Mohammad Ali Rashed Lootah, President and CEO of Dubai Chambers, explains in detail about the Dubai Chambers and the role it plays in spurring the economy by supporting various stakeholders. He appreciates the good work that DCG is doing and shares his views on how to ensure Dubai stays as a leading global technology hub and the Silicon Valley of the MENA region.
How has Dubai Chambers evolved over the years since it was established in 1965?
Since 1965, Dubai Chambers has evolved rapidly to enable businesses to maximise every opportunity created by Dubai’s accelerated development as one of the fastest-growing cities in the world.
In March 2021, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, announced the restructuring of Dubai Chamber with the formation of three chambers under the umbrella of Dubai Chambers. This strategic step was taken to better serve our members, deliver added value, and futureproof Dubai’s economy in line with the emirate’s vision and strategic goals.
Which are the three chambers operating under the umbrella of Dubai Chambers and how do they differ from each other?
In 2022, we unveiled our new brand identity reflecting the unique three-chamber structure, which encompasses Dubai Chamber of Commerce, Dubai Chamber of Digital Economy, and Dubai International Chamber. Each of the chambers have their own individual brands, strategies, and specialised approach, as well as board members and advisory council members that steer them towards achieving their strategic priorities.
Dubai Chamber of Commerce plays a crucial role in representing, supporting, and protecting the interests of businesses in Dubai, while exploring new ways to meet the changing needs of Dubai’s fast-growing and dynamic business community.
Dubai Chamber of Digital Economy aims to build the world’s best digital infrastructure, transform Dubai into a leading global technology hub, support the interests of technology companies, and strengthen the role of the digital economy in the emirate.
Dubai International Chamber is supporting Dubai’s vision to expand into new markets, forge new economic partnerships, and help local companies achieve global success, while also attracting promising talent and investors from around the world.
Although the chambers implement tailored approaches to driving business, all three work in tandem to achieve new milestones as a unified chamber with shared ambitions.
What are the main objectives of Dubai Chambers and how does it help the government in achieving its vision?
In 2021, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, announced plans to boost the emirate’s foreign trade to AED 2 trillion by 2026. His Highness also unveiled the Dubai Economic Agenda (D33) at the beginning of this year, which will elevate the emirate’s position as a global hub for business, trade, and investment through the implementation of 100 transformative projects to achieve economic targets of AED 32 trillion ($ 8.7 trillion) over the coming decade.
As Dubai’s largest economic arm, Dubai Chambers will play a leading role in supporting these ambitions by dedicating its focus and resources to building a forward-thinking economy powered by diversification and innovation. To help accelerate this economic transformation, Dubai Chambers’ three-year strategy (2022-2024) set out a number of strategic priorities including improving Dubai’s business environment, attracting international business and investment, driving members’ international expansion, and growing the digital economy.
These goals were identified to activate and enhance various segments of the economy and the business community, with the aim of improving the ease of doing business in the emirate for both local companies and international businesses seeking to set up in Dubai.
A plethora of new projects and initiatives have been implemented to ensure we achieve our objectives, accelerate economic growth across various priority sectors, and elevate Dubai’s position as a global hub for business, trade and investment. We have also been increasing our focus on proactive advocacy and strengthening engagement to serve as a bridge between the government and the business community.
What are the platforms available for Dubai businesses to get in touch with the UAE GOV stake holders and how can Dubai Chambers help them?
Dubai Chamber of Commerce, one of the three chambers operating under Dubai Chambers, has successfully set up more than 100 business groups to represent the interests of various business sectors and industries that operate within Dubai’s economy. These sector-focused groups are imperative in ensuring the representation of all the business and economic sectors in Dubai.
Business groups provide a platform for discussion between sector stakeholders and government entities, and are a key component in addressing policy matters, enhancing the competitiveness of their sectors, and boosting their contribution to Dubai’s economy. Dubai Chamber of Commerce plays a crucial role in supporting business groups by facilitating productive two-way dialogue between key government entities and the private sector.
