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African Nations Descend on Dubai’s Expo 2020

Comments (0) Featured, Politics

After being postponed for a year due to pandemic, Expo 2020 is finally set to begin in Dubai, with nearly every country on the African continent represented both individually and through a dedicated pavilion for the African Union.

No expenses spared to make Dubai’s Expo 2020 a success

After being postponed for a year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Expo 2020 is finally set to begin on the 1st of October 2021, with Dubai hosting the Universal Exhibition. For the first time in the 170 year history of World Expos, nearly every country on the African continent will be represented, both individually and through a dedicated pavilion for the African Union. Architecturally alone the event will be spectacular, with Morocco’s pavilion being a vertical earthen village that offers views of the whole event from it’s rooftop. With an estimated allocated budget of $8.7 billion, it is not a cheap event to host, but if successful it has been expected to generate up to US$17.7 billion in revenue for Dubai. Aside from the potential economic benefit, for the United Arab Emirates hosting the expo is a way to position themselves as a country of influence on the international scene, and further their political and economic presence on the continent of Africa.

A unified Africa presents a new image of the continent

For the continent too the exposition is an opportunity, as a myriad of countries wish to deepen their ties with Africa. With it’s Agenda 2063 – a 50-year plan to see an “integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens” – the African Union is ready to use the expo to show that the continent represents a dynamic force in the international arena. Aspiring to an Africa with no borders, whose people see themselves as Africans first, united in common heritage, culture and values the African Union pavilion will highlight Africa’s potential and ambitions, showing a new face of the continent that is exciting, young and modern.

The highlights of the continent on display

Within each carefully curated pavilion, over 40 countries on the continent will showcase to the world what they can offer:

Investment Opportunities

Some countries, like the Democratic Republic of the Congo will showcase the resources of the country. To attract investors the Congolese pavilion will highlight the country’s 80 million hectares of arable land, and the energy-production potential of the Congo River. Likewise Zimbabwe’s pavilion will showcase a destination filled with mining, construction and agriculture opportunities. In the Ethiopian pavilion conveyor belts will display locally-made products, while Nigeria’s ‘Opportunity City’ will put the country’s booming creative and technology sectors at the forefront for visitors to see.


For many countries the Expo offers a chance to sell the country as a tourism destination. With the recent rehabilitation of Benin’s cultural sites, the country wants to revitalize its tourism industry. In fact, standing out as a tourism destination will be the challenge at Expo 2020. Heavyweights in tourism like Egypt will deploy pyramids, hieroglyphic signs and genuine antique pharaoh statues, while Nigeria will show visitors around it’s untouched destinations on a virtual reality Eco-tour.


Along with highlighting the economic opportunities, African countries will be reminding the world of the wealth of culture on the continent. Entering the Ethiopian pavilion will see visitors coming face to face with a replica of ‘Lucy,’ the world’s oldest human fossil, while in the Nigerian pavilion the ‘Nollywood’ film scene will be highlighted. Meanwhile in the Kenyan pavilion is the opportunity to meet the 44 different tribes that make up the country, and visitors can leave with a Kenyan name and digital copy of their own Kenyan passport.

Enticing investment into the continent remains a challenge

Before the Covid-19 pandemic hit the world, Africa as a continent had seen 25 years of continuous economic growth. Despite this, the bottom half of the global Human Development Index is dominated by African countries, and the continent’s lack of infrastructure remains a barrier to international trade. This makes international investors wary, further holding the continent back. This is acknowledged by Eugene Manga Manga, the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s General Commissioner for Expo 2020. He has stated that, “The continent has a lot of difficulties, but it has also started to develop.” With rich natural resources and a youthful, entrepreneurial population, the continent does indeed have a lot to offer, and Expo 2020 may be the perfect chance to remind the rest of the world of this fact.

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Dubai Expo 2020: Connecting Minds, Creating the Future

Comments (0) Business, Middle East

It would appear that Dubai can do no wrong at the moment. With visitor numbers in 2019 up 5.1% from 2018 to a new high of 16.73 million, the most populous city in the United Arab Emirates continues to look for new ways to bedazzle the world. 

