Dubai's plan to establish itself as the hub of the Islamic commercial world will stimulate a wide variety of industries.
Harnessing the power of the Islamic world
Over several decades, Dubai has forged a well-deserved reputation as a thriving centre for both business and tourism.
This week the emirate consolidated that position with the announcement of an ambitious plan to establish itself as the hub of the US$8 trillion (Dh30tn) Islamic commercial world.
The initiative – the culmination of a plan of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid originally launched in February last year – will stimulate a wide variety of industries in the country via a three-year plan, including finance, halal food, tourism, economy, fashion, arts and design, economic education, and standards and certification.
It’s not difficult to understand the logic behind identifying these sectors as key drivers of growth. Islamic industries are developing at a rapid pace in the UAE, while the 22 member states of the Arab League collectively represent the ninth largest economy in the world.
Despite continuing tensions in parts of the region, Islamic finance remains firmly in the spotlight as investors look for safe, ethical and well-managed financial products in the aftermath of the global economic crisis.
This explains why an increasing number of non-Islamic institutions have expressed interest in tapping into the Islamic financial markets. It also helps to explain the increasing popularity of products such as Sukuk (Islamic corporate bonds) and takaful (Islamic insurance) in the world beyond this region’s borders.
The halal food industry has similar potential. Globally this sector stands at $685 billion, of which $83bn is attributable to the GCC countries.
Tourism is yet another area of growth. According to a 2011 study by DinarStandard, a US-based marketing research firm, tourists from the Muslim world globally account for a market worth $126.1 billion, and this sector is growing at a rate of 4.8 per cent annually. As The National has also reported, the popularity of Dubai has created huge demand for Sharia-compliant hotels.
The establishment of an economic hub in Dubai attempts to harness the vast opportunities this region presents.
If it is to succeed, it will do so because it uses the core ethics and values of the Islamic world in its financial offerings and because of the superior quality of the products it offers in those other key sectors.