“Projects of the 50” Initiative Marks Historic Moment


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Executives from Citi, DIFC, and DMCC discussed the U.A.E.’s landmark announcement this week of 50 new economic initiatives known as the “Projects of the 50” during a webinar co-hosted by the U.S.-U.A.E. Business Council and DLA Piper on Dubai’s evolving business climate. A video of the webinar, which took place on 8 September 2021, can be found here.
In conversation with U.S.-U.A.E. Business Council President Danny Sebright (bottom left), Ramsey Jurdi, Partner at DLA Piper (top right), situated these initiatives within the economic adversity of the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced innovation and adaptation. Ramsey stated that Dubai’s business climate is reminiscent of the saying “If you build it, they will come.” Moreover, he spoke of Dubai’s maturation from a regional business hub to a global hub and the role of Dubai as a gateway to Russia, China, and Africa.
Natalia Tombs, Senior Associate at DLA Piper (top middle), echoed Ramsey’s sentiments that Dubai is moving from playing on the regional stage to the global stage, thanks, in part, to its strategic location. Natalia said the recent announcement of the Projects of the 50 demonstrates that the world can expect this drive to continue even further. Moreover, she detailed some key aspects of the 50 projects, including those related to data privacy and visas, noting the latter is “making life in Dubai a long-term decision” for the type of talent that Dubai wants to attract.
Citi’s Middle East & Turkey Commercial Bank Head, Zoltan Schwardy (top left), called the U.A.E.’s reforms “historic”. Citing the swift response by Emirati leaders to the pandemic, Zoltan noted a remarkable increase in foreign direct investment to Dubai, despite the pandemic. This reflected the comfort that people feel investing in the U.A.E., as Dubai is sending a “strong message” to businesses that the emirate wants them to “come, strive, and stay”.
Salmaan Jaffery, DIFC’s Chief Business Development Officer (bottom right), spoke of the importance of bringing the best talent in the world to Dubai. Praising the Projects of the 50, Salmaan believes they will help the U.A.E. meet the challenge of “replicating the glossy fast-paced growth of a frontier market” now that it is a maturing market.
Sanjeev Dutta, DMCC’s Executive Director of Commodities & Financial Services (bottom middle), discussed the importance of Dubai’s business “ecosystems” for its continued growth and economic diversification. He remarked that Dubai stands for “live, work, and play” while also being at the crossroads of the world in a uniquely strategic location. 
Salmaan and Sanjeev discussed why companies should still set up in a free zone despite reforms addressing the establishment of businesses in the “mainland.” Sanjeev noted that free zones such as DMCC offer an ecosystem of 19,000-20,000 companies alongside business services. Remarking that the very concept of a free zones is an “incredible innovation,” Salmaan highlighted DIFC’s unique qualities, including its English common law jurisdiction. He further noted DIFC is on equal footing to any financial regulator in the world, with the exception that they don’t print money.
The panelists also shared thoughts on the growth of knowledge-based industries such as fintech and agtech in the U.A.E., the nature of competition between Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, and the impact of Chinese influence in the U.A.E. They also shared what they are looking forward to most as the world begins to settle into a “new normal”, with panelists citing Expo 2020 and meeting in person.
Please find the Business Council’s recently published Corporate Spotlight on DLA Piper here
For more information about the Business Council’s slate of upcoming events, please contact the U.S.-U.A.E. Business Council’s head of communications, Mary Zuccarello at mzuccarello@usuaebusiness.org or visit our website at www.usuaebusiness.org.