As the first city in the Middle East to hold a World Expo, Dubai has a chance to not only put its own achievements and plans for the future on show but to host countries from around the world willing to share, show off, and sell their own ideas and developments.

But just what is a World Expo?

The idea originated with France’s national exhibitions with 1844’s French Industrial Exposition often touted as the greatest of the time. But it was 1851’s “Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations’ held at London’s Crystal Palace that is seen as the blueprint for all the world expos up to the present day. The London World Expo is viewed as the first exhibition of manufactured products from around the world and is seen as having a major influence on trade, tourism, and art & design for decades to come. 

The development of World Expos is split into three distinct eras. The first, from 1851 to 1938, focused very much on industrialisation, and showcased technological progress and inventions. From 1939 to 1987, it was the era of culture, with the sharing of cultural ideas as well as innovation. The modern era, which began in 1988 in Brisbane, focuses more on the idea of nation branding, with countries seeking to improve their image to potential investors and tourists. 

It is difficult to judge the economic benefits to countries that participate in the Expos. The average cost of a pavilion at Hanover’s Expo 2000 was €12 million ($13 million), a figure that puts many countries off. However, an independent study into The Netherlands’ investment at Hanover estimated that their €35 million pavilion generated around €350 million in revenues for the country.

Few If Any Countries Do It Better Than Dubai

When it comes to nation branding, few if any countries do it better than Dubai. It’s a name that has become synonymous with luxury and with making dreams come true. Global recognition of Dubai is extremely high, thanks in no small part to the state carrier, Emirates Airlines, whose sponsorship deals outstrip any of their competitors. They sponsor Arsenal, Real Madrid, and Paris St Germain, three of Europe’s leading football clubs. 

World Expos take place every five years and last for six months. Dubai won a resounding victory in 2013 at the 154th General Assembly of the governing body of world expos, the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE).

Dubai 2020’s central theme of “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future” reflects the philosophy Dubai follows in attracting some of the world’s leading scientists and tech innovators to work in this small gulf state. The Expo also has three subthemes:

  • Opportunity. Bringing together the people with the potential to help shape our future. 
  • Mobility. Creating a smarter world where it is easier for people, ideas, and goods to move around the world. 
  • Sustainability. Respecting the world we live in and finding ways to preserve it. 

The Expo site itself lies in the Dubai South district, within easy reach of three airports (Al Maktoum International Airport, Dubai International Airport, and Abu Dhabi International Airport) as well as the Dubai and Abu Dhabi cruise terminals. The Dubai 2020 site will also have its own metro line which will be capable of transporting 40,000 passengers per hour. The Expo site is open from 9am to 1am every weekday and from 10am to 2am at weekends and on holidays. 

Millions of Visitors, 200 Participants, 192 Countries

Over the six months’ duration, millions of visitors will visit the pavilions from some 200 participants representing 192 countries. Given that previous World Expos have given us architectural wonders such as the Eiffel Tower and the Seattle Space Needle, as well as things we now take for granted such as the typewriter or Heinz Tomato Soup, the anticipation is already growing for the Expo’s opening on October 20th.

The focal point of the Expo will be the Al Wasl Plaza, named after Dubai’s historical name of Al Wasl – the connection – due to how it connected people from around the world. The site will have three thematic districts, anchored by an accompanying pavilion, and all linked to the Expo’s theme and subthemes. The UAE will have its own pavilion, designed by Santiago Calatrava and resembling a falcon in flight. With exhibitions, performances, art, music, gardens, and food from every corner of the globe, Dubai 2020 promises to be as spectacular as Dubai itself. 

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DP World wins 30-year Congo port concession

Comments (0) Actualites, Africa, Infrastructure, Middle East

DUBAI (Reuters) – DP World said on Sunday it had won a 30-year management and development concession for a greenfield, multi-purpose port in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

The Dubai-owned port operator will set up joint venture with the Central African country’s government to manage and invest in the Atlantic Coast’s Port of Banana, it said in a bourse statement.

An initial $350 million will be invested to construct a 600-metre quay and a 25-hectare yard extension with a container capacity of 350,000 TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units) and 1.5 million tons for general cargo.

