With 9% of the world's proven oil reserves, and 5% of the world's natural gas, it's perhaps no surprise that, according to the International Economic Development Council, Abu Dhabi currently has more than $1 trillion of overseas investment- the highest per capita figure globally.
Well-known as an economic powerhouse, a closer look at the figures tells a remarkable story. The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, for example, is currently estimated to have assets in excess of $875 million, making it the world's wealthiest sovereign fund. Moreover, the emirate's per capita GDP is the third-highest in the world, at $96,000; plus, if Abu Dhabi was a stand-alone nation, it would rank 30th (out of 178) on the UNDP's Human Development Index, which measures quality of life according to life expectancy, education, literacy and purchasing power.
What's more, Abu Dhabi has been swift to capitalize on this success by pioneering the shift away from fossil-fuel dependancy, and build further wealth through a sustainable, diversified economic model - the principles first set out in the Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030.
Even by these exceptional standards, however, news released by the UAE Cabinet on September 30th, 2018, empowers a still-greater ongoing level of investment and reform: the announcement of the largest-ever Federal Budget. This entails the fiscal year of 2019 having a budget of no less than Dh60.3 billion - an increase of 17.3 per cent from this year’s Dh51.4bn.
This is, by a considerable margin, the largest federal budget in the country’s history and creates a powerful new focus on Community and Citizenship. For example, Social Development programmes receive Dh25.5bn (42.3 per cent of the 2019 budget), Education will receive Dh10.25bn (17 per cent), and the Healthcare sector will receive Dh4.40bn (7.3 per cent). In addition, in the Cabinet session Chaired by HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, a budget of no less than Dh180bn for 2019-2021 was also approved.
Moreover, what is especially striking is how these announcements follow on from a series of bulletins from the Government in 2018, spanning fiscal and procedural issues, and making the last 10 months a benchmark period for reforms helping both individuals and businesses alike.
The role of the SME
The style of business best-placed to bear the fruits of this investment is the SME -a sector where companies typically unhindered by large size, bureaucracy or complex infrastructures can vibrantly adapt to new ecosystems and opportunities. Indeed, in Abu Dhabi, SMEs have already played a critical role in diversifying the economy. Across the UAE, there are estimated to be 350,000 SMEs, accounting for 60% of non-oil GDP and providing 86% of private sector employment. By definition, SMEs cut across every industry sector- and it is their performance that will ultimately make or break the move away from fossil fuel dependency.
Accordingly, in 2009, the Abu Dhabi government launched - with a AED1 billion commitment - the Khalifa Fund for Enterprise Management, dedicated both to facilitating easier and more cost-effective set-up, and the progressive expansion of businesses by providing expert market data and - where applicable - low-interest loans (for example, UAE nationals can apply for low interest loans up to a value of AED 5 million). Moreover, Abu Dhabi was the second municipality in the world (only Singapore was earlier) to introduce a 'National Champions' mentoring programme, whereby large Enterprise-style businesses mentor aspirational SMEs, who in turn are then empowered to be the National Champions of tomorrow.
Flexible Working - accelerating economic growth
One of the key factors that can all too easily constrain a business in its early days is the cost of office set-up. Reducing costs and fast-tracking operational readiness is an important way of bringing aspirational SMEs to market - and thereby hastening the vision of a diversified, sustainable economy. A key approach for achieving this is Flexible Working, which has undoubted commercial benefits. Worldwide, Flexible Working is a key factor in the working practices favoured by a new generation of millennials, startups and innovative/creative entrepreneurs. In fact, the vibrant growth of the Flexible Working phenomenon is a headline success story of global business: by 2017, the number of flexible workspaces internationally had reached 15,500- a staggering rise from the 2011 figure of just over 1,100. By the end of 2018, the figure looks set to rise to 18,900.
Currently, there are estimated to be approximately 1.3 million people working in flexible workspaces globally. According to property and investment titan Jones Lang Lasalle, by 2030, up to 30% of all office space will be, in some form, flexible, or have an open layout design.
Servcorp - bringing proven expertise and solutions
Servcorp -providers of the world's finest flexible workspace solutions- is playing an organic role in building the profile of Flexible Working in the emirate - and thereby empowering business set-up in Abu Dhabi in the new climate of diversification and sustainability.
Representing 40,000 members worldwide, across 54 cities in 23 nations, Servcorp is well-placed to understand the very particular requirements of entrepreneurs, and specifically, for starting a business in Abu Dhabi- with the need for value and a time-saving, one-stop platform.
The unique Coworking spaces created by Servcorp allow small and medium businesses to benefit from all the advantages of a prestigious address, a dedicated receptionist and office support, without committing to an office space. The reality is that Servcorp has invested more than $100 million in IT and telecoms to ensure clients receive the best service possible. Plus, as a specialist in Flexible Workspace solutions, Servcorp can meet the needs of many styles of business, regardless of sector or specialisation.
In Abu Dhabi, Servcorp is committed to educating the market about the powerful advantages accrued from Flexible Working -and to this end, recently launched superb flexible workspace solutions in the Al Mamoura Complex- in a ceremony attended by H.E. Arthur Spyrou, the Australian Ambassador to the UAE. Further Coworking facilities are soon to be launched in two prestigious locations - Level 17, World Trade Centre and Level 36, Etihad Towers.
This follows the earlier launch in Dubai of Level 41, Emirates Towers, a facility offering comprehensive flexible workspace solutions in a prime location and providing a core template for future Coworking spaces in the UAE.
Driving the changes
With 15 years' experience in the UAE, listening to leading industry voices and building a close dialogue with Government institutions, Laudy Lahdo, General Manager, Servcorp Middle East, explains: "At the forefront of change and innovation in the GCC, there is no more exciting context for Flexible Working than here in Abu Dhabi - which was a true pioneer in identifying ease of startup and facilitation as factors critical to economic growth and sustainability. At Servcorp, we are totally aligned with this vision and have created Coworking spaces designed to deliver a collaborative office ecosystem and suited to host a variety of businesses -ranging from entrepreneurs and startups to large multinational corporations and law firms. We see Flexible Working as playing a foremost role in delivering the scope and objectives of the Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030 and as a core factor in empowering greater mix and diversification in tomorrow's economy. I strongly urge all entrepreneurs to take advantage of this new style of working and reap the rewards of its proven commercial benefits."