Where is the UAE’s Economy Headed?

The UAE has weathered countless financial storms and evolved from a humble pearl-diving state to the tourism, trade and innovation hub that it is today. Here’s a look at some of the upcoming projects in the UAE that are aimed at placing sustainability in the heart of its economy.

The UAE’s appearance on the news is almost commonplace, whether it’s about its glamorous lifestyle popularised via documentaries or its speedy growth from a barren desert to the high-rises we see today.

Its ever-deepening economic and political ties with countries from across hemispheres, status as an OPEC member, and amicable rivalry with Saudi Arabia for the role of Hegemon of the Middle East, mean that it occupies a significant international standing.

At Confluence Consultants, we uncover some of its upcoming projects, and analyse The Good, The Bad, and the Sustainable.

Prominent discourse places UAE as an oil-dependent economy, vulnerable to glitches in the oil market that we know too well. However, the UAE’s non-oil economy peaked in H1 2023 at AED 1.23 tn. Exports and re-exports in gold, aluminium, oils, copper wires, and jewellery accounted for this. China and India remain UAE’s biggest trade partners.

Dubai also overtook New York and Hong Kong in Q1 2023 to become the biggest market for ultra-luxury homes worth more than USD 10m.

In another ‘renewable’ direction, the UAE’s first nuclear power plant, Barakah, is set to cover 25% of the country’s electricity needs and reduce up to 22 million tonnes of carbon emissions every year. The final unit of the plant has reached its operational readiness preparations, aligning fittingly with COP28 in November, hosted in Dubai, and the UAE’s mission to diversify its energy consumption.

Food security is a global concern, especially for the GCC as a net importer of food products. To this end, reports suggest that the UAE secured 22 investment deals worth USD 600m in agriculture technology in 2021. Should this investment yield high returns, the UAE’s aim of establishing itself as the most food-secure nation on the Global Food Security Index by 2051 may well come to fruition.

The return of Emirati astronaut, Sultan Al Neyadi, from the ISS after 6 months of space experimentation is but one of the space tech wins of the UAE. Through such ventures as Mars and lunar missions, and asteroid belt explorations, AED 22bn has been invested so far in space tech.

Work is also being done through the Dubai Robotics and Automation program. By 2032, automation in process will be the norm, and Robotics will contribute 9% to Dubai’s GDP.

With these strides across industries, every new project will need due diligence, especially with uniform regulation across the Emirates. New tech such as agriculture and space will present new cost implications which need a thorough examination. Crude oil still occupies a (declining) share of the total GDP, which is vulnerable to changes in OPEC production and resultant prices. Its future membership of BRICS will likely enhance trade with its members in local currency, however, evolving ties with Russia and China will have to be managed against its alliance with the US.


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