As many countries slowly lift lockdowns, fDi is speaking to leaders in the FDI community as they return to work and plan for the future.
The UAE has one of the highest per capita testing rates for Covid-19 worldwide, and in Dubai about half of government employees are returning to their workplaces.
Fahad Al Gergawi, CEO of Dubai’s economic development agency and president of the World Association of Investment Promotion Agencies (WAIPA), emphasises the importance of collaboration and developing a community around IPAs.
Q: How has the crisis affected you personally?
A: I have had a chance to speak virtually more with family members than before. Surprisingly, I lost some weight. Eating three nutritious home-cooked meals, at the right time, is much healthier than grabbing a bite somewhere while you’re on the road.
Q: How has Dubai FDI adjusted to the crisis?
A: Dubai government services were already 100% accessible online [before Covid-19], which had a profound impact on business continuity.
We have pivoted to virtual platforms, and have begun virtual global missions with different destinations around the world.
Dubai FDI has doubled down on communication, providing investors, partners and decision makers with regular updates and analysis to help them navigate through these difficult times.
Q: How is the country adjusting its strategy?
A: The government has prioritised healthcare, food security and putting a digital component into everything we do.
We’re keeping our eyes open to see what new areas of investment will open up and how we can leverage them, especially in the start-up sphere.
We’re also looking at how we can combine areas when the crisis is over. It’s a learning curve and we have to adapt. Resilience and adaptation is key.
Q: How important will start-ups be in the post-Covid recovery?
A: I think it’s inevitable to look into start-ups, right now. Dubai has been focusing on start-ups for a long time and we have been registering a lot of growth.
Dubai-based start-ups attracted about $200m of pre-seed funding over the last three months, which is an important signal of confidence in Dubai.
More than 60% of FDI projects in Dubai have medium to high technology, which is important in industries related to Industry 4.0, and technologies like AI, blockchain, robotics, 3D printing and cleantech. We believe that these sectors will lead future FDI growth.
Q: How do you envision the future of investment promotion?
A: I have stressed the importance of collaboration – it is important to have a community around IPAs.
It's also important for all IPAs to prioritise the safety and well being of people, while also supporting existing investors and keeping an eye on emerging opportunities, both in the short and long term.
We have advised all IPAs to look at market signals and try to make sense of them for the future development of their strategy.
There have been calls for facilitating mergers, joint ventures, and trying to leverage any opportunity available to develop business. However, investment needs confidence.
We have to give countries and destinations time to breathe, and develop a good understanding about the current situation.
We think that social capital – the willingness of people to help each other – will be the focus in the future, at least for the next couple of years.
Fahad Al Gergawi is CEO of Dubai FDI and the President of WAIPA
You can find the full archive of the fDi’s Virus Diaries series at the following link. If you work in economic development or investment promotion and want to share your experience in dealing with the coronavirus, get in touch at fDi@ft.com.