x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

UAE National Day: Building our future, starting from home

The UAE plays an important role in the ongoing creation of a global community.

Dubai's winning bid for the World Expo 2020 reflects Sheikh Zayed legacy. Ali Hadier / EPA
Dubai's winning bid for the World Expo 2020 reflects Sheikh Zayed legacy. Ali Hadier / EPA

Today we celebrate 42 years of the Spirit of the Union and the many achievements of our nation since its birth, the most recent of which is winning the bid to host the World Expo 2020 in Dubai. This six-month event will run into 2021 – the year in which we will celebrate 50 years of the Union.

As well as being a day for celebration, our National Day is also an opportune time for reflection. Reflection on how far we have come: the unique diversity of our population, the unrelenting development of our skyline, the remarkable growth in our economy, and the increasing number of opportunities to live, achieve and thrive here in the UAE.

Watching the voting results of the Expo bids come in, I could not help but feel that the legacy of our nation’s father Sheikh Zayed is stronger than ever, who once also said that “Future generations will be living in a world that is very different from that to which we are accustomed; It is essential that we prepare ourselves and our children for that new world.”

These wise and inspiring words highlight an important lesson, which is that the foundations of good governance always begin at home. There is no better place than the family unit for imparting the values of integrity, responsibility and a social conscience – values that are increasingly being codified into companies across the globe.

Much of our economy is made up of successful family firms which have been built up from humble beginnings over the past few decades, and many of which are now embarking on a period of succession. Many of these companies have created tremendous value for their shareholders, employees, and the country as a whole. Like the country from which they originate, they are also looking to how that value can be preserved for the next generation of men and women, and the ones after that. 

While family firms signify an important part of the legacy of our success, our future legacy is built beyond the boardroom. It is built in every activity that each organisation undertakes. It is a mindset, a culture, and the refusal to accept anything other than scrupulous ethics in every decision taken by shareholders, management and all employees. As our future generations take the reins, it will be up to them to guide their respective firms along these ethical values instilled by their forefathers.

Therefore we must continue to champion the benefits of embracing best business practices, and instilling them in our future generations from a young age to ensure our growth remains sustainable. We should never rest on our laurels in our drive to instil good corporate governance, since complacency can only lead to inertia, which is a major barrier to ongoing innovation and success.

The last Expo, held in Shanghai in 2010, welcomed 73 million visitors from 189 nations, generating more than US$12 billion in direct tourism income alone over a six-month period. Not only is this testament to the convening power of the Expo, but it is also a reflection of its economic potential as a destination for international trade.

In the seven years until the doors of Expo 2020 in Dubai are thrown open to the world, the UAE will embark on an accelerated phase of growth. Our nation is now in a commanding position, not only to support the development of local and regional companies, but also as a global staging post sitting at the nexus of East and West. This presents a unique opportunity for the UAE to continue to demonstrate to all that while there may be uncertainty and instability in some parts of our turbulent region, here is a country filled with optimism and opportunity to live and work in a stable and prosperous environment. And as a hub for many regional and international businesses, we should always be mindful that a successful UAE is an integral part of a successful region.

We here in the UAE are playing a hugely important role in the ongoing process of the creation of a truly global community and now, more than ever, we can see the impact of our founding fathers’ vision to create a sustainable future for our future business leaders, as our nation’s men and women enter the workforce. By staying true to the entrepreneurial spirit and foundations upon which our nation was built, we have a unique opportunity to embrace this vision.

Badr Jafar is the chief executive of the UAE’s Crescent Group, and the founder of the Pearl Initiative