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7 Jun, 2024
2 min time to read

The United Arab Emirates is aiming to become a global superpower in artificial intelligence by leveraging its oil wealth and forming a strategic partnership with the United States.

The Gulf state's AI minister, Omar Sultan Al Olama, revealed plans for greater tech collaboration following a significant deal with Microsoft, where the company acquired a $1.5 billion stake in Abu Dhabi's AI leader, G42.

This partnership, Al Olama told the Financial Times, marks the beginning of a deeper technological collaboration between the UAE and the US. The deal, which followed extensive negotiations, includes G42's commitment to phase out Chinese systems in favor of maintaining US dominance in AI.

Now you’re going to see the outcomes of that marriage, if I may use that word, between both G42 and Microsoft, but also the UAE and the United States,

said Al Olama.

When you look at the frontier technology, at the most cutting edge, that needs to be in co-ordination with the US players and there needs to be reassurances that are given to the US.

The UAE's ambitions in AI have intensified this year, driven by its sovereign wealth funds worth approximately $2 trillion. The country aims to reduce its economic reliance on fossil fuels by positioning itself as a global AI hub. Abu Dhabi has launched the investment vehicle MGX, expected to be valued in the billions, under the leadership of the UAE’s national security adviser, Sheikh Tahnoon bin Zayed al-Nahyan.

MGX is already in talks with San Francisco-based OpenAI regarding its chip development plans. These discussions have been part of broader negotiations led by Sheikh Tahnoon between the UAE and the US on AI collaboration.

AI is being integrated across key sectors in the UAE, from healthcare to defense. The national oil company of Abu Dhabi reported $500 million in cost savings last year through AI tools that increased production capacity and streamlined operations.

Despite stiff competition from the US, China and other countries, the UAE's significant capital resources provide a unique advantage in attracting top industry leaders.

The UAE's Advanced Technology Research Council recently released its Falcon 2 large language model, which rivals those from Meta and Google. Additionally, the UAE's commercial AI company, AI71, is leveraging government data to build advanced AI models. The government data gives the UAE a “very strong critical advantage in this game, where there are very few players that have a lot of proprietary data”, said Faisal Al Bannai, ATRC’s secretary-general.

There is a belief, across all of the leadership levels in the UAE, that AI is a technology that we are going to focus on,

said Al Olama.

The decisions we take today [ . . .] are going to shape how the UAE is for future generations.