The UAE Looks to Increase Exports Driven by Dubai’s Non-Oil Trade




The United Arab Emirates has traditionally relied on oil to fuel its economic growth. A dependence of this kind is, however, now becoming a thing of the past. With Dubai emerging as the powerhouse of innovations, UAE’s new story is all about building a bold and confident country that exports more, has a strong economy, moves towards self-reliance.

“We are in the middle of creating a new script, and the emphasis is on self-reliance, the backbone of which is innovative practices culminating into the building of a knowledge-based economy,” asserts H.E. Dr. Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, the UAE Minister of State for Foreign Trade. The script that Al Zeyoudi talks about has, in fact, been conceived a long time back.

“We are delighted that the script is going according to our designs,” the Minister says not trying to hide his euphoria. There is a reason why Al Zeyoudi is enthused. For, the country’s non-oil exports have steadily increased from 12% in 2012 to 19% in 2021 which signals a departure from excessive dependence on oil.

Dubai which is supporting the country’s vision, in fact, has been on the forefront of non-oil exports. The volume of Dubai’s non-oil external trade rose 10% to 48 million tons in the first half of 2021, exports skyrocketed 30.8% on YoY at 10.1 million tons while re-exports totalled 7 million tons growing by 10.6%.

The growth reaffirms Dubai’s ability to turn challenges into opportunities based on strategic planning that leverage the stability and flexibility of its economy, comments Sultan bin Sulayem, DP World Group Chairman & CEO and Chairman of Ports, Customs and Free Zone Trade Corporation.

The UAE has made it known that it wants to increase the investment inflow into the country to Dh.1 trillion in the next 9 years with the aim of doubling its exports, foreign trade and economic growth. