Emirates Development Bank Forum highlights strategic vision for Abu Dhabi’s economic growth and diversification

Emirates Development Bank (“EDB” or “the Bank”), yesterday hosted the highly anticipated Abu Dhabi edition of EDB Connect at the ADGM Atrium in a strategic partnership with ‘Make it in the Emirates’ initiative, convening key industry leaders, government officials, and business innovators to discuss, debate, and shape the future of Abu Dhabi’s economy. The event – now in its second edition – serves as a vital platform for discussing strategic investments, exploring innovative solutions, and fostering the growth of SMEs.

His Excellency Osama Amir Fadhel, Assistant Undersecretary of the Industry Accelerators Sector at the Ministry of Industry and Advanced Technology said: “EDB, along with other national financial institutions, contributed to providing AED 5.3 billion of financing to industrial companies last year. SMEs secured 90% of the financing provided by the ministry in collaboration with its strategic partners.”

 “The ministry’s efforts, in collaboration with its strategic partners and EDB, have contributed to boosting investments under the Make it in the Emirates initiative by providing industrial companies with financing, as well as incentives and enablers, empowering them to establish and grow their businesses. This helped drive the increase in the industrial sector’s contribution to GDP in 2023,” he added.

Ahmed Mohamed Al Naqbi, Chief Executive Officer of Emirates Development Bank, added: “Today’s edition of EDB Connect in Abu Dhabi has showcased the power of collaboration across government, the private sector, and financial institutions. The insightful dialogues and innovative ideas presented here are vital for steering Abu Dhabi’s economy towards new heights of diversification and technological prowess. The discussions on strategic investments, especially in renewable energy and SME empowerment, reflect a deep understanding of the complex economic dynamics we navigate today. Discussions explored the intricate balance of economic growth, sustainability, and technological integration, offering critical insights into the future trajectory of Abu Dhabi’s economy. This forum has not only served as a platform for exchange but also as a catalyst for actionable strategies that align with our national economic goals. As we move forward, the partnerships and initiatives fostered during this event will be instrumental in shaping a resilient and dynamic economic landscape for the emirate.”

The day’s agenda explored how strategic investments and innovative financing are pivotal in Abu Dhabi’s economic transformation. As the UAE capital embarks on an ambitious journey of diversification away from oil reliance, forums like EDB Connect underline the strategic efforts to foster an innovation-driven economy, leveraging the emirate’s competitive advantages across sectors.

Emirates Development Bank’s critical role in this transformation is reflected in its initiatives to provide competitive, flexible and inclusive financing, foster large companies, enable SMEs growth, and support its 5 priority sectors. As the financial backbone of these diversification efforts, EDB’s commitment to enabling innovative projects and sustainable growth strategies was a central theme throughout the discussions.

The event began with a welcome address by Ahmed Al Naqbi, CEO of Emirates Development Bank, who highlighted the collaboration and partnership spirit of EDB Connect to discuss and realise the vision of the UAE’s leadership, the potential of the nation’s economy and the aspirations of its people.

He said: “At Emirates Development Bank, we believe we cannot play a central role in business development and economic growth without close, long-term partnerships and collaborative ventures. Abu Dhabi’s economic landscape is a remarkable narrative of resilience, diversification, and strategic foresight. We are partners in that progress, and architects of that ambition.”

He continued: “At EDB, we focus on sectors critical to our nation’s future, and through this work, we have been instrumental in shaping the economic fabric of the UAE. Through our commitment to our core value of ‘excelling through partnerships’, we have achieved remarkable milestones. Through close collaboration with our partners, we successfully approved billions of dirhams in financing, supporting thousands of businesses and making substantial contributions to the UAE’s non-oil GDP growth. We have also initiated specialised financing programs targeting those priority sectors, for example in our dedicated financing schemes for the renewables and food security sectors.”

The forum featured several panels and discussions, each addressing a critical aspect of Abu Dhabi’s economic landscape. The first panel, titled ‘Unlocking Abu Dhabi’s Strategic Investment Potential,’ hosted senior representatives from the government sector including Salama Al Awadhi, Director of National Value-Added Department at MoIAT; Yaser Al Yousuf, Director of Participation and Conformity, Abu Dhabi Residents Office; and Amier Al Awadhi, Director of Masdar City Free Zone. The speakers exchanged insights on maximising investment opportunities in line with Abu Dhabi’s economic vision. The panel underscored the importance of fostering an investment-friendly environment and adopting innovative strategies to attract both local and foreign investors.

Following this, the ‘Manufacturing Excellence: A Pillar of Abu Dhabi’s Economic Strategy’ panel, featuring H.E. Maadhad Hareb Al Khaili, CEO of Bluetec; Ibtisam Alsaadi, Director of Industrial Policies and Legislation Department, MoIAT; Salem Bafara , Vice President, In-Country Value & Industrial Development Division, ADNOC; Haitham Alkhazaleh, Risk Director, Etihad Export Credit Insurance; Mansoor Al Marar, Commercial Director, KEZAD Group; and Gauri Singh, Deputy Director-General, International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). The experts on panel highlighted the significant strides made in manufacturing and the sector’s contribution to Abu Dhabi’s diversification and sustainable development.

The third panel, ‘Sustainability and Resilience: Strategic Imperatives in Renewables’ explored how Abu Dhabi is addressing the challenge of renewable energy through innovative and sustainable solutions. Moderated by Dr. Ahmed Badr, Director, Project Facilitation and Support, IRENA, the panel included Eng. Nawal Alhanaee, Director of Future Energy Department, Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure; Shaker Zainal, Chief Business Officer, EDB; Eva Ramos Perez Torreblanca, Division Director, Environmental Policy Analysis and Economics, Integrated Environment Policy and Planning, Environment Agency Abu Dhabi; Sufyan Al Issa, Global Head of Business Development and Client Coverage, IFC, The World Bank; and  Martin Nagell, Director of Merger & Acquisition, Masdar.

Innovation in healthcare and technology was the focal point of the fourth panel discussion – titled ‘Innovation Frontiers: Driving Competitiveness in Food Security, Healthcare, and Technology’, which brought together speakers from the three sectors in focus and key government representatives. Panellists Fatima Ghanem Alhajri, Director of Investment and Talent Attraction, Ministry of Economy; Massimo Falcioni, Chief Competitiveness Officer, Abu Dhabi Investment Office (ADIO); Hassan Halawy, General Manager, Elite Agro Projects; and Dr. Ali Al Suwaidi, founder and CEO of Tarmeem Orthopedic and Spine Specialty Hospital discussed the profound transformation in the healthcare and food security sectors, driven by the integration and wider adoption of advanced technology. The discussion revolved around how technological advancements are revolutionising the healthcare sector and the potential this holds for Abu Dhabi’s economy. In addition, the panel highlighted the importance of accessibility to such advancements and the intrinsic link between health and food security.

Another highlight was the session on ‘Competitive and Inclusive Financing Key to Enabling SMEs growth and economic contributions’ which saw participation from a diverse group of speakers including Sultan Al Wheibi, Investment Division Director, The Abu Dhabi Agriculture and Food Safety Authority; Fatima Al Hammadi, Director of Credit Management, Khalifa Fund; Fatema Al Ali, Initiative Development Specialist, Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development; Dr. Ankur Dana, CEO, Dana Steel; and Ravi Handuja, CEO and Founder of Vivasvaan Industrial. Moderated by Abdulla Al Hamed, Vice President mSMEs at EDB, this panel discussed the crucial role of SMEs in economic growth and the innovative financing solutions necessary to support their development.

EDB Connect: Abu Dhabi Edition also featured a Partners Award Ceremony, recognizing key stakeholders and strategic partners contributing to Abu Dhabi’s economic goals. Additionally, exhibition pods for partners, including KEZAD, ADRO, ECI, Masdar, and Elite Agro, were a notable feature of the event.

The panel sessions and collaborative discussions at the forum underline Emirates Development Bank’s pivotal role in shaping Abu Dhabi’s new economic narrative. Through its support for SMEs, focus on sustainable practices and empowerment of key sectoral growth, EDB is a critical player in Abu Dhabi’s journey towards becoming a global hub for innovation and sustainability.

About Emirates Development Bank:

Emirates Development Bank [EDB], the UAE’s development bank, is a key financial engine for the UAE’s economic development and industrial advancement. EDB provides financial and non-financial support to businesses of all sizes from start-ups, SMEs to corporates driving economic competitiveness across five strategic priority sectors: advanced technology, food security, healthcare, renewables, and manufacturing. EDB was established under Federal Law by Decree No. 07 of 2011 issued by the late Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and became operational in June 2015.