Interview with Dubai CEO, Fahad Al Gergawi
by Margherita Chiara Immordino Tedesco
In recent years, Western media and television have accustomed us to an often erroneous and misleading view of Islam and the Arab world. Many aspects of Emirates culture, as in the case of finance, stand out and excel at world level for their prestige and avant-garde spirit. Finance in the United Arab Emirates is based on principles of ethics and transparency and is addressed to everyone, regardless of the religious beliefs of individuals. By importing these principles, in the global economic market, it would be possible to devolve part of the funds into charitable social projects and to invest in socially sustainable initiatives; pivotal points on which all Islamic finance revolves, reflecting the foundations of their culture.
A progressive social finance, therefore, developed in adherence to the principles of the Sharia in matters of socio-economic justice, equality and collective prosperity, through the mobilization of institutions such as Zakat (religious duty of “purification” of one’s own wealth), Waqf (constitution, for the purpose of charity of a usufruct on real estate) and many charitable associations present in the United Arab Emirates.
International politicians and humanitarian organizations should begin to consider Islamic social finance as a viable option in an era in which climate change is lengthening, without precedent, the response mechanisms of humanitarian aid.
How does it work? Each year, Muslims are required to donate 2.5% of the total cumulative wealth of a year to the poor in accordance with one of the five religious pillars, precisely called Zakat. This happens not only in the Emirates. Last year, for example, about £300 million was donated by Muslims in the UK.
Also in 2018, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) used the institution (Zakat) to fund a drought relief programme in Kitui County, Kenya, to help communities affected by climate change drought in southern Kenya by addressing two major issues, water access and income crop problems.
Humanitarian action provided access to clean water and livelihood opportunities for county residents by using funds to repair wells used to extract water and dig new wells.
In Indonesia, too, the funds were used to finance renewable energy projects in rural areas. Using around $350,000, the construction of a power plant in Jambi Province was financed, helping to provide electricity for residents of disadvantaged villages.
The Arab financial system can therefore make a decisive contribution to providing much-needed funding for the humanitarian challenges caused by climate change, with the disastrous consequences that it entails, and to helping the most disadvantaged, whether they are poor, in need, victims of an economic crisis or of catastrophic events attributable to environmental disasters.
The city of Dubai is certainly to be considered as the geographical and economic hub of the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia, a reference point for all foreign companies wishing to invest in its thriving economy, exploiting its global strategic importance.
To accompany investors on their journey and to ensure that they are successful in their investments, the city of Dubai, uses the Dubai FDI (Dubai Foreign Direct Investment), an agency belonging to the Department of Economic Development.
The Dubai FDI provides advice and practical assistance on all aspects of decision making and management. An important agency that perhaps represents the dream of many investors, capable of determining the best legal structures, identifying the best investment opportunities and including investors in a vast network of governmental and private sector contacts.
On 19 June 2019, Dubai Foreign Direct Investment won the “Top Investment Promotion Agency (IPA) 2019” award for the Middle East at the FDI 2019 World Forum held in Sydney, Australia. The government agency Dubai FDI, Investment Development Agency of the Dubai Department of Economic Development, has the objective of encouraging and facilitating foreign investments in the Emirates. Presented by the magazine “Site Selection”, the award recognized the United Arab Emirates as “the best country in which to invest” and “the best in which to invest per capita”. Fahad Al Gergawi (Dubai Foreign Direct Investment, http://dubaifdi.gov.ae/English/Pages/default.aspx), CEO of Dubai FDI, said on that occasion: “We are delighted to receive this award, which reflects Dubai’s ongoing commitment to ensuring that it is a preferential investment destination. Forward-looking policies and our ongoing commitment to investors and businesses ensure that we create initiatives that strengthen investor confidence in Dubai.
In recent years, Dubai’s initiatives have continued to strengthen the city’s profile as a preferred and preferential destination for investment. In the first quarter of 2019 alone, investments reached 5.5 billion dollars, an increase of 176% compared to the first quarter of 2018. Adam Jones-Kelly, Conway’s CEO and President and publisher of “Site Selection” magazine, said: “Dubai FDI has repeatedly demonstrated the crucial role of investment promotion agencies and how proactive agencies can reverse global trends. Dubai’s FDIs received more total votes than any other agency in the world.
The “Dubai Business Forum” was held in Rome on 28 June. During the Forum, the CEO of Dubai FDI, Fahad Al Gergawi met selected companies, presented by the lawyer, Dr. Silvia Mainardi, strategic partner of the FDI of Dubai, offering entrepreneurs a privileged channel, to support companies in their business with reference not only to the UAE (United Arab Emirates), but to the entire Middle East.
The Forum was attended by H.E. Omar Obaid Alshamsi, Ambassador of the United Arab Emirates in Rome – Formerly head of the Emirates diplomatic mission in Washington DC, Dr. Abdallah Raweh, world-renowned surgeon, author of the humanitarian action where he donated, on more than one occasion, 100 free operatorii interventions to less fortunate children with heart disease and malformations (we talked about it earlier in this article), Margherita Chiara Immordino Tedesco, press service at the Holy See and publisher of Mondi (www).mondionline.org), partner of the event and many other important personalities from the world of Finance and Entrepreneurship.
