The UAE is known for its determination – here dreams are goals for the future. Having celebrated a glittering golden jubilee, the country has set its sights on the next 50 years, with formidable goals that will take it to the zenith. Qiraat Attar explores the broad horizon of UAE’s promises to its people
The UAE has come a long way since its origin in 1971, when the six Trucial States, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Umm al-Quwain, Ajman, and Fujairah, agreed on a Federal Constitution (with the seventh state, Ras Al Khaimah, joining in February 1972), achieving independence as the United Arab Emirates. Pledging allegiance to a common flag and a united future, 2nd December 1971 was thus immortalized as the National Day of UAE. The UAE flag was adopted the same day, with the four colors, red, black, green, and white, signifying Emirati unity.
With lessons learned, promises delivered, and more to come, The Centennial Plan 2071 lays a roadmap for the UAE to forge guns blazing into the future. Technology, society, and our own collective consciousness as citizens of the UAE guarantees that abundant prosperity and well-being become our collective realized dream.
The UAE is well-known not just for setting high benchmarks for its fate as a nation but also for achieving them. From its origin in 1971 to the year of the 50th, 2021, the country’s achievements under the guiding light of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Ruler of Dubai, and Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE are, in a word, awe-inspiring. But complacency is the last thing on their mind if the cascading plans for the next 50 years are any indication.
2071: TOWARDS THE NEXT 50
Objectives for the oncoming 50 years can be gleaned at a glance from the four pillars or principles for the future.
The future-focused government aims to be the best government in the world, with inspirational leadership and a long-term vision. It intends to foster quality education, especially in the fields of advanced science and technology, space science, engineering, health sciences, and innovation, with mechanisms in place to discover a child’s individual talent early and nurture them. It sees itself as a knowledge economy, achieved by a generation of inventors and scientists and supporting them in technical sciences. And finally, for nations are only as prosperous as its people, it is committed to building a tolerant, cohesive, and ethical society that embraces happiness and a positive lifestyle, adequate female participation, and overall, a high quality of life.
To explore every meticulous project the nation has envisioned would command endless pages. Instead, let us walk through the hallmark objectives that will serve as the foundation for the journey of the next 50 years of the UAE.
A WORLD TO SAVE
Hot on the heels of the COP26 climate change conference, the UAE commits to far-reaching structural and legislative changes to ensure a hopeful future for the planet.
With the UAE particularly vulnerable to the water crisis, it looks towards reducing the overall demand for water resources by 21 percent by 2036. It also intends to reduce the water scarcity index by a ratio of three points, drive up the reuse of treated water to 95 percent and increase the national water storage capacity up to two days.
The UAE Net Zero 2050 goals align with the Paris Agreement, striving to achieve net-zero emissions in line with the country’s requirements, in collaboration with the energy, economy, infrastructure, industry, transport, waste, and agricultural sectors. In tandem, the UAE’s ‘Energy Strategy 2050’ looks to increase the share of clean energy in the overall supply from 25 percent to 50 percent by 2050. Not only does this reduce the carbon footprint of power generation by 70 percent, it also saves the nation AED 700 billion by 2050.
Having begun its stride towards renewable energy over 15 years ago, the UAE has invested over 40 billion USD to date, to hike up production capacity of clean energy using solar and nuclear to 14 GW by 2030.
The Al Dhafra Solar PV is the world’s largest single-site solar power plant in existence, with nearly 4 million solar panels generating enough electricity for over 160,000 homes across the nation.
While mitigating climate change’s consequences on intrinsic resources, the UAE has demonstrated foresight in recognizing that its citizens may be the worst affected by the crises and ensuing food uncertainties. Thus, it seeks to be the world’s best country in the Global Food Security Index by 2051, reaching amongst the top 10 by 2021. Food security will be guaranteed under all circumstances by enabling technology-based food production and supply, boosting international trade partnerships, enforcing regulations and policies to enhance nutrition, and reducing waste in food consumption.
JOINING THE DIGITAL REVOLUTION
The UAE intends to advance the digital game by weaving in a robust data and digitization policy in its future plans. The UAE Digital Government Strategy 2025 primarily focuses on the gaps that vulnerable groups like elders, people with determination, women, children, and others may face in the race to near-digital systems. In addition, the UAE Data Law, the first federal law drafted in partnership with major tech conglomerates, will play a significant role in protecting user privacy and limiting entities’ use of personal data for profit.
