Monthly Archive: May 2009


Final Stop ASAE Study Mission 09 – Abu Dhabi, UAE

ASAE & The Center’s 2009 Study Mission ends with a visit to one of the most intriguing destinations in the Middle East – Abu Dhabi in the UAE.

Abu Dhabi is a major global economic powerhouse and one of the world’s top oil producers. Its per capita GDP is the highest in the world. The emirate has entered a new era of economic liberalization and modernization that will transform it over the next decade into one of the world’s leading centers of excellence in tourism, culture, infrastructure development and across a wide spectrum of business and social activity.

Abu Dhabi is investing in the latest urban planning as well as impressive strategic plans that include attracting key players, thought leaders to build a presence in Abu Dhabi as a showcase to the world. The government is spending billions of USD to deliver their 2030 Vision and major groups are locating facilities across a host of key industries. As an example they hope to become a thought leader and city showcase for the latest in renewable energy systems and sustainable design.

Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority

Our first visit was to the tourism authority for a briefing.

  • Abu Dhabi is the UAE center for government, policy making and politics
  • It is vying to be the cultural capital of the Middle East and positions its brand as an elite business tourism destination that focuses more on quality of the events hosted that can drive value (financial, promotion, or to attract the best in research, practices and standards)
  • The city has one million inhabitants of which 20% are local Emirati
  • Abu Dhabi is the largest of all the UAE emriates with 85% of land mass and boasts over 200 natural islands which they are quick to relate that their cousins in Dubai arent quite as rich – having to to build their own islands
  • The Emirates Palace Hotel (like the Burj Dubai) is a 7 star hotel and the most iconic and exclusive hotel in the city
  • By 2015 they are expecting 25,000 new hotel rooms to further diversify their inventory and they are opening the only sister museums to the Louvre (Paris) and Guggenheim (NY) where one day you may have to travel to Abu Dhabi to see the Mona Lisa!
  • A brand new Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre ( is also in the cards in order to attract more top  association events in the region

Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce

ADCC has over 71,000 members serving both the growing independent private sector and adviser to the government.  Their long term goal is to create a vibrant 21st century workforce with leading international brands located in Abu Dhabi.  Presently, although the oil and gas industry is the largest in the economy, the contribution of non-oil sectors to the GDP is 45% and its overall GDP annual growth for 2009 is estimated to be 7%.

Abu Dhabi is investing in the latest urban planning as well as impressive strategic plans that include attracting key players, thought leaders to build a presence in Abu Dhabi as a showcase to the world. The government is spending billions of USD to deliver their 2030 Vision and major groups are locating facilities across a host of key industries. As an example they hope to become a thought leader and city showcase for the latest in renewable energy systems and sustainable design.

UAE places a large emphasis on healthcare and manufacturing.  But today, it is still a leader in oil and gas as it has the 5th largest crude oil reserve in the world and is the 4th largest oil exporter ($102bn).

WIth 37 free zones throughout the country, the UAE is creating a business framework for setting up businesses is mostly the same across UAE with  some local variations.

Expected future investment in main sectors:

  • $78bn in tourism
  • $327bn in building and construction
  • $65bn in non-oil industry

The Abu Dhabi and Dubai Chambers sometimes cooperate on policy issues, but otherwise they are totally independent of one another.

The long range plan is to sustain an average growth rate at 7% through 2015 and 6% thereafter up to 2030 by fostering the growth of the non-oil sectors.

Sheikh Khalifa Medical City

Medical City is a 700 bed hospital managed by the world renown US-based Cleveland Clinic who is also partnering to build and run another hospital in Abu Dhabi called the Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi – a 360 bed hospital which will be completed in December 2012.

Medical City has seven different residency programs with 56 residents who are mostly Emirati nationals in family medicine, radiology, pediatrics, radiology, etc).  OHS is mandatory and all policies and procedures are in place.  However, a key effort is to adapt proven practices to the local culture.

A majority of nurses are from India or Philippines (some from Ireland, USA, South Africa) with a high nursing to patient ratio.

Abu Dhabi has a very high degree of diabetes (20% of population) and obesity is becoming a problem with modernization.  Among women, osteoporosis is a growing concern to locals.

