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UAE-Israel peace treaty could boost tourism and tech sectors

The normalisation of relations by the UAE and Bahrain with Israel is likely to benefit economies of all three nations and contribute to broader geopolitical stability in the region, S&P said.

The ratings agency expects the launch of direct commercial flights to Israel that would significantly increase cooperation in the areas of tourism, security, telecommunications, technology, health, education, financial services and agriculture.

“It is also likely that the parties to the Abraham Accords will establish reciprocal embassies at some point. Diplomatically, Israel’s regional isolation has been reduced, while GCC sovereigns may be able to leverage Israel’s significant military capabilities against common threats,” S&P said.

The ratings agency said another important factor is the extent to which the respective governments tie the pace of normalisation to the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian issue. “If the resolution is a prerequisite for normalisation, as we believe is the case for Kuwait, then normalisation is not likely to happen soon.”

Al Habtoor to tap into Israeli market with partnerships

The UAE-Israel peace accord will present great opportunities for both sides by opening up new doors, said Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor, founding chairman of Al Habtoor Group (AHG).

Al Habtoor, announcing his group’s plan to open a representative office in Israel, said AHG is preparing to reveal a few collaborations with Israeli companies in the coming days. He made the announcement at a meeting with Shlomi Fogel, Ampa Group’s co-owner and chairman, at the AHG headquarters in Dubai.

The meeting coincided with the signing of the landmark Abraham Accords Peace Agreement between the UAE and Israel.

“I have been looking forward to this day for a very long time. I have always believed that Emiratis and Israelis have a lot in common. Both peoples are business-oriented and have relied on human talent and ambition more than their countries’ natural resources to build robust, innovative economies,” said Al Habtoor.

“The opportunities that this deal will present are great for both sides. I am confident this will open up new doors and lead to stronger economies, and closer cultural ties between the peoples.”

Fogel, who is also CEO of Ampa Group, a leading diversified business conglomerate in Israel, said through successful business collaboration and trade, peace would be cemented. “Together with our Emirati counterparts, we will show the way to live in peace to the rest of the world.”

Following the meeting with Fogel, Al Habtoor said his group had received a large number of enquiries for collaboration in several fields, ranging from AI and technology to agriculture, hospitality and trading.

Full marks for Edtech in GCC

The education sector in the region has always been progressive and tech-savvy, and which has further received a boost during the Covid-19 outbreak with most schools compelled to upgrade their online teaching services.

The sector is all set to book more business as most schools adopt distance learning and this is endorsed by a latest report issued by Moody’s Investors Service, which indicates that primary and secondary private education providers will see growth beyond the pandemic in Asia and Emea.

Demand for primary and secondary private education will continue to drive providers’ growth over the next three years. The credit quality of private education providers with scale, geographical diversification and good track records will continue to benefit from growth driven by strong societal and demographic factors over the next three years.

“Coronavirus will pose a major challenge in the 2021 academic year. We expect the coronavirus pandemic will temporarily slow education providers’ strong revenue growth trajectory in the 2021 academic year, with lower than historically achieved enrollment rates and fees. As the reopening of schools and learning centres varies by city and country, private education providers’ geographical diversity will be credit-positive,” Moody’s said.

“However, the ability to provide a strong online offering is a key competitive advantage for the future. We expect blended learning to be a growing part of the service offering for private primary and secondary education providers, with learning centres moving further to a pure online offering if required. Companies that have already invested in their online platforms and demonstrated their ability to offer online learning will be able to capitalise on this growing trend. Providers will continue to benefit from strong cash flow but face varying challenges depending on operating model and growth strategy,” it added.

The growing demand for quality education, particularly in emerging markets where there are large populations of school-age children, is supported by rising disposable incomes in the middle-classes and the imbalances in the state-funded education system where demand for highly rated schools typically outstrips supply.

Skill me: workers in UAE more determined to adopt AI

An overwhelming majority of employees in the UAE are keen to be part of the AI reskilling revolution, which would support the creation of company cultures more focused on innovation and learning, a new study from Microsoft has discovered.

The tech bellwether’s Skilling for the Age of AI report for the UAE found that almost all workers – 97 percent – want to be part of reskilling initiatives, with the majority (77 percent) of those working in an organisation using more of artificial intelligence saying their company is actively preparing them for a digital future that will be increasingly powered by AI.

“Every business and industry has had to adopt significantly to the disruption that was unimaginable,” Ihsan Anabtawi, COO and CMO of Microsoft UAE, said during a virtual presentation.

“The situation is evolving and [changing] behaviours will persist. there is a direct correlation between skilling and [the] value [that it adds to an organisation].”

Microsoft’s study revealed that companies putting AI first are focused on ensuring that it is complementing the talents of its staff, with employee skills being cultivated across each category.

Among UAE firms that are most mature in AI adoption, 93 percent of their top management say they are actively building their employees skills or at least have it in their plans. For employees, 78 percent of those in these organisations say they have already benefitted from reskilling programmes.

 

“We’re seeing a virtuous cycle emerge among those companies that extract the greatest value from AI,” Anabtawi added.

“These leaders have realised that having the right skills enables them to unlock more value from AI, which levels up skills across their whole organisation.”