Congo has long looked to develop a port along its less than 50 km (30 miles) of coastline to handle larger vessels than those that can reach its existing shallow ports up the Congo River.

Construction is expected to start this year and take two years to complete. A total project cost of over $1 billion, spread over four phases, will be dependent on market demand.

DP World will control 70 percent of the joint venture with the government of the DRC retaining the remaining 30 percent, the statement said.

The award includes an option to extend the concession for an additional 20 years.




(Reporting by Alexander Cornwell. Editing by Jane Merriman)

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2020 World Expo Dubai: a first for the region

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The World Expo will be held in Dubai in 2020, meaning that the MENA & SA (Middle East and North Africa & South Asia) region will host the event for the first time. The Expo began in London back in 1851, and once every 5 years a new location plays host to the global event. Hosting such a prestigious event comes as a huge boon for Dubai’s continually growing economy, and marks a breakthrough for the region as a whole. The event demands a lot of planning, not just for the initial hosting, but for the long term use for all the investments.

A long road to completion

The process of securing the right to host the 2020 World Expo began back in 2011, when 5 cities made the final shortlist. These cities were Sao Paulo in Brazil, Yekaterinburg in Russia, Izmir in Turkey, and Dubai of the UAE. Dubai’s bid was titled “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future”, and in 2013 it was announced that Dubai had won.

The Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) are the body responsible for selecting the winning bid, and after 164 member nations had voted, Dubai was the runaway victor with 116 votes.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, said at the time “I am proud of our teams who earned this victory for Dubai with two years of hard work, dedication and commitment.”

The process to build the infrastructure for the Expo then began; as the 6 month event will see millions of visitors arrive, with the potential to generate an additional $40 billion of revenue for the economy, as 277,000 new jobs are created. The main site for the event is named Al Wasl, which means “The Connection” in Arabic, and the 4.38 sq km site will feature a 65 meter tall dome that includes a 360 degree screen to project images to the thousands of visitors.

Every nation that is appearing at the Expo will have its own pavilion, and there will also be 3 main pavilions for the central themes of the event, which are “sustainability”, “mobility” and “opportunity”. Contracts for the construction of these 3 key sites will be awarded later this year.

The UAE is only 45 years old as a nation, but the history of the people and the region is obviously far deeper. To try and illustrate this point, the 2020 Expo’s logo was based upon a ring that was discovered at a 4,000-year-old archaeological site in the Al Marmum area of Dubai.

Sheikh Mohammed said that the logo “represents our message to the world that our civilization has deep roots. We were and will always be a pot that gathers civilizations and a center for innovation.”

Building for the Future

Many major global events lead to their hosts finding that they are left with large debts rather than long term growth. The Olympic Games and soccer World Cup have often proved a cost, rather than an economic boost, to their host cities. However, Dubai’s planners are confident that they are building for sustained growth.

Aside from the new jobs created to prepare for the Expo, the organizers say that 80% of the buildings created for the event will continue to be used once it has ended. An additional 28,000 hotel rooms will have been built by 2018, and this should help continue Dubai’s growing tourism trade.

In addition, major expansion of the Al Maktoum International Airport is planned to carry on after the Expo, with the works to finish in 2025. The 2020 Dubai Expo is also aiming to be the first one in which more than 70% of the visitors are from overseas, which should again help sell Dubai as a tourist destination to many people new to the region.

A new city is being built in the Dubai South region, a city which will eventually host 1 million residents and 500,000 jobs. Long term contingency plans for the various developments used at the Expo are in place, and already Siemens has announced that, from 2021, it will use Expo site as its global logistics base.

The arrival of the 2020 World Expo should dovetail well with the government’s Vision 2021 plans, and Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid has promised “to astonish the world in 2020.”

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StartUps Flourish Across the Middle East

Comments (0) Economy, Technology


The Middle East is overcoming cultural barriers, and political and financial challenges, to become a paradise for potential investors. Emerging local technology companies are flourishing and giants from the US, Europe and Asia are taking notice. From the arrival of business angels, to the sale of to Amazon, the region is showing greater creditability for investment projects and successful business ventures.

