Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, crown prince of Abu Dhabi, is next in line for the presidency of the United Arab Emirates, after his brother Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, for whom he acts as special adviser. Sheikh Mohamed has been widely credited for leading the Abu Dhabi executive council in its mission to develop and plan Abu Dhabi’s future by restructuring the public sector in order to introduce private sector participation.
Although the development of Abu Dhabi has been accelerating rapidly over the past few years, a controlled and cohesive plan spearheaded by Sheikh Mohamed has ensured the emirate does not suffer the effects of traffic congestion and poor infrastructure, which more uncontrolled development in neighbouring emirate Dubai has created.
Historically, most businesses in Abu Dhabi were family run and there was almost no market competition. Today, public shareholding companies play a strong role in the UAE’s economy and will continue to drive growth as the private sector becomes stronger. Foreign businesses must operate within joint-venture agreements with local partners but many believe this regulation will change with the introduction of industrial free zones as the city develops.
And it is these industrial free zones that will attract and develop a more diverse industrial base in order to diversify from a largely oil-based economy. Of the seven emirates which make up the UAE, Abu Dhabi sits on 90% of the country’s oil reserves and 9.2% of the world’s known oil reserves as well as 4% of its natural gas.
The abundance of its natural resources makes Abu Dhabi one of the richest places on Earth, with a per capita income of $30,000. But Sheikh Mohamed understands the dangers of overdependence on the oil and gas industry, embarking upon a proactive strategy of economic diversification calling upon the private sector and foreign investment to realise this ambition.