Other concerns include foolproof plans in anticipation of crises, keeping people at the center of all policies and processes with inclusive mechanisms, and ensuring an ‘open by default’ policy that makes government data accessible for the public to peruse and engage with.
Artificial Intelligence has sneaked up on the world, with private companies all over the world scrambling to incorporate it into their business. But the UAE Strategy for Artificial Intelligence (AI) sees AI playing a big role in achieving the objectives of UAE Centennial 2071.
The post-mobile government phase will have all future government services, sectors, and infrastructure projects rely on AI. The never-seen-before initiative in the Middle East and the world will encourage investments in state-of-the-art AI technologies that augment government performance and efficiency. As soon as 2031, the UAE will achieve 100 percent reliance on AI for government services and data analysis.
ATTRACTING THE RIGHT TALENT
Visas are indispensable to the UAE economy with almost 90% of its 10-million-strong population being expatriates. There are some intriguing new visa schemes in the works, notably the Green Visa, which will expand self-residency status for investors and skillful individuals, and the Freelancers Visa, enabling the self-sponsorship for those who work independently. This comes after the introduction of the remote worker visa, allowing even individuals who work overseas to live in the UAE for one year, and the 10-year Golden Visa, selectively granted to only the highly skilled and choicest of residents and investors.
Going beyond those who seek out the UAE, the country will also be reaching out to other nations for mutual economic benefit. With all-encompassing economic partnership agreements with eight key global markets, it aims to increase the UAE’s existing AED 257 billion by an additional AED 40 billion annually through trade with international regions.
The UAE’s global economic partnerships strategy which formulated these agreements aims to double the national economy in the next ten years, from AED 1.4 trillion to AED 3 trillion. The partnerships will be bolstered by the 10×10 program, which operates to achieve a yearly growth in the country’s exportations by 10 percent in ten strategic markets: China, Australia, New Zealand, Italy, Russia, Poland, Luxembourg, the UK, the Netherlands, and Indonesia.
PROTECTING THE WORKING CLASS
The working class of the UAE has ensured, through tremendous determination and resilience, that the nation rises to its highest potential. At the same time, they work on making a living and attaining a better life for themselves. Under ‘NAFIS’, which means ‘complete’ in Arabic and which falls under the ambit of ‘Projects of the 50’, there are several policies in the works to protect and compensate for this class.
‘NAFIS’ aims for Emiratis to hold 10 percent of the UAE’s private-sector jobs by 2025. Through the ‘Emirati Talent Competitiveness Council’, it’s all set to launch strategies that will create 75,000 positions for Emiratis, incentivizing a move to the private sector. In addition, the Merit Programme looks to incentivize national cadres in specialized fields, such as Emiratis working in high-impact positions like financial auditors and accountants, lawyers, analysts, coders, and nurses.
For those who harbor business ambitions, a subsidized career break with a 50% salary of six months to a year will be available to Emiratis in Federal Government positions to pursue entrepreneurship. The Early Retirement scheme offers an excellent avenue to Emiratis in Federal Government positions to explore business opportunities in the private sector by taking early retirement.
BEYOND PLANETARY CONFINES
The UAE has high ambitions for space exploration. By 2024, it intends to have a 100 percent Emirati-manufactured lunar rover, to study various aspects of the moon’s surface and use the findings to develop the science behind high-precision astronomical technology.
But the most ambitious of UAE’s ambitions by far takes us out of the way of the country… by a few million miles.
Driven by a thirst for exploration and a passion for limitless knowledge, the UAE aims to establish the first inhabitable human settlement on Mars by 2117. The project, whose roots lie in the present, is a gift for future generations. Directives have been issued to the Mohammad Bin Rashid Space Centre to prepare a 100-year plan charting its implementation. In preparation for the same, the UAE will build a complex of buildings called Mars Scientific City, stimulating the red planet’s terrain and harsh environment in every conceivable way. It will also conduct agricultural tests and studies around food security in the future. Any team designated for Mars exploration will have to endure this Mars simulation for a whole year.
ONE EMIRATE, MANY STATES
Every state that comprises the UAE has its own separate challenges and growth trajectories, recognizing and nurturing, woven into UAE’s policy.