Growing Markets

Although there are huge obstacles facing the business markets of some countries across the region, the six Gulf Cooperation Council countries (UAE, Qatar, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Kuwait) plus Egypt, Lebanon and Jordan are emerging as an economic hub. According to venture capital site Beco Capital, there are over 160 million people in the region, 85 million who are online, and 50 million who are adult digital consumers with disposable income. These countries have the highest value consumers, enterprises and entrepreneurs, as well as, the youngest populations and high smartphone and broadband usage. This largely untapped market, is becoming the breeding ground for local technology startups, and big players from abroad, who wish to tap into it.

So far, only 8% of businesses in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) have digital presence (as opposed to 80% in the United States) and only 1.5% of the region’s retail sales are digitally transacted, meaning there is still plenty of growth to come. According to Beco Capital, each digital job is estimated to create two to three more jobs in the economy, meaning the digital market could add up to $95 billion in annual gross domestic product by 2020. The business landscape of the region therefore, shows a lot of promise to foreign investment.

Emerging Startups

According to research house MAGNiTT, there are now over 3,000 startups across the region, with $870 million spent in startup investment last year. The top 100 startups raised over $1.42 billion in funding and each startup has raised over $500,000 individually. Some 68% of startup founders come from the Middle East, although many hold dual citizenship, 12% of successful startup founders are female, and the UAE hosts 50% of the most funded startups in the region. These figures have attracted foreign investment from abroad.  

According to Bloomberg, Amazon’s recent acquisition of Dubai based, online market retailer, shows that e-commerce in the Middle East is set to take off. Out-bidding Emaar Malls PJSC, which owns the world’s largest shopping center, at $800 million, Amazon is actively looking for new areas of growth, and seems to have found it in the Middle East. According to Bloomberg, has 23 million online visits a month, employs over 3,000 people and sells more than 400,000 products, from electronic goods to household products and clothes.    

Business Angels

An angel investor is usually an affluent individual or professional investor who provides startup capital for a new venture in return for shares in the business. In a report drafted by Harvard Business School experts, angels increase creditability to projects and increase possibilities for success. The report found possibilities for success increased by 10 to 17% when initial investment was done outside the US. According to the National back in 2012, enthusiasm for angel investment was growing across the Middle East. High speed internet connections enable the regions businesses to reach a global audience, meaning companies can grow without need for crippling overheads previously associated with foreign investment.

Executive chairman of Oasis500, a Jordan based investment program, Usama Fayyad said the Middle East was a unique opportunity for investors to participate in companies who could easily grow in value two to ten times over in a matter of months. Business angels may also have valuable knowledge and experience to help struggling startups. Serial entrepreneurs, who have started their own business can mentor local companies to ensure successful management strategies.

Startup Ecosystem

Despite the war and poverty stories emanating from across the region on the nightly news, the Middle East is well on its way to becoming a global hub for investment. Even with numerous challenges, this has not stopped the region, as a whole, from overcoming the first phases of business development to build a promising startup ecosystem.  

Sources: (1), (2), (3), (4).

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John Lewis to open in Dubai as retail surges in the UAE

Comments (0) Business, Featured, Middle East

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UK-based department store John Lewis is set to launch in Dubai as the UAE becomes a top global market for retailers

Taking the middle class favorite across the globe, UK-based department store John Lewis has announced plans to open shop in the Middle East with the launch of a home department in Dubai. Scheduled to open in spring 2017, the shop-in-shop will take prime position in the new flagship Robinsons Department Store in the Dubai Festival City Mall, both owned by UAE-based conglomerate the Al-Futtaim Group. The 15,000 square feet shop will be John Lewis’s largest outlet oversees, and will stock a range of own-brand furniture, cookware, textiles, glassware, and bedroom, bathroom, living, and gifting assortments.

The agreement extends the current partnership between the Al-Futtaim Group’s Robinsons Department Store and John Lewis in Singapore. As part of the announcement, the duo also confirmed the opening of a 630 square feet John Lewis shop-in-shop in the Kuala Lumpur Robinsons store in Malaysia. Both new outlets will be designed by John Lewis’s in-house team.

