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5 Aug, 2022
3 min time to read

TechСrunch interviewed H.E. Omar bin Sultan Al Olama, UAE Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, Digital Economy and Remote Work Applications, who is responsible for improving government efficiency by investing in the latest technologies and artificial intelligence tools and their application in various sectors. He answered journalist’s questions, talking about start-ups and AI, as well as the country's approach to attracting venture capital investment. We have highlighted the main points from this interview.

TechCrunch: Is the UAE’s venture capital presence fairly new?

H.E. Al Olama: The UAE attracts more than 50% of all venture capital investment in the entire region. The country is home to a huge amount of high-quality talents, and the ecosystem allows start-ups to scale.

In terms of venture capital and investment into the region, I saw it was over a billion dollars in the last year. Do you see that increasing this year or on par with last year?

In general, global investors are showing interest in the region. There has been $1.73 billion invested in the Middle East, of which 37.2% was invested in the UAE in the first half of this year and that is much more than we expected.

I think we are just getting started as the number of start-ups is increasing every year.

How have you been able to attract tech companies to the UAE?

The UAE is the financial hub of our region and one of the leading financial centres in the world. There is a lot of capital available to invest here. In addition, investors feel more comfortable investing in UAE-based companies because of the transparency of the court system. The UAE is an environment that allows people to thrive because they do not feel marginalised or disadvantaged because of their ethnicity, gender or nationality - anyone from anywhere in the world can succeed. On top of that, we have developed infrastructure, while smartphone penetration is the highest in the world. Also, one of the incentives is the absence of taxes.

The government has been rolling out a lot of different incentives over the years, including startup-friendly policies. If someone were to move to the UAE, what would they need to know?

In the UAE, a talented person working specifically in the digital economy, which we are very focused on, can get a permanent residency or a long-term residency right off the bat. It is also possible to start a company within a day. The UAE is also rich in many different programmes, such as incubators and accelerators, as well as government contracts, which are very attractive.

TC: How did the UAE’s AI mandate come about, and what was your plan to get it started?

We wondered how we could ensure that AI was effectively implemented across the country in a way that would improve quality of life, which is really the main driver for AI, rather than economic gain as in many countries. Also, our motto from day one has been a responsible artificial intelligence nation that is useful for the current, but also for the future. It is important that our policies or legislation give us an advantage with regards the negative effects of AI, whether at the local or global level.

Do you expect the UAE to have challenges attracting U.S. talent and investment due the region being known for its human rights violations?

The UAE stands out for its atmosphere of peace, stability and security, with a multi-ethnic community of over 195 nationalities living, working, studying and playing, despite the region reputation.

Why has supporting startups and venture capital been such an important push for the region?

There are several reasons: firstly, historically, the UAE has been a country of merchants and has always sought to support businesses and open up opportunities. Secondly, we have been very keen to diversify our economy away from oil by investing in renewable energy and other areas of our economy, namely the digital economy, to ensure our competitiveness and comparability with the advanced and developed countries of the world. Finally, our country, because of its size, cannot compete in certain sectors with other countries where labour is more readily available. However, the digital economy and the sectors that are emerging right now with the development of technology allows for an incredible return from talent that are able to create products, and this is what we are really striving for.