Idex is a powerful symbol of the UAE's international standing
In 25 years, the annual exhibition has become one of the world's leading security and defence events – a field in which the nation is also making bold strides
When Abu Dhabi launched the International Defence Exhibition in 1993, it was a relatively modest affair, attracting about 350 mainly western companies. Twenty-five years on, it is the biggest defence fair in the region, and one of the largest in the world. What’s more, a significant portion of the record Dh20.5bn worth of contracts awarded by the UAE Armed Forces at this year’s silver jubilee event went to local companies. About 10 per cent of the 1,000 exhibitors at the biggest Idex to date were homegrown, ranging from Abu Dhabi Ship Building to Inkas, a Dubai-based manufacturer of armoured vehicles.
Exporting expertise and products overseas, the UAE’s defence sector is boosting jobs and the economy, and contributing to the ongoing national diversification away from oil. Its success is a product of the same strategy that has been pursued from the earliest days of the UAE, propelling the nation to the forefront in so many global industries. From oil, to solar and nuclear power, to retail, engineering and aerospace, via an ongoing programme of joint ventures, the nation has always ensured that knowledge transfer and the development of a local skills base is a core element of any major relationship with foreign partners.
The chance to do mutually beneficial business isn’t the only reason why thousands of companies and experts concerned with peace and security set aside five days this year to attend Idex, its naval exhibition Navdex and the associated International Defence Conference. As uncertainty threatens political systems across the west, and conflict continues to destabilise large parts of the Middle East, the UAE stands out as a global oasis of security and safety, a reputation that has seen the country develop as a hub for global commerce and a destination of choice for international conferences of all kinds.
In turn, events such as Idex cement the nation’s status as an influential player on the world stage, not only in touch with but also setting the agenda for cutting-edge thinking and technology. This year’s Idex, for example, saw the unveiling of a drone defence system designed to prevent the costly disruption suffered recently by airports in the UK and the US. At the International Defence Conference at Emirates Palace, more than 1,600 delegates from 32 countries focused on technological developments threatening the security of the modern world, such as artificial intelligence and robotics. Over the past quarter of a century, Idex’s impact on the economy has become significant. But as a symbol of the UAE’s standng as a bastion of security in an increasingly insecure world, its contribution to the nation is invaluable.
Updated: February 22, 2019 04:05 AM