What are the latest milestones that Dubai Chambers has achieved in the recent past?
It’s been a highly productive year for us so far, with notable achievements across all areas. During the first six months of 2023 alone, Dubai Chamber of Digital Economy successfully attracted 69 high-potential tech startups to the emirate. This impressive result was achieved in coordination with key government entities, as well as networking and connecting with emerging technology companies in priority global markets. The chamber also conducted 12 roadshows across the Middle East, Africa, Asia, and Europe, meeting with 279 MNCs, SMEs, startups, and scaleups to showcase the huge growth potential in Dubai.
In addition, Dubai Chamber of Digital Economy recently launched a new initiative that offers packages for tech and digital startups, SMEs, and MNCs that plan to set up their businesses in Dubai. These provide access to exclusive offers and discounts to help ease the process of launching a company in the emirate, creating a ‘one-stop shop’ through the chamber. This initiative is unique, as we are working together with the entire ecosystem.
We have also been expanding our global reach. Since the beginning of this year, Dubai International Chamber has launched seven new international representative offices in Hong Kong, Australia, the United Kingdom, Indonesia, South Africa, Singapore, and most recently Vietnam. This brings our total number of offices around the world to 22, and we plan to launch more before the end of the year.
The openings come as part of the ‘Dubai Global’ initiative, which is led by Dubai International Chambers and aims to develop a powerful network of 50 representative offices by 2030. In addition to helping global companies set up in Dubai, these offices support Dubai-based companies in realising their ambitions for international expansion. Dubai International Chamber succeeded in attracting 56 businesses to the emirate during H1 2023, as well as supporting the expansion of 15 local and national companies into global markets, either by increasing their exports or helping them to establish a presence abroad.
Meanwhile, Dubai Chamber of Commerce’s data indicates that a total of 30,146 new member companies joined between January and June, representing an increase of 43% compared to the same period in 2022. This significant growth in new members underlines Dubai’s attractiveness among both companies and investors. The total value of exports and re-exports of our member companies also increased by 7% during the first half of 2023 to reach AED 137.6 billion, up from AED 129.4 billion in the same period last year.
In addition, the chamber issued 357,000 Certificates of Origin (COO) during H1 2023. Dubai Chambers has developed and internationalised blockchain trade by fully digitalising the issuance of COO. This has been a critical step in driving international trade and improving the ease of doing business in Dubai, as well as enhancing the competitiveness of the commercial and logistics sectors.
Another notable achievement came with the launch of the Dubai Centre for Family Businesses under the umbrella of Dubai Chambers, which has been established to help ensure the growth and sustainability of family businesses in the emirate in recognition of their vital contribution to Dubai’s economic success story.
One of the key upcoming initiatives that will support entrepreneurship in Dubai is the Expand North Star event – a key platform for Dubai Chamber of Digital Economy to attract leading digital companies from around the world and showcase Dubai’s competitive advantages, as well as the exciting growth opportunities emerging in the market.
We will also be hosting the Dubai Business Forum from 1–2 November under the theme ‘Shifting Economic Power: Dubai & The Future of Global Trade.’ This eagerly awaited event is aimed at boosting engagement with key stakeholders globally and accelerating the growth of trade and investments. The forum will gather visionary Heads of State, government officials, global business leaders, and major international investors from various sectors to participate in thought-provoking discussions on transforming business for the future.
Kindly share the strategy behind expanding into international markets and what kind of support your international offices offer to UAE-based companies.
Dubai International Chamber assists Dubai-based businesses to expand into global markets through its network of international representative offices, which support Dubai-based enterprises at every stage of their overseas expansion. We have set an ambitious target to support the international expansion of 100 companies from Dubai into priority foreign markets by 2024.
In addition to connecting Dubai-based businesses with trusted stakeholders who can help them access new markets and scale up their operations, each office also strives to ensure Dubai remains a magnet for foreign direct investment. Our international offices support the goal of attracting MNCs, SMEs, investors, and global talent to Dubai by showcasing the emirate’s competitive advantages, sharing investment intelligence, and continuously engaging with key stakeholders.