Health Authority Abu Dhabi (HAAD) 

HAAD is the top regulatory body for the healthcare sector.  Every health official has to be licensed by HAAD and health insurance in Abu Dhabi is mandatory.  Some of the prime issues it is managing include: counterfeit drugs, rational drug use such as the over-prescription of antibiotics.  UAE’s Public Health Strategy is based on 5 pillars:  clear priorities, high impact initiatives, focus on delivery, data driven/continous audit, and becoming a high impact organization.


ASAE Study Mission 2009 – Dubai, UAE

Dubai is a land rich in Arabic culture and tradition with modern luxury.  Dubai is often regarded as the first mover in the region.  However, it is believed that far more significant growth is to come when the three powers in the region (Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Iran) will stabilize and capitalize on their resources, capital and human resources.  That is when the true boom will happen in the GCC region.

Dubai Convention Bureau

Once a rural fishing and a pearl-diving village Dubai has become the self-proclaimed gateway to the Middle East where east meets west.  Population is 1.4 million of which 85% are expats and the rest are Emirati.

There are a total of seven Emirates in UAE (which was founded in 1971) where Dubai and Abu Dhabi are the most famous.  Dubai is the center of commerce.

Dubai’s hotel market of 353 hotels offers a much more diverse array of price points despite its reputation of being an expensive destination with high hotel prices.

Key influences of the Gulf Culture are its Islamic faith, tribal past, and modernization programs.   Loyalty, hospitality and family are cornerstones of Arab values. It is not a confrontational culture especially when dealing with negative news, habits, or rejections. Arabs tend not to disagree right away.

Arabs business people are often well educated and know more about the rest of the world than the rest knows about them. And just as in China and Singapore, it’s all about building relationships.

Dubai Chamber of Commerce

Membership of all businesses on the mainland (outside free-zones) is mandatory.  The Chamber’s mission is to represent support and protect the Dubai business community.

Dubai seeks to capture international expertise and have them established in Dubai (e.g. healthcare, education, …) in order to attract the best people from around the world to locate in Dubai.

Dubai has a rich array of over 20+ free zones totaling over 100,000 Dubai-based businesses segmented by categories.  The city is organized into cluster systems of business.   Today, 95% of income comes from outside the oil industry and its business culture supports woman in business.

UAE Society of Engineers

One of the most active non-profit organizations in UAE is the Society of Engineers established in 1979.  Its mission is to build an architectural, industrial and commercial renaissance in UAE.  With over 25,000 members, specialization includes:  64% civil, 21% architect, and 5% electrical.  Most of consultancy offices are in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah.

Jebel Ali Free Zone 

Yesterday we flew over the site and today we get to visit the large grounds and get a better understanding of how the JAFZA free zone works.
JAFZA JAFZA was established in 1977 with a vision to build the biggest port in the world. Over 6,000 companies are registered (more than 125 from the Fortune 500). Also includes a regional representation of companies:  Middle East, Europe, Asia and the Americas.  Currently focusing on companies from the food, chemicals and logistic sector.

The incentives to locate yourself in the free-zone:  100% foreign ownership (in Dubai city you need to partner with a local company), exemption from corporate and income taxes for 50 years, duty free import of goods, no foreign currency or labour restrictions, and full repatriation of profits and capital.

JAFZA With 180,000 employees in 2008 upon completion, JAFZA will be the largest custom bounded multi-logistical model in the world.  By 2015, it will feature a new international airport, the port and the Jebel Ali Free Zone all conveniently linked to facilitate the shipment of products to global markets.

Dubai Media City

As we’ve learned till now, Dubai is all about clusters and communities. Today, it’s Media City the location of choice for knowledge based industries of the 21st Century.   There are nine sub-communities including:

  • Over 1200 companies from all over the world are located in Internet City
  • 1400 companies and 170 TV channels in Media City
  • Over 450 HR providers and training centers in Knowledge Village
  • International Media Production Zone
  • Dubai Outsource Zone
  • Dubai Studio City
  • Dubiotech
  • Dubai International Academic City:  over 20 universities
  • Enpark (energy and environment):  is a model sustainable community

Media City is considered a free-zone (same as JAFZA).  Associations can be present in the free-zone under the sector that they fall under (e.g. publishing in Media City, HR associations in Knowledge Village, etc.).

Final stop Abu Dhabi.