The fourth edition of the Sharjah FDI Forum started on Monday, December 10, with optimistic comments by UAE Minister of Economy Sultan Bin Saeed Al Mansouri about the nation's readiness to promote foreign direct investments (FDIs) as an enabler of sustainable development, despite the slump experienced globally – especially in developed economies – in 2017.
The two-day event titled 'Shaping the Future of Economies', got underway at Sharjah's Al Jawaher Reception and Convention Centre (JRCC) in the presence of Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member Ruler of Sharjah.
UAE ranks first in FDI in the Arab region
The forum opened with comments from Sultan Bin Saeed Al Mansouri, who shed light on how the new UAE investment law has come into force to consolidate the nation's position for FDI both regionally and globally, in line with the UAE Vision 2021 and the UN Sustainable Development Goals 2030.
Global flows of foreign direct investment (FDI) fell by 16% in 2017 to an estimated $1.52 trillion, from a revised $1.81 trillion in 2016, according to the latest World Investment Report.
"There is a need to promote cooperation and dialogue to turn this negative decline around. UAE has no. 1 position in FDI in the Arab region. It is forums like this that offer a platform for the same, and will contribute to mapping of FDI in Sharjah and the UAE," Al Mansouri said.
He explained that the UAE Agenda 2021 has a focus on attracting qualitative investments targeted towards achieving sustainable development, noting: "The new FDI law will be integrated with several supplementary laws and a list of incentives to lead future FDI trends."
The Economic Minister cited examples like the approval of 10-year visas for those in the fields of science, technology; new stimulus packages like bank guarantees; flexible remittances; 100 per cent business ownership by foreign investors; the promotion of entrepreneurship, technology transfer, and building capacities of national cadres.
He further highlighted: "This new integrated investment environment will take the UAE's economic growth up by 15 to 20 per cent in the next two years." The UAE has been the prime regional destination of FDI inflows at about $11 billion in 2017, accounting for 22 per cent of total flow to the Middle East and North Africa region.
The need for boosting innovation, technology and R&D
Marwan bin Jassim Al Sarkal, Executive Chairman, Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq), echoed the UAE Economy Minister's sentiments, saying, "When we say qualitative additions to the investment climate and opportunities, we are not just looking at attracting more money and new investors into existing sectors like agriculture, tourism, real estate, and others. That is only part of the 'qualitative investments' framework. Today, we need to look at boosting innovation, technology, research and development as we are focusing our resources and energies on building smart cities based on sustainability and green economy principles."
"The UAE and Sharjah recognise the needs of investors, and has been strengthening its infrastructure and legal framework to benefit businesses and society," Al Sarkal added.
In the next keynote address, one of the forum's speakers, Dr Huggy Rao, a Stanford Graduate School of Business professor, and co-author of Scaling Up Excellence, highlighted the need to create a global innovation mindset that is driven by the open exchange of ideas and enhancing user experiences.
"Super, super important," he said, emphasising the need to scale innovation across countries and market sectors.
Two MoU signings
The event also offered its platform for the signing of two memorandum of understandings (MoUs).
The first one has resulted in a partnership between Invest in Sharjah and the World Association of Investment Promotion Agencies (WAIPA), which will result in the two entities collaborating and supporting each other's activities.
The second MoU was entered into by the Sharjah Research Technology & Innovation Park (SRTI) and Republic of Korea's Daejeon Information & Culture Industry Promotion Agency (DICA). As part of the understanding, the two parties seek to establish a Korean Technology License Office (TLO) – a Sharjah-Korea Technology Commercialisation Center – that will facilitate the transfer various industrial original technologies of South Korea to Sharjah, which will be evaluated and patented by the emirate based on their feasibility.