Through its activities, Dubai International Chamber aims to promote Dubai as the ideal business hub for international companies and a gateway to access emerging markets by leveraging the emirate’s strategic location, extensive land, sea, and air logistics infrastructure, and highly diversified business environment.
How many industry-specific groups are there in your portfolio and how do you support these groups?
There are currently 105 industry-specific business groups representing the interests of diverse economic sectors across Dubai. As mentioned earlier, these provide a platform for discussion between the sector’s stakeholders and government entities. During the first half of this year alone, Dubai Chamber of Commerce arranged over 160 meetings with representatives from Business Groups and Councils to explore challenges and opportunities in specific sectors.
As part of its efforts to achieve its strategic priority of improving the business environment in the emirate, Dubai Chamber of Commerce also launched the ‘Business Sectors Platform,’ an initiative that offers an innovative package of services designed to empower Business Groups and Business Councils and enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of their activities.
Dubai Computer Group (DCG) is one such group under the umbrella of Dubai Chambers, how would you describe the journey of DCG over the years and what role can DCG play in ensuring that Dubai remains the major IT hubs in the world?
Dubai Computer Group (DCG) was founded in 2007 to represent the interests of the computer industry in the emirate. Today, it has grown to encompass members from more than 200 companies including IT distributors, resellers, system integrators, and software and networking providers. The group aims to bridge the gap between hardware and software manufacturers and dealers, uniting them and helping to forge new trade alliances. This creates an invaluable network in the industry.
DCG provides access to the latest information on computers, peripherals, spares, and software, as well as working to elevate industry standards and explore new avenues for the growth of IT businesses from Dubai. The group creates a platform where diverse topics such as customs duty laws, new technologies, business trends, service issues, credit concerns, and payment terms can be discussed in an open and productive manner among key industry stakeholders.
Dubai Chambers supports this business group by facilitating mutual dialogue between the sector and government entities to address policy matters and enhance the competitiveness of the IT industry. Through its activities, the group is playing a vital role in elevating and promoting Dubai’s IT sector to help establish the emirate as a leading global technology hub and the Silicon Valley of the MENA region.
What message would you like to give to the IT industry in Dubai, so that it can engage with Dubai Chambers and DCG more closely?
Dubai Chamber of Digital Economy is at the heart of the strategy to build Dubai’s digital future. We look to our members to play a key role in driving our approach, as well as shaping the market and predicting future trends. The chamber is dedicated to involving all relevant parties in building a clear roadmap and ensuring government policies, initiatives, and strategies promote innovation and a business-friendly environment for all sectors.
Our goal is to unlock the vast potential of the digital economy – which has grown two and a half times faster than global GDP over the past two decades – by ensuring a stimulating environment that enables digital companies to thrive. Dubai Chamber of Digital Economy offers a wide range of initiatives including regular workshops and seminars on various areas within the tech industry. These create a platform to discuss key challenges faced by businesses and startups, and enable regular, honest, and open dialogue between the chamber, policymakers, and the business, entrepreneur and investor communities.
We remain fully committed to supporting the IT industry and are keen to see all parties become involved and contribute to achieving our goal of cementing Dubai’s position as one of the world’s most agile and diversified technology-enabled digital hubs.
We would also encourage Dubai’s IT and tech industry to attend the upcoming Expand North Star event. This will be the largest event of its kind for startups and is set to bring together more than 1,400 exhibitors and 1,000 investors at Dubai Harbour from 15–18 October. Expand North Star will serve as a strategic catalyst to expand the future of digital economy, reflecting what GITEX GLOBAL is to the technology industry.
The event is designed to ramp up the startup entrepreneurship momentum, transcending geographical boundaries to connect key government partners, investors, and corporate accelerators with innovators and tech stars from every continent. We are tremendously excited about the possibilities this will create and invite all stakeholders within the technology sector to be part of this landmark event.