Lital Kiperman Vaknin – Head of Innovation & Strategic Partnerships
Conclusions and Insights About the UAE From the Recent Delegation to Dubai
How do you sum up a crazy week in Dubai? I have to say that that this was one of the most fascinating and eye-opening trips I have ever been on. I learned a lot, including shattering some stereotypes:
1. Governance in the Emirates: The United Arab Emirates consists of seven emirates which have united into one federation with the rule of a constitutional monarchy. The president is always from Abu Dhabi, the richest of the Emirates, while the prime minister will always be from Dubai - the second largest and second richest of the Emirates. When the leader decides something, everyone falls into line. Not because they are afraid, but because they trust him to do what is good for them. The same is true of the connection with Israel - the day after the agreements were announced, Emiratis conveyed a sincere, open and warm desire to cooperate with Israelis.
2. The Emirates as an organization: The Emirates run the country like a corporation in every respect. There is a ‘CEO’ who navigates and builds a vision, an organizational strategy and metrics for success. Under the ‘CEO’ is the ‘management level’ in which there are ‘VPs’ for implementing the strategy on every key issue - Minister of AI, Minister of Future, Minister of Happiness and other issues no one talks about here at all. There is also an innovation tax designed to advance the future of the country.
The ministers and those beneath them are super smart, sharp and eloquent – They speak in Oxford English and are looking at things ten steps ahead. They are rewarded for serving the purpose of their position and not to promote themselves – It is a very refreshing and perhaps enviable outlook.
By the way, of the 33 ministers, nine are women, and I have noted quite a few other women in key positions. Another myth shattered.
3. Making the desert bloom: Something we often like to attribute to ourselves as Israelis, but in the Emirates it has taken place on steroids. In the middle of the desert, they have established a super modern, Western and advanced country, with futuristic buildings and lots of green. Moreover, they did it in about twenty years. Did I already mention that they do and don’t just talk?
4. Israelis and the Ferrari: I have heard on more than one occasion that Emiratis compare Israelis to the Ferrari - accelerating from zero to a hundred, with dollar signs in their eyes. I am sorry to tell you friends that it just won’t work that way. As already mentioned, Emiratis are very smart and culturally approach the whole thing in a different way - They expect us to want to get to know them, make friendships, get to know their families, and then maybe later on also sign agreements. So, anyone who is fantasizing about getting an investment of millions of dollars from the Emirates, should approach the whole thing in a much more gentle, patient way and try to make friendships. The game here is entirely long-term.
5. The people of the Emirates: Out of a population of about ten million people, only one and a half million are Emiratis and the rest are foreign residents who are not eligible for citizenship (or as one of them told me – “very difficult to obtain citizenship”) even if they are born there. Only Emiratis are allowed to wear the white robes (Kandura) and they are entitled to significant support from the state (e.g. Free education, significant grants after marriage and childbirth, plus more). Most often they come from established families and their children are often placed in leading positions in government, banks etc. For this reason, the entrepreneurial ecosystem is mainly based on foreign residents, as Emiratis themselves simply do not need to be entrepreneurs. By the way, until recently there was no tax in the Emirates and only recently did they impose 5% VAT in light of the difficult financial situation. On the other hand, the cost of living is very expensive.
6. The opportunity: The entrepreneurial ecosystem in Dubai is in its infancy but it is beginning to gain momentum. The Emirates have set themselves the goal of becoming the leading financial hub in the region and they understand that for this they need connections to advanced technology. This is exactly where their desire to connect with Israel resides. The deep tech that exists in Israel is the key to future collaborations and they have a real desire to learn from Israel's ability in the field of technology and in general how to establish an ecosystem of innovation.
7. Grandiose: The word that describes the place by any measurement. Everything has to be the biggest, the most beautiful, the most impressive and it's seen on every corner. Everything is just grandiose.
8. The potential for Israelis: The Emirates is a gateway to more than two billion people as it lies at the edge of Africa, the Middle East and Asia. In light of the Emirates’ ability to reach and distribute to these areas, many of which are in the Arab world, it is a tremendous opportunity. In addition, there is significant potential to reduce the costs of goods imported into Israel through cooperation with the free trade zones which operate in the Emirates with zero tax on goods.
9. Vision: It was especially exciting to be part of the Center's delegation - the late Shimon Peres was the father of the ‘New Middle East' vision, which suddenly now appears to be coming true. The message we came with, of striving to build long-term bridges, integrated with peace and innovation created a lot of interest on the other side and a willingness to continue the relationship.
So, many thanks to the Peres Center staff led by Chemi Peres and the wonderful Efrat, Ofra and Yona, with the tireless support of Shira, Amit and Danielle, and our excellent partners at Checkpoint, Finstra, DSV and Adama for an unforgettable visit.
Lital Kiperman Vaknin is the Peres Centers' Head of Innovation and Strategic Partnership, making sure the center is in pace with the Israeli ecosystem and maintaining the relations between the center and it's many partners.