Employees in the UAE are also more pumped up to gain additional skills compared to global figures. About 97 percent of those in the UAE are motivated and want to participate in reskilling programmes compared to 92 percent overall. Sixty-two percent in the UAE feel their company is currently doing enough to prepare them for AI against 42 percent globally.

The figure is also significantly higher when it comes to employees considering a job elsewhere if their organisation doesn’t invest enough in this endeavour (74 percent versus 49 percent).

Digital economy in UAE eyes fast lane

The UAE has worked hard to build a digital economy, leading to tremendous progress that has set an example regionally and globally. The country’s leadership has made it clear that the UAE’s digital economy transformation is set to accelerate in the post-Covid-19 era, said Fatima Alnaqbi, chief innovation officer of the Mohammed bin Rashid Innovation Fund (MBRIF) and a representative of the Ministry of Finance.

The MBRIF, a Dh2 billion ($544.4 million) initiative that was set up to support innovators in their journey from conception to realisation and expansion, now has 43 members, of which 39 are in its Accelerator programme and four in its Guarantee Scheme, and growing.

Alnaqbi said: “We will continue to identify and nurture local innovators and bring high-potential entrepreneurs from around the world. Regardless of where our members come from, they all share a passion for using future-driven technologies to solve challenges and make a lasting positive impact. We hope that the MBRIF and its members will contribute greatly to the UAE’s digital economy transformation journey.”

The MBRIF is a government-backed initiative by the Ministry of Finance that provides innovators with access to the tailored resources, expert guidance, connections and affordable financial support innovators need. It is managed and operated by Emirates Development Bank.

Launched in 2015 in alignment with the UAE National Innovation Strategy, the MBRIF promotes and fosters innovation in the UAE by helping local innovators succeed, while also attracting high-potential innovators from around the world to the UAE.

“Our focus is on seven priority sectors: Clean energy, education, health, space, technology, transportation and water. We believe that every innovator is different, and every business has its distinct challenges on their growth journey,” Alnaqbi said.

Changing user behaviour to keep startups adapting

The global coronavirus pandemic has indeed forced companies, large and small, to rethink their strategies, with those who have adapted well enjoying minimal impacts to their business.

That also doesn’t mean they have to be content with what they have; keeping up in the game will be important, especially given the unpredictable nature of the times and unknown challenges that lie ahead.

“There would be a change in customer behaviour; startups need to figure out a way to reach their leads and customers with this in mind,” Ali Homadi, founder and CEO of Loyica, told in an interview.

“Technology will also play a great role in bridging the gaps in the market and it will also play a huge part in helping businesses understand the needs of their customers more. Hence, the changing business landscape will be a challenge for the most part.”

Loyica – a company that helps businesses integrate digital transformation into their ecosystems – was soft-launched last year. Homadi says progress has been “great” and they were “welcomed warmly”.

“Our customer base has been steadily growing and we have been receiving positive feedback which is what drives us to continue improving our services,” Homadi said.

Loyica is also the developer of Saphyte, the first customer relationship management (CRM) software from a UAE-based company. It entered commercial operations in the second quarter of 2020 and aims to have a user base of over 10,000 by the end of the year.

The pandemic has forced businesses to take their operations online, and this has been a “great opportunity” for Loyica to introduce Saphyte and show these firms the benefits that can be reaped from it.

As World Group signs contract with Emaar hospitality for expo 2020

AS World Group (DIFC) has signed a corporate contract with Emaar Hospitality Group to promote exclusive room packages and special offers at 18 hotels in Dubai to visitors attending Expo 2020 Dubai, from Africa and the Middle East.

The collaboration is a major boost for Dubai’s hospitality sector as the emirate successfully reopens to the world following the pandemic.

In the period leading up to Expo 2020 Dubai, as well as for the entire duration of the mega event from October 1, 2021 to March 31, 2022, AS World Group will promote Emaar Hospitality Group’s extensive Dubai hotels’ portfolio through exclusive room packages and special offers for federal and state governments, trade missions, chambers of commerce and industry, private and public sector businesses, and individuals, in Africa and the Middle East who intend to visit the World Expo.

AS World Group’s role will also ensure that the maximum number of trade and leisure visitors from Africa and the Middle East – with their total population of 1.6 billion – participate in Expo 2020 Dubai, which is targeting 25 million visits from around the globe in a six-month period.

AS World Group is an authorised ticket reseller for Expo 2020 Dubai, while Emaar Hospitality Group is the official hotel and hospitality partner of Expo 2020 Dubai.

Sajid Barkat, CEO of AS World Group, said: “The corporate agreement with Emaar Hospitality Group ties in with our vision of promoting Dubai to the world, especially in our core markets of Africa and the Middle East, where we have a very strong presence. In anticipation of Expo 2020 Dubai we have recently expanded our workforce and are fully geared to leverage our proven expertise in the international hospitality sector.”

Barkat added: “Given the fact that AS World Group is already an authorised ticket reseller for Expo 2020 Dubai, we are now also extending exclusive Emaar Hospitality room packages to our extensive client networks in Africa and the Middle East, prior to Expo 2020 Dubai, as well as during the six months duration of the mega event.”

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