On this important occasion, we had the pleasure to ask some questions to Fahad Al Gergawi, Chief Executive Officer of Dubai Foreign Direct Investment (FDI).
Margherita Chiara Immordino German with Dubai CEO FDI Fahad Al Gergawi
As the geographical and economic hub of the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia, investors around the world see Dubai as a vital element of their operations and for small and medium businesses, Dubai is the ideal place for new initiatives. How did you manage to achieve this important goal?
Let us proceed, with our agencies, to the policies and strategies of the programme that work with the government on a progressive basis, not only for many years but, year by year, improving. We are ambitious, we can also develop much more. Since we started in 2014 with a government mandate, we have followed this path and lately we have started to receive global awards; this is the result of our innovative programs, never undertaken by anyone else before.
Dubai aims to become the world’s first Smart City by 2021, following from 2014 one of the most ambitious ICT (information technology and communication) integration programmes ever. How does Islamic finance merge with the technological avant-garde?
We have launched the Dubai FDI Monitor, a precious resource to guarantee investors and businesses a good journey towards success.
Dubai FDI Monitor provides essential information and invaluable support for foreign companies wishing to invest in Dubai’s thriving economy and exploit its global strategic importance.
To identify investments and opportunities. From planning to implementation and beyond. Dubai FDI has the skills, resources and knowledge to ensure therefore, a good journey to business success. It is a project much appreciated by the Inter-American Bank which considers Dubai FDI monitor as a point of reference for the development of those agencies that can make the same path.
Recently, Dubai Foreign Direct Investment won a prestigious award as the “Top Investment Promotion Agency (IPA) 2019” for the Middle East at the FDI 2019 World Forum in Sydney. A great result for your agency, for Dubai and for the whole Arab world.
We were considered the best, one of the best agencies in the world. This is why the city of Dubai is the largest city for growth and investment attraction. Recently, in fact, we were awarded this prestigious award by the magazine “Site Selection” in Sydney, just 10 days ago.
As far as Islamic finance is concerned, the Arab countries are not the only ones watching Dubai. The Islamic economy is an opportunity for 1.6 billion people. Our strategy brings innovation. For example, last October we signed an agreement with the US entity Alliance Business Centers Network (ABCN), thanks to which for the first time global investors will be able to start a business in Dubai without having to be present in the United Arab Emirates.
We no longer call it just finance, but alternative finance. While 411,586 visitors from Saudi Arabia were reached in Dubai’s tourism sector this first quarter, there were 326,586 from the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom and the major financial capitals of the world want to be in Dubai to invest, not only in oil, but also in the stock market, in the pharmaceutical industry, in the thriving real estate market, in tourism, in businesses, in services.
How can all this be reconciled with the religious principles of your culture?
Let us never forget our less fortunate brothers and sisters. The humanitarian initiatives of Dubai are numerous. Not everyone can afford education, not everyone has enough food and well-being. For us, wealth comes from Allah and has therefore been entrusted to us and what we promote is a culture of charity.
Thanks to our sense of charity and through our charities, we are able to help people in need, bringing them back to live a good life so that, in turn, they can use their skills to help others and improve the world.
People are created by God and destiny is also created by God, whatever we get from power or money or natural resources comes from God.
The Planet, people, life, everything is created by God Himself, so we have a responsibility and a duty to help others.
2019 is the year of tolerance in Dubai, so this year we celebrate the mutual acceptance of all of us, from different backgrounds, different religions, different ethnic groups, with different colors, so that we can all live peacefully together to support each other.
This is our philosophy.
What do you think about the relationship and investment opportunities between the Arab Emirates and Mediterranean countries like Italy?
I think that the whole of Italy is a wonderful and very special country, for the splendid people, for the culinary and gastronomic art, for the culture, for the design… I think that Italy has “all the papers in order” to develop towards the next level. Perhaps there is only a linguistic barrier with foreign countries to break down.
The relationship between our two countries is very important. We have many interests and passions in common, from culture to the value of the family, so I think we can do many things together. I’m very optimistic about that.
Pope Francis, in his recent visit to the United Arab Emirates and the city of Dubai, declared: “I am visiting this country as a brother to write together a page of dialogue and follow paths of peace”. was it the first time that a pontiff in the Arabian Peninsula, how have people experienced the event?
I can describe it with just one word: fantastic.
It was a historic event. The Pope’s visit also helped to unhinge an ancient “cliché”, that is, that there was hatred between the two greatest religions in the world. In multicultural Dubai alone, we have 204 nationalities living in harmony, including 125,000 Christians who participated in the ceremony.
One last question. Is yours therefore an economic and social system, which aims to evolve, in the perspective of what you call “Janna” and what we Westerners call “paradise” or fifth dimension?
We can do it with development. We believe that finance should not be a limit, on the contrary, we believe that it can be better managed, developing an ethical philosophy, with good Governance. We cultivate here, what we will experience in the fifth dimension and finance becomes important and fundamental when it allows us to create different types of opportunities for all and not just for some on this earth.
Margherita Chiara Immordino Tedesco with the lawyer Silvia Mainardi and Fahad Al Gergawi.