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UAE’s $8 Billion Tech Industry Presents Extensive Growth Opportunities for Chinese Businesses

Booming domestic ICT sector, favourable business setup policies to drive fresh influx of Chinese investment to Dubai

With a thriving technology sector, deepening bilateral ties with China, and recent announcements by the UAE Cabinet to allow 100 percent foreign ownership in certain onshore industries, Dubai is an increasingly attractive trade and investment destination for Chinese investors looking for an opportunity in the city’s rapidly evolving tech industry – especially with the value of trade between UAE and China at almost USD53.3 billion last year, according to the Ministry of Economy.

Valued at nearly USD8 billion, the UAE’s domestic IT market is expected to grow at an average of 5 percent annually in the period between 2017 and 2022, reports the International Data Corporation (IDC). This, along with a high quality of life, strong educational opportunities, career growth prospects, and supportive business legislations are causing an increase in student migration and tourism from Chinese nationals to Dubai. According to the Dubai Statistic Centre, the number of Chinese visitors rose to 573,000 in the third quarter of 2017, up 49 percent from the same period in 2016 – highlighting a significant possibility to connect Dubai’s growing Chinese community to opportunities in the local tech sector.

As the region’s leading specialised technology and business community, Dubai Internet City (DIC) – whose partners include leading Chinese companies such as Huawei, UnionPay, China Telecom Middle East and Oceanblue Cloud – is at the forefront of this development.

According to Ammar Al Malik, Executive Director of Dubai Internet City: “China has long been one of the UAE’s most important international trading partners. As our local tech industry matures amid game-changing reforms in our trade and investment laws, we are confident that Chinese citizens will find a wealth of investment and employment opportunities to explore here in Dubai.”

He added: “The next few years will define Dubai’s journey to becoming a global powerhouse of innovation, supported by several government efforts that are driving the industry to the next stage of growth – from the roll-out of ultra-fast 5G mobile internet networks in 2019, to the announcement of the Dubai Blockchain Strategy, which aims to move half of all government transactions to the blockchain by 2021 – and we look forward to leveraging these opportunities in partnership with our Chinese counterparts.”

For global ICT infrastructure and smart device manufacturing giant Huawei, the UAE’s progressive tech policies are a key enabler in its drive to provide inclusive, intelligent solutions that create a more connected world.

Li Xiangyu (Spacelee), Vice President, Public Affairs and Communications, Huawei Middle East said: “At the heart of the Huawei ethos is our dedication to innovation and knowledge sharing, and we could not have asked for a better environment than the Emirates to fulfill these ideals. The UAE government, as well as our local partners and customers, have demonstrated that they share our relentless drive for innovation and exploration, and thanks to them we are making huge strides in our vision to bring digital to every person, home and organization for a fully connected, intelligent world. We are committed to assisting the UAE’s leadership in achieving the ambitious targets outlined in UAE Vision 2021 by bringing the world’s most cutting-edge technology to the country and continuing to invest in unearthing and developing local ICT talents, and we look forward to our continued collaboration for many years to come.”

According to Hang Wang, General Manager of UnionPay International Middle East, a global business focussed on bank cards services: “China has been the largest trading partner of the UAE for three consecutive years. The economic and trade exchanges between China and UAE continues to grow, generating greater demands for cross-border payment. This has brought more opportunities for UnionPay in the UAE. UnionPay International will continue to strengthen collaboration with the major institutions in UAE, promoting the large-scale issuance of UnionPay cards in the UAE based on UnionPay’s extensive acceptance in the market, while also actively rolling out UnionPay innovative products and services including UnionPay mobile QuickPass and QR code payment, to build a safe and convenient payment bridge between China and UAE.”

Alexann Zhang, Founder and CEO of Oceanblue Cloud, a leading SD- WAN provider, believes Dubai is the destination of choice for international businesses looking to establish their regional head offices to expand their operations in the Middle East and North Africa region – a sentiment that is shared by Mr. Liu ChangHai, Managing Director of China Telecom (Africa and Middle East) Limited, who says their offices in Dubai Internet City have become “a major hub” for business development with partners and customers in the Middle East region since they first established the company in 2008.

Dubai’s comprehensive business infrastructure, coupled with the announcement of 100 percent foreign ownership laws, is expected to create significant growth opportunities for private firms as the UAE leverages its diversification efforts to focus on the development of non-oil sectors. Businesses can expect to find increased foreign investment within the country’s evolving tech industry, especially since the recent launch of the China New Era Technology Fund – a USD15 billion fund aiming to invest or acquire firms across China and around the world – which would garner interest among businesses and in turn, influence sizeable investments in local projects.

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