UAE Knowledge-Based Economy

The United Arab Emirates has grown into a regional superpower in its 51 years of existence.

The officials and companies of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have been spotlighting initiatives to expand the knowledge economy as the nation marks National Day on Friday (Dec. 2). The topic of economic diversification and supporting innovation is the linking thread, even though each of the seven Emirates has established its own agenda in its own plans for the following decades.

Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan of Abu Dhabi presented a vision for the future of the nation that is supported by investment in research and innovation during his first National Day speech as president of the UAE on Thursday, December 1.

He said, “The UAE will continue to focus on science and technology and capitalise on opportunities in these areas so that current and future generations can benefit.” As the nation seeks to diversify its sources of income and create a prosperous knowledge-based economy, education will play a central role in these efforts, he continued.

Another tenet of the UAE’s future plan is sustainability. The UAE is relying on cleaner, greener initiatives to drive the next stage of its growth, from Ajman’s ambition to become the first “fifteen-minute city” in the region by 2030 to the smart homes being built in Sharjah’s Sustainable City. This is because the UAE has relied on the use of fossil fuels for development for the past 51 years.

Emirati enterprises have been presenting the finest of the nation’s culture and vision in the lead-up to the event. On one of the busiest shopping days of the year, malls, amusement parks, and restaurants are open even though the majority of people have the day off.

The UAE’s banks and payment service providers are some of the most significant in the area, enabling the yearly boom in consumer activity. On this National Day, UAE residents have access to a variety of FinTech solutions, from neobank Wio’s digital finance proposition for businesses and individuals to Jingle Pay’s expat-focused money app catering to the nation’s unbanked population.

And in the modern period, Dubai and Abu Dhabi’s business hubs have grown to become two of the most significant hubs of economic activity, not just in the Middle East but also globally.

Unsurprisingly, many of the region’s FinTech companies have flocked toward the UAE, which is now home to some of the most significant players in the ecosystem, as a result of growing activity in the Dubai International Financial Center (DIFC) and Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM).

Businesses like NymCard, which moved to Abu Dhabi from Beirut in 2018 and now plays a critical role in facilitating cross-MENA trade, are one example of this. The banking-as-a-service (BaaS) company provides the technology that underpins payments in the area, assisting banks and FinTechs in the issuance of cards and the introduction of new financial products for their clientele, both commercial and retail.

As the company’s CEO Omar Onsi explained in an interview, “[NymCard] is not trying to serve the whole world, we are laser-focused on solving the MENA problems. You will never see us in Europe, the U.S. or in parts of Asia. You will see us very plugged into the MENA to make sure we are super-localised for the problems which are unique to [the region].”

NymCard is becoming a more important partner for foreign companies like Western Union when they wish to increase their presence in the area because of its local knowledge and concentration on creating links throughout the payments ecosystem.

Tarabut Gateway is another MENA-focused company that relocated to the UAE in order to establish itself as the center of regional finance. The open banking company, which was formed in Bahrain, established new offices in the DIFC and ADGM after moving its headquarters to Dubai in 2020.

CEO Abdulla Almoayed, said of the move, “our aim is to drive the next 50 years of banking technology and financial services in the UAE. By working hand-in-hand with government authorities, banks and FinTech entrepreneurs, open banking can propel the country towards its UAE Centennial 2071 goal of becoming a more diversified and knowledge-based economy.”

The leadership of the UAE wants companies like NymCard and Tarabut Gateway to shape the country’s economy for the next 50 years, more than 50 years after the Emirates first came together.

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