The Business Year

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UAE, ABU DHABI - Economy

Abdulla Abdul Aziz AlShamsi

Acting Director General, Abu Dhabi Investment Office


Eng. Abdulla Abdul Aziz AlShamsi is the Acting Director General of the Abu Dhabi Investment Office (ADIO). He leads the organisation’s efforts to grow and diversify Abu Dhabi’s economy through private sector investment. He also oversees strategic initiatives that accelerate innovation in the emirate and enhance its reputation on the world stage.

"We also look at ways to create partnership opportunities between the private sector, whether they be locally or internationally based, and the public sector so that the economy can thrive."
TBY talks to Abdulla Abdul Aziz AlShamsi, Acting Director General of Abu Dhabi Investment Office (ADIO), about foreign investment, ease of doing business, and the UAE’s overall business strategy.
ADIO is a central government hub for private investment that supports international companies wanting to invest locally. Which strategies are crucial to foster opportunities for those people and in forging international alliances?

We are the central government entity for private sector investment into Abu Dhabi. It is not just about attracting foreign companies to Abu Dhabi; it is about creating sustainable private sector opportunities for long term commercial growth that contributes to the Abu Dhabi economy. Therefore, in terms of our offerings and the different instruments that we have been provided by the government, we think about how to best nurture and originate opportunities here on the ground. We also look at ways to create partnership opportunities between the private sector, whether they be locally or internationally based, and the public sector so that the economy can thrive.

What are the foundations of ADIO’s Innovation Programme and what is its mission?

ADIO’s Innovation Programme helps high-growth companies tap into the business and growth opportunities available in Abu Dhabi. Since its 2020 launch, AED 1.3 billion has been allocated to support more than 40 innovative companies from around the world to thrive in Abu Dhabi. When we talk about opportunities for private sector development, we want to make sure that people understand that our work here is based on foundational pillars that make businesses thrive. Lifestyle is one of those pillars. Abu Dhabi is a great place to live and the safest city in the world. We talk about infrastructure, and the technological and physically built infrastructure that we have is second to none. We are the first city internationally to have rolled out 5G. We talk about talent, because Abu Dhabi is open to talent from all over the world, and the strength of our world-class education system and R&D networks. We also have access to capital worth USD2 trillion of assets under management across the Abu Dhabi infrastructure. These pillars allow us to create a long-term, sustainable ecosystem for businesses to grow, which is what we want.

Abu Dhabi is the 12th best economy worldwide in terms of ease of doing business. What are the main strategies that you put in place to achieve that?

We are willing to listen, and that is the main strategy. It is as simple as that. We sit down and have a conversation, get feedback from our private sector partners, those running the businesses, to understand what else we can do for them. Then, we deliver on whatever their goals may be, or what their business plan tells us they need to do. This partnership is key for any thriving economy. I would also emphasize our ability to be agile and pivot by creating effective regulation.

We know that two-thirds of the economy in terms of labor comprises women. How does ADIO support minority groups and women to attain leadership levels?

The programs we have in place are there to drive business opportunities. What we are trying to do beyond anything else is give people opportunities without looking at the things that differentiate them as human beings. We can work on that foundation and have the ability to say, regardless of your gender, your religious affiliation, and where you come from around the world, if you have an opportunity, a business idea, come to Abu Dhabi because this is the land of opportunity.

What is the UAE business model, and why do you think it is sustainable?

The UAE is a fantastic place to live, work, invest, raise your family and retire. In the Abu Dhabi context, our business model, fundamentally, is that we are open to doing business. We are here to drive good, long-term, and sustainable business, and support innovation that solves globally important challenges.

What is the place of startups and SMEs in this ecosystem?

This is precisely why the ADIO was established to drive private sector activity. And where does private sector activity come from? It is SMEs and giving them the ability to take advantage of the projects and the prospects that the government is putting out there is a core component of what we do. The partnership that we have, the ability for us to expose SMEs to incubators, access to financing, and mentorship, and to enable them to grow from being an SME to potential listing on the Abu Dhabi Stock Exchange through the new IPO fund. These are all the foundations of successful businesses.

Which are the main challenges ADIO is trying to address?

We are looking to partner with the ecosystem to provide opportunities that may not already be available; however, we are also seeking to ensure that these opportunities have an innovation focus or component. When we talk about companies to bring to the region there should ideally be an associated innovation or a tech angle, purely because this is how we perceive the future. The sustainability of these businesses will require such activity by definition. We’re driving the competitiveness and sustainability of these businesses.

What do you have in mind for 2023?

ADIO and Abu Dhabi are ready to support ambitious companies in 2023 to achieve sustainable growth. Our innovation ecosystem and infrastructure provide an ideal foundation for companies to establish or expand their operations, so in 2023 you will see more companies in areas like healthcare and biopharma, tourism, ICT, financial services and AgTech choose Abu Dhabi to locate their HQs and R&D facilities. With the launch of the Abu Dhabi industrial strategy by the Department of Economic Development, we are also focused on supporting the growth of Abu Dhabi’s advanced technology and industrial capabilities to drive the economy forward. We have a great base already to build upon.



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