Gulf

Ed­ward Gibbs Chair­man for the Mid­dle East at Sotheby’s

Nader Haf­far Se­nior part­ner and CEO at KPMG Lower Gulf

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