The UAE is well on its way to fulfilling its knowledge-economy vision, investing heavily in technology.
Inayat-ur-Rahman, Business Editor
Youth is power, which was never more evident than at the recent start-up Sharjah Ideation Hackathon at Khorfakkan.
Sharjah Entrepreneurship Centre (Sheraa) and the University of Khorfakkan brought over 150 youthful, bright minds together to solve real-world problems such as those posed by the ports and logistics sectors.
The solutions were innovative, daring, and inspiring demonstrating that there is no shortage of entrepreneurial talent in the region.
This was revealed by Tushar Singhvi, Deputy CEO & Head of Investments at Crescent Enterprises, during an exclusive interview with Gulf Today, adding that the UAE is well on its way to fulfilling its knowledge-economy vision, investing heavily in technology, infrastructure, and education. Yet despite being a global leader in technological innovation, the region was not immune to the worldwide supply chain crisis brought about by the flurry of disruption, from lockdowns to container displacements.
“As we ramp up efforts to capitalise on our position as a global logistics hub, we must rely on our youthful, technologically minded workforce to overcome the challenges supply chains around the world are facing,” said Singhvi.
Considered as one of the world’s top innovative economies, the UAE ranks first in the Gulf region and high on the Global Innovation Index. It leads the way in connectivity, with over 99% of the entire population enjoying access to the internet, and most own a broadband connection. On a global scale, the UAE is one of the top 10 countries with the highest internet speed. Its IT infrastructure is internationally recognised and revered for its quality, reliability and ingenuity.
The logistics market in the UAE was valued at almost $20 billion in 2020 and is expected to grow by $11.87 billion by 2026, which puts the region in a unique position to leverage local expertise in technology to drive innovation throughout global supply chains. In its 2019 Global Competitiveness report, the World Economic Forum ranked UAE highly in electricity access, infrastructure, road quality, and Information and Communication technology.
“While we lead the way in many aspects, from technology to infrastructure, we must ensure our young people are equipped to sustain the speed of global technology and innovation. We must remain focused on supporting and motivating them to find solutions to today’s problems, to create a generation capable of maintaining the region’s standing as a global hub for the supply chain and a stalwart of tech advancement.”
The expert investor highlighted the opportunity to leverage the potential of digitisation and innovation to positively impact socio-economic development, adding that technology will create jobs and foster financial inclusion. “It is a transformative trend which must be supported by investment in infrastructure, upskilling, and other innovation-enabling environments. With almost 50% of the UAE population aged between 15 – 25, we must continue to improve tech access across the entire region,” he added.
This year, Crescent Enterprises became the first Mena business to commit to the 1 Billion Lives Challenge, which is part of the World Economic Forum’s EDISON Alliance. The company committed to impacting 100,000 youth in the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia by 2025 by addressing the region’s skill gap and helping to raise a technologically future-proofed generation.
Speaking of the need to capitalise on the young, ambitious workforce, 55% of which aspire to start their own business in the next five years, Mr Singhvi said, “The fast-growing tech sector will likely continue inspiring new entrepreneurs in the region who must be prepared through education and mentorship opportunities. The onus is on private sector businesses to partner with schools, colleges and universities to offer training camps, where students can explore ideas with the experts and get feedback and inspiration.”
Crescent Enterprises puts youth empowerment and local entrepreneurship at the heart of its corporate citizenship strategy. In line with government efforts to create a conducive business environment, this strategy supports the emirate’s drive to become a prominent regional innovation hub and develop a thriving start-up ecosystem.
Initiatives such as the Sharjah Hackathon event provide valuable focus to building an entrepreneurial mindset and developing ideas into prototypes. Crescent Enterprises supported this initiative alongside Gulftainer, covering vital topics such as market validation, prototyping, and business modelling, culminating in a pitch event in front of ecosystem leaders.
“While the UAE has already positioned itself as a global leader in technology and innovation, continuing investment in infrastructure, education and mentorship for our youth will ensure we remain at the forefront of tech development.”