UAE looks to unify a national investment strategy, minister says

Mohamed Alsuwaidi was tapped to helm the newly formed Ministry of Investment in July

UAE Minister of Investment Mohamed Alsuwaidi onstage in Abu Dhabi on Dec. 7, 2023. (Courtesy Milken Institute)

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — The United Arab Emirates is working to develop a single financial strategy for its sometimes competitive constituent emirates, Investment Minister Mohamed Alsuwaidi said on Thursday.

Each of the seven local governments, which banded together in 1971 to form a federation, has historically managed its own  priorities, said Alsuwaidi, who was tapped to lead the newly formed Ministry of Investment in July.

Amid increasing competition from neighboring Saudi Arabia and a booming population – Alsuwaidi predicted a doubling to 10 million over the next decade – the UAE is positioning itself to attract multinational companies and increase opportunities domestically and globally for its homegrown entities. He was speaking today at the Milken Institute’s Middle East and Africa Summit in Abu Dhabi.

Alsuwaidi, who is also chief executive of Abu Dhabi’s strategic investment fund ADQ, said the new ministry would “not be involved in asset allocation” or “influence decisions made by the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, Mubadala or the Dubai sovereigns.” Instead he sees the role of the ministry as helping UAE companies enter new markets, particularly nearby, and attract foreign investment.

“Before we have to travel further than three or four hours, there are enough projects in the region to expand and take our businesses to the next level and that’s really our aspiration,” Alsuwaidi said, There is a drive, he said, for “more investments in financial services and financial institutions and attracting those family offices and asset managers.” 

Alsuwaidi cited specific examples of expansion, some in his own portfolio: the ADQ-owned energy company TAQA has opened power plants in Uzbekistan and Morocco; ADNOC is eyeing international gas projects; and ADQ-backed PureHealth, which is going public, acquired a business in the U.K. and a stake in a U.S. healthcare provider earlier this year.  

Saudi Arabia, the Middle East’s biggest economy, announced tax incentives on Wednesday to further entice multinational companies to set up regional headquarters there, a direct challenge to the UAE’s current primacy as the region’s business and trade hub.

Alsuwaidi brushed off the question of competition or the threat of conflict in the region: “Conflicts around the region has never stopped us from attracting talent from attracting people to come and set up shop has never attracted or deterred people from looking at the quality of security and life that they that we can offer in the UAE.”