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25 April 2024

Dubai’s bets on the future are ‘bankable’, say digital economy experts and entrepreneurs

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By E247

Dubai Future District Fund (DFDF) hosted its first annual general meeting today to discuss technology’s increasingly prominent role in Dubai’s economy.  It was held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, Chairman of the Executive Council and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Dubai Future Foundation (DFF).
His Excellency Khalfan Belhoul, CEO of DFF, delivered a keynote speech which emphasised the importance of simulating Dubai’s innovation ecosystem to strengthen its burgeoning digital economy.
“Our role is to catalyse the innovation ecosystem in Dubai,” he said. “This means we look at job creation and try to fill in the gaps. Our role is to generate financial returns and working in partnership with different sectors.”
With the transactional value of global digital payments set to hit $11.3 trillion in 2026 and the metaverse market expected to reach $5 trillion by 2030, H.E. said technology would continue to play an increasingly prominent role in Dubai.
“Betting on the digital economy and the fourth industrial revolution is something that needs to happen,” he said. “His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum has insisted that we continue this thinking and continue to invest in the digital economy and the fourth industrial revolution.”
Christian Kunz, Chief Strategy Innovation & Ventures Officer, DIFC, Fadi Ghandour, Managing Partner at Wamda Capital and Founder of Aramex took part in the first panel discussion titled Strengthening the Local Economy, during which they affirmed that Dubai’s announcements and investments in the future are “bankable.” They were joined by Amer Fatayer, Investment Director, DFDF, and Mohammed Shael Alsaadi, CEO, Dubai Corporation for Consumer Protection and Fair Trade.
With the total number of construction workers declining and technology-related professionals rising in Dubai, the Emirate is clearly becoming a more digital, diversified and knowledge-driven economy, they agreed.
But while the economy has evolved, more dialogue between venture capitalists, governments and startups is needed to stimulate growth. A regulatory environment that enables startups to hit the ground running with minimal friction is required, especially to boost fintech entrepreneurs, they said.
Dubai Future District Fund Overview
Sharif El-Badawi, CEO of DFDF, said during his speech: “The Dubai Future District Fund strives to transform Dubai into a global business hub and future economy by investing in innovative and sustainable technology startups, attracting international specialist talent, creating jobs while in parallel generating shareholder returns.”
He explained how DF2, the region's first evergreen venture capital fund, aims to reach $500 million in assets under management (AUM) by 2023 and add a further $500 million by 2024 to reach $1 billion AUM.
“We’re focused on unlocking high productivity sectors through innovative companies with a focus on high-impact regional startups creating knowledge-based jobs,” he said. “We’ll tap into Dubai’s growth story and access investments in the region to reinforce our growth trajectory. We will focus on the future of finance, the future of economics and the private capital ecosystem.”
Accelerate Technological Innovation
The meeting included a panel discussion on Fueling Tech Innovation in Dubai. Sarah Al Kindi, Head of Private Equity Europe, Asia and Secondaries at Emirates Investment Authority joined Sarah Al Saleh, Investment Partner at Outliers Venture Capital; Mahmoud Adi, Founding Partner at Shurooq Partners; and Mohammad AlBlooshi, Head at DIFC Innovation Hub & FinTech Hive.
As a developing financial market, experts stressed Dubai had an opportunity to learn from the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank and the crisis of confidence in Credit Suisse to explore solutions for long-term financial stability.
Despite global volatility and “fear” in the market, they said funding would always be available for great companies that build a good product. They also suggested early-stage firms should use artificial intelligence to take research, development and testing into “hyper speed”.
Financing the Future
Anchored by the Dubai Future Foundation (DFF) and the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) DFDF was launched by the Securities and Exchange Higher Committee in 2021 and aims to support innovative ideas and projects, and develop new solutions, products and services from Dubai.
It is focused on emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, robotics, data analysis, cloud computing, the Internet of Things, augmented reality, fifth-generation communication networks, cybersecurity, and blockchain technology.
It provides a variety of financing and investment facilities for emerging technology companies in Dubai and the region. It aims to support their growth and expansion in new markets, invest in local and regional portfolios, attract investment capital funds, and increase the contribution of future economy companies.