Sharjah’s dynamic role as an economic visionary over the past decades has elevated its status to an international investment destination to rival many others across the region. The emirate has embraced an integrated diversification strategy, highlighting both its sophistication as an economy and its ambition as a market leader.
In keeping with achieving those goals, Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq) has emerged as the driving force dedicated to reshaping the emirate’s economic landscape, supporting its march of development without compromising its authentic cultural character.
Since it was established in 2009, Shurooq has embraced a clear strategic plan aimed to promote Sharjah regionally and globally and strengthen its position on the global finance and business map, in order to draw foreign investment into the emirate and boost growth across its various economic sectors.
Shurooq has continuously built relationships and formed alliances with international policy makers, industry leaders and senior executives at home and abroad, organising and hosting forums, delegations, conferences and events to highlight Sharjah and its unique attractions. One of these is the increasingly influential Sharjah FDI Forum.
A Strong Beginning
In February 2015, Sharjah hosted the first edition of the Sharjah FDI Forum, inaugurated by His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council Ruler of Sharjah. The initial event, at the time named the ‘World Forum for FDI’, was attended by of a host of experts, economists, policy makers, investment promotion agencies and economic and development organisations from across the world.
The forum was held under the theme ‘Where East Meets West’, a motto that reflects the true image of the UAE as home to expatriate residents from more than 200 nationalities of various cultural backgrounds and the thousands of companies, businesses and multi-national projects.
It featured six panel discussions that highlighted the main factors influencing FDI inflows worldwide, including the role of diplomacy in international financing options, global demand for talent, the ‘brain drain’, seaports and airports and global infrastructure. The forum also underlined the importance of enhancing partnerships between eastern and western companies, while offering the participating speakers and delegates the opportunity to explore Sharjah and become acquainted with the phenomenal growth it has experienced over recent years.
Second FDI Forum
Building on the success of the first event, the second edition was held in September 2016, under the new banner of ‘Sharjah FDI Forum’ in the presence of His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah.
Organised by Shurooq in collaboration with the UK’s Financial Times and fDi Magazine, the two-day forum was held under the theme ‘The Gateway to the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia’. It brought together an elite group of policy makers, officials, business leaders and CEOs who highlighted investment prospects available in the UAE in general and Sharjah in particular, in a variety of economic sectors.
The event at Al Jawaher Reception & Convention Centre, featured 15 sessions that involved 30 speakers, with the attendance of more than 300 delegates. It covered a range of important topics such as FDI inflows, challenges facing cross-border capital flow and ways to overcome them, how to benefit from potential investment opportunities and achieving growth in various global markets.
Industry-led panel discussions addressed the role of Sharjah as a gateway for international expansion, ways of harnessing non-oil investment in the UAE and the importance of strengthening trade links between the UK and the UAE, especially after the Brexit referendum. Other topics discussed included investment potential in the UAE’s transportation and logistics sector to meet expanding trade demands, the importance of global connectedness for SMEs and financing cross-border expansion.
The speakers also highlighted the UAE’s prospects and challenges of a post-oil economic development model and the growing trade links between the UAE and India, among other key topics.
The Future Lies in the Fourth Industrial Revolution
Building on the resounding success of the previous two forums, the third edition will begin today under the patronage of His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah.
Themed ‘The Fourth Industrial Revolution’, Sharjah FDI Forum 2017 is organised by Shurooq and the Sharjah FDI Office ‘Invest in Sharjah’ in a strategic partnership with CNBC Arabia. The two-day event will include nine panel discussions featuring an elite group of local and international experts to share their opinions and views on a wide range of key topics.
The panellists will examine the direct impact of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) on investment, knowledge economy, industries, innovation and local and regional development. They will also address the current dominant economic trends, sustainable economies, the impact of technology on education, small enterprises and the UAE’s plans for the future.
According to the World Economic Forum, 4IR will be a sweeping digital revolution and the most rapid and radical change in modern history. It is characterised by three key factors that distinguish it from previous revolutions: speed; scale; and the level of complexity. There are key technological drivers for 4IR, including artificial intelligence, robotics, autonomous vehicles, 3D printing, big data, virtual currencies, the internet of things, nanotechnology, biotechnology, energy storage, materials science and quantum computing.
The first years of the 21st century have seen the beginnings of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, especially with the widespread use of the internet, mobile phones and smart devices, plus implantable technology such as sensors, artificial intelligence and machine learning techniques. This has helped support the decision making process and dramatically reduce the margin of error.
Day One Panel Discussions
The Sharjah FDI Forum will begin with a session entitled ‘Foreign Direct Investment’, in which speakers will discuss the importance of FDI to economies and countries and the priority areas of investment in different sectors. It will also highlight incentives presented by governments to attract foreign capital and the benefits derived from such investments, in addition to the challenges related to attracting investors around the world. The future of foreign investment and the UAE’s position on the FDI map will also be debated.