The smallest of the seven Emirates, Ajman is characterized by the jagged Hajjar mountain range and its rustic charm, retained even in the turn of the times. The Ajman 2021 vision focuses on the formation of a happy society and the need for a green economy that is in conjunction with UAE Vision 2021 and the National Agenda. Ajman 2021 sees the indicators of a happy society as one that embodies a positive outlook, revers its heritage, and works in tandem with the environment.
Sharjah, a significant hub of innovation and a zealous entrepreneurial spirit with 45,000 small and modest enterprises, focuses on manufacturing, real estate, gas, tourism, education, healthcare, business services, and logistics. Sharjah Tourism Vision 2021 aims to play to its strengths by attracting over 10 million tourists by 2021. Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority will collaborate with the tourism sector to ensure the success of this goal.
While Abu Dhabi is well covered on several major projects, one of the most exciting from the Centennial Vision 2057 are more than 50 strategic initiatives for Abu Dhabi Police, including harnessing artificial intelligence (AI) and pioneering thinking in future security work. By 2057, Abu Dhabi Police intends to launch a satellite that prevents police data piracy, and in a twist that makes sci-fi pale in comparison. By 2117, Abu Dhabi will have designed a police station for the UAE Mars settlement by 2117. Gear up to witness patrol vehicles in space, nano-robots for firefighting, and robots as nearly 50 percent of the police force.
Dubai is a glittering gem in the crown jewel of the UAE, and as such the Emirate carefully implements the right strategies to augment its status. Already ranked the fifth-best city in the world by Resonance Consultancy’s World’s Best Cities Report 2021, Dubai homes amenities, comfort, and a culture that makes it an indisputable contender for the number one spot.
The kingdom has some strategies in store for Dubai’s growth and the ease of its citizens, such as the Dubai Health Strategy 2021, which aims to alleviate the suffering of chronically ill patients with state-of-the-art medical care, a culture of early detection and raise awareness of prevention through early and often check-ups.
Dubai Plan 2021 tackles the urban environment covering natural and man-made assets, looking to heighten the living experience of Dubai dwellers and propel the economy.
Smart Dubai 2021 envisions a 100 percent digital reality where the last paper transaction will be issued in 2021 by the Dubai Government.
There are also some long-term industrial plans in the pipeline, such as the Dubai Industrial Strategy 2030 to secure Dubai’s industrial future with sustainable businesses built on sound knowledge and innovation. In addition, Dubai’s 3D Printing Strategy was launched in April 2016 with a goal to establish the Emirate state as a hub of 3D printing technology by 2030.
One aspirational plan in Dubai’s infrastructure dreams is its Autonomous Transportation Strategy, which imagines at least 25 percent of the transport on Dubai roads transformed to autonomous mode come 2030. This bold ambition wishes to bring AED 22 billion in annual economic revenues in several sectors by reducing carbon emissions, transportation costs, and accidents and saving millions of hours otherwise wasted in primitive transportation to enhance the productivity of individuals.
The hyperloop project is a logistic marvel in the making, with every detail more astounding than the last. Faster, cheaper, and more sustainable than other existing modes, it is based on vacuum technology that will help cover the 140 km between Dubai and Abu Dhabi in a mind-boggling 12 minutes flat.
A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Virgin Hyperloop and UAE’s Mohamed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence (MBZUAI) acknowledges their collaboration over the research and innovation, making the UAE a center for the development of the hyperloop transport technology.
From plans of the future to the perfect execution of the present, one of UAE’s most prominent events has shaped up to leave the world agog at its mounting and scale. The exceptional Expo 2020 being held from 1st October 2021 to 31st March 2022 will honor humanity’s creativity and resilience while putting major technological advances in the fields of medicine and science in the spotlight.
Being the first World Expo held in the Middle East, South Asia, and Africa region, it welcomes 192 countries and every prominent and upcoming business, multilateral organization, and educational establishment.
FOR THE PEOPLE
Celebrations for the National Day are already underway, having begun 50 days before 2nd December to mark the country’s Golden Jubilee milestone. The ‘50 days to 50’ initiative invites all who call the UAE home to visit old attractions and new ones, unearth hidden gems around the country, submit photographs that hold meaning to them, and learn and sing the UAE’s national anthem and participate in the celebration wholeheartedly.
This Golden Jubilee and the potential it holds for the future is a poignant one for all of UAE, its states, and the people who inhabit it. Poised on the cusp of another 50 years of meteoric growth and path-breaking reform, let us rejoice this National Day for the journey we have traversed so far, for it is no less than a celebration of our own life’s milestones.