Andy Street, John Lewis’s managing director, comments: “We’re delighted to be working with Robinsons again on two new ventures. The success of our existing international shop-in-shops has given us the confidence to open in the Middle East and increase both the scale of the space and product assortment. This is an exciting time for Al Futtaim’s Dubai Festival City Mall and we’re pleased that John Lewis will be a part of the next phase of its redevelopment.”

Building a stable home market

The announcement follows a failed Middle Eastern expansion attempt by John Lewis in 2011. Again working with the Al-Futtaim Group, plans had been drawn up to open several stores across the region, including in Dubai and Egypt. But at the time, much of the British high street was struggling, and so John Lewis pulled out, commenting that a focus on the home market was the first priority.

Now the employee-owned John Lewis operates 46 shops across the UK, of which 32 are department stores. And it is performing well relative to the market, posting particularly strong results for the important Black Friday, Christmas, and post-Christmas trading period with total sales of $1.38 billion (£951 million). Its viral “Man on the Moon” ad also triggered a 5.1% jump in online sales year-on-year. Although the company has warned that 2015 profits will be down, it has blamed this on higher pension charges, and on the whole, John Lewis is in good health.

John Lewis has also been busy building a portfolio of overseas stores, including 14 shop-in-shops across Singapore and the Philippines, seven in South Korea, and a further seven shop-in-shops set to launch in De Bijenkorf department stores across the Netherlands.

Booming retail market in the Middle East

But emerging markets are playing an increasingly important role. Reportedly about 70% of the world’s growth is likely to come from emerging markets in the coming years. With a rising population, a growing middle class, and rapid urbanization, the Middle East is a particularly attractive and largely untapped burgeoning market.

According to an Arcadis index ranking of 50 international markets, the UAE is the eighth most attractive market globally for retailers, with the UAE ranked first in the region thanks to strong infrastructure and ease of operation. Dubai is at the center of that market, with the second largest number of global brands after London, rising local purchasing power, a wealthy expatriate community, and a thriving tourism sector with plenty of foreign luxury consumers. Currently Dubai alone commands around 30% of the Middle East luxury market.

Modern retail concepts, including the Dubai Mall which claims around 50% of Dubai’s luxury purchases and hosted a record 54 million visitors during the annual Dubai Shopping Festival, also provide ideal conditions for growth. Developments capitalizing on the successful Expo 2020 bid and new mall openings are also expected to reinforce Dubai’s position at the center of a Middle Eastern retail in the coming years.

But with religion tied so closely to both society and business, the Middle Eastern market does also come with risks. Dano-Swedish brand Arla Foods (owner of Lurpak, Puck, and Arla) is a good example. In the early 2000s it was a major player in the Arab world, dominating the Middle Eastern markets for butter, cheese, and cream. But in 2005, and again in 2008, the publication of cartoons unflatteringly depicting Islam’s prophet in Danish newspapers led to boycotts of Danish goods, and sales plummeted. Arla Foods has never quite recovered.

Good chances of success

This partnership between John Lewis and Al Futtaim has a good chance of success. John Lewis has a strong reputation, voted the retailer with the best reputation in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa in a survey by the Reputation Institute (2013 and 2014). This will make it attractive to the Middle Eastern market. And Al Futtaim has the expertise and knowledge of the local culture. As Paul Delaoutre, President of Al Futtaim Retail, comments: “Al Futtaim’s solid regional retail infrastructure, know-how and reputation seamlessly blend with John Lewis’s global appeal as a renowned retailer in a long-awaited exclusive partnership designed to offer discerning UAE consumers even more choice and options.”

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Dubai’s Sheikh Mohammed connects on social media

Comments (0) Featured, Middle East, Politics

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The pioneering ruler of Dubai is conquering a new frontier – social media.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum has built a global social media following of millions of people and he is using social channels to connect with his citizenry and beyond.

He has 5.2 million Twitter followers and 3 million Facebook “likes” plus thousands of additional followers on LinkedIn, Instagram and other social media platforms. (By way of comparison, U.S. President Barak Obama has 5.5 million Twitter followers on his official POTUS account and 46 million “likes” on his Facebook page.)

Mohammed is @HHShkMohd on Twitter, HHSheikhMohammed on Facebook and HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum on LinkedIn.