Speakers will examine the rise of populism movements and their impact on the flow of funds and investments around the world in the second panel, ‘The World in a Nutshell’. They will also highlight the changes and challenges facing investors and how to deal with them.
With the title ‘The Fourth Industrial Revolution: Opportunities, Benefits & Challenges’, the third session will identify the Fourth Industrial Revolution and its anticipated impact on our lives, shedding light on the reality of applying 4IR in the UAE. The session will also discuss the projected impact of artificial intelligence on our lives, the increased use of robots as well as the risks and benefits of human-robot interaction.
The session will also address the challenges of automation on jobs. Other topics include the importance of the imminent rise of smart cities and the necessary legislation and policies needed to ensure consistency with 4IR. Speakers will debate how Sharjah can contribute to the UAE’s Fourth Industrial Revolution Council, and identify sectors in the emirate which could benefit from the revolution.
The fourth panel ‘Government Innovation: A New Trend Shaping the Future of Governments’ will review the objectives of government innovation, the importance of resorting to ‘digital governments, the impact of innovation in the UAE, and government networking. Lessons learned from international government innovation will also be discussed.
Bringing day one of the forum to a close will be the fifth and final session, ‘The New Trend in Tech: Blockchain’, which will address some of the most important technology changes in the business world, its effect on the digital economy, the role it plays in the protection and development of smart cities and the sectors that could benefit from Blockchain technology, notably finance and healthcare.
Day Two Panel Discussions
On its second and final day, the forum will begin with a session themed ‘Sustainable Economy in the MENA Region’, which will highlight the definition of a sustainable economy and its fundamental elements, and the relevant challenges facing the Arab world in the application of its foundations. A reference point will be Singapore’s sustainable economy experience and the lessons that can be learned from its success.
During the second panel, ‘How Technology is Shaping the Education Sector’, speakers will address the importance of the education industry in the UAE, as well as the latest trends such as virtual reality, which can add new dimensions to the sector, plus remote learning, smart books and smart classrooms.
Speakers will throw light on the government’s allocation of AED 10 billion for the education sector last year, a huge amount that accounts for 22% of the UAE’s general budget. The total number of students in the UAE is projected to grow annually by 4.1% until 2020.
The session will feature unique insights into how to overcome the challenges facing education in Sharjah and addresses questions on whether the sector is ready for digital transformation and how to prepare teachers for the changes. The panellists will also discuss the importance of creating partnerships between educational institutes and research entities to improve the sector.
Themed ‘How Start-ups Can Change the Shape of the Economy’, the third session will underscore the importance of new businesses and SMEs in the economies of developing countries. The speakers will debate the advantages of investing in start-ups in the UAE and the MENA region.
The panellists will identify the key challenges that entrepreneurs and small businesses face when either establishing a new company or expanding an existing one. It will highlight the most common causes of failure in start-ups and how to avoid them, and explore the most successful characteristics of a start-up, including how Sharjah can provide an ideal environment for young businesses.
The Sharjah FDI Forum 2017 will conclude with a session entitled ‘Sharjah Delves into the Future’, which will highlight the key areas that the emirate should be focusing on in order to attract investments, especially FDI, to reinforce its stature on the global business map.
The two-day forum will provide an overall picture and comprehensive outlook on future prospects and potential opportunities and the expected revolutionary changes, illustrating the best investment opportunities available in various sectors, and the measures needed to enhance the competitiveness of the UAE in general and Sharjah in particular.
Sharjah and the Future
HE Marwan Bin Jassim Al Sarkal, CEO of Shurooq said, “This event continues to raise the most pressing issues and trends that are so vital to the business world on a local, regional and global scale. The forum consistently highlights Sharjah as a secure and lucrative destination for foreign investment and underscores the emirate’s economic maturity as it welcomes and anticipates rapid changes with a vision towards long term sustainability.
“Innovation has become a byword for Sharjah’s attitude to progress and each year the forum has expanded both its reach and its influence on international investors, helping to build new relationships and forge new partnerships among its experts delegates and speakers.”
He added: “With the rapid pace of development in the UAE and Sharjah, the third edition of the forum under the theme ‘The Fourth Industrial Revolution’, reflects one of the most radical and rapid changes of our time. It is re-shaping the economic world as we know it and must be acknowledged as not just inevitable, but also as desirable, taking investment, economics and innovation to the next phase of growth.”
According to figures released by the Federal Competitiveness and Statistics Authority, the value of Sharjah’s GDP stood at Dh85.66bn ($23.6bn) in 2015, while Standard & Poor’s forecasts an average growth rate of 2.4% in the period 2017-2020.
“Sharjah FDI 2017 will provide an unparalleled opportunity to examine investment prospects and highlight even more opportunities available in the emirate’s various economic sectors,” Al Sarkal concluded.