The United Arab Emirates has a population of less than 10m people with an estimated 88% of that figure attributed to expats/migrants. The UAE has historically welcomed people of all nationalities and has been adopted as home by many. British nationals have been important to the UAE’s development with modern-day examples being the late Maurice Flanagan KBE, founding CEO of Emirates Airline, Tim Clark KBE, the current president of the same airline, and Mark Beer OBE, CEO of the Dispute Resolution Authority, and person credited with the idea for DIFC Courts; the UAE’s English language courts system based on the UK’s common law framework.
Britain’s relationship with the UAE goes beyond that of individual business people however due to the UK being one of the UAE’s most important import sources. On this blog we often talk about the British population and its desire for food and drink and quality consumer products, but in terms of financial statistics industry beats food by a considerable margin.
UK exports to the UAE
UK exports to the UAE figure in the billions of Pounds. Data collected from multiple sources, including The IMF and the World Factbook, show approximate value per sector is as follows:
- Gems, precious metals, coins: £3.17 billion
- Machines, engines, pumps: £1.25 billion
- Vehicles: £880 million
- Electronic equipment: £810 million
- Aircraft, spacecraft: £385 million
- Iron or steel products: £198 million
- Pharmaceuticals: £186 million
- Perfumes, cosmetics: £177 million
- Medical, technical equipment: £140 million
- Plastics: £110 million
It is difficult to appreciate the British influence on the UAE’s business landscape without having seen first hand the brands and companies in operation. According to gov.uk there are more than 4700 British brands in the UAE including giants such as BP, Shell, Rolls Royce, BAE Systems, Mott McDonald, SERCO, Standard Chartered, HSBC and Fortnum and Mason. Many of these firms use the UAE as a regional base from which to direct operations.
With a population one sixth of the size of the UK, the UAE’s manufacturing sector is smaller by comparison. However, the UAE is home to one of the world’s largest manufacturers of aluminum and one of the worlds largest ceramic producers. The UAE’s other industries of note include fishing, textiles, fertilizer, construction materials, cement, handicrafts, and of course petroleum and petrochemicals. The UK and UAE governments have set a bilateral trade goal of £25 billion by 2020.
Expo 2020 Dubai is expected to generate almost £20 billion for the UAE economy with construction relating to the event expected to contribute the largest percentage. UK curriculum schools are in high demand with Forbes reporting private education as an industry worth $1.5 billion. There are also opportunities in nuclear energy as the country’s multiple reactors come online, as there are in solar energy, sustainability, and waste management.
The United Arab Emirates is an economic force in a region of more than 200 million people. It is the regions second largest economy, after Saudi Arabia, and is regularly ranked at number one for Arab countries in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Report. With the world’s busiest airport attracting more than 1 million Brits a year, the UAE is a firm favourite with tourists. But as the UK’s 11th most important trading partner globally, and most important in the region, the UAE is so much more valuable to the UK than just a sunny holiday destination.