Known for being the force behind Dubai’s rapid development as a major global business and air transport hub as well as for his love of horse racing, Mohammed, 66, has been Emir of Dubai and Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates since 2006.

Connecting with young people

In recent years, the ruler has encouraged his countrymen to embrace social media as means to connect with young people and encourage innovation.

sheikh mohammed arab influencer summit“The significance of these (social media) channels lies in their ability to reach out easily to all members of the society through personal devices,” he said at a Social Media Influencer Summit, which he convened in 2015 to discuss legislation to insure the “best use of social media platforms.”

“It is our duty to help our young people and future generations by building a knowledge platform to protect them from any destructive and negative thoughts that affect their full potential and create constructive paths for Arab societies,” he said.

Discussing national and global issues

Mohammed has initiated a number of discussions on social media about issues facing the country and the world.

“We want every man, woman and child to join us in the biggest ever national brainstorming session to find new ideas for health and education,” he tweeted in 2013. “Education and health concern all of us, so I invite all of UAE society to think collectively of creative solutions.”

In 2015, during Ramadan, he used social media to launch a UAE Water Aid campaign to provide clean drinking water to people in poor countries. “Statistics show that 3.4 million people die every year because they lack clean drinking water,” Sheikh Mohammed said on Twitter. The campaign raised nearly $50 million in a month.

Emphasis on youth, Dubai development

Mohammed also posts frequent updates on both Twitter and Facebook describing his activities, which often focus on the need to develop the country and its young people.

One recent Tweet showed a photo of him meeting with students. “I had the pleasure today of meeting a group of students of the Mohammed bin Rashid school for communication. Positive and ambitious and persevering,” he tweeted.

“I told them constant communication with the people and listen to them … and the removal of barriers with them is the most important characteristic of a successful leader and media also successful,” he said in a follow up tweet.

Another has a photo of Mohammed in the cockpit of an airplane with the tweet: “UAE carriers have 530 aircraft worth $160 bn on their order books. UAE is a major growth driver for global aviation.”

Dubai transformation began in the 1970s

Air transport was a first major step in Dubai’s rapid development and transformation into a major global city starting in the 1970’s.

Mohammad as a young man oversaw expansion of the state-owned Dubai International Airport beginning in 1974. A decade later, he would oversee the launch of Emirates airline, which has become the largest airline in the Middle East and a strong competitor in the global airline industry.

Under Mohammed’s leadership, Dubai has become the air and financial hub of the Gulf. After he lifted a ban on foreign land ownership in 2002 and allowed the creation of special economic development zones, Dubai was able to attract significant development and multinational companies flocked to state.

Touting government efficiency

According to his LinkedIn profile, Mohammed’s “vision for the UAE has been proven successful through achieving unprecedented rankings on global indexes and has lately achieved number one worldwide for government efficiency, according to IMD data.”

More recently, it says, Dubai has developed as a humanitarian center.

“The UAE is not just a financial and economic nucleus, neither is it just a tourism hub: we are also a nerve centre of a global humanitarian work.” These words of Sheikh Mohammed physically manifest in the many charity and humanitarian foundations established by HH (Mohammed), which are major local and international players providing assistance and opportunities to the less fortunate around the globe.

Horse racing and poetry

Mohammed’s passion for horseracing is widely known. In 1992, he founded Godolphin, a family-owned enterprise that has become the largest thoroughbred racing stable in the world. The family-owned enterprise has farms in the United States, Ireland, England and Australia.

With an estimated net worth of $4 billion, he is also a well-regarded poet and has published books on leadership.

Social media for governance

On social media, however, his focus is on governance and using new technologies to improve Dubai and its people.

“The world is moving at a very fast pace and technology is evolving dramatically. We all remember how the traditional media emerged modestly but it quickly gained momentum driven by technology to become a force that impacted governments, changing the course of their work. It transformed the world into a small village.”

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False Alarms During Dubai’s Second « Property Crash »

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In mid- January 2015, many real-estate developers and financial experts were worried: with Dubai World’s debt-restructuring talks looming overhead, a stock market meltdown and subsequently devastating property crash seemed almost inevitable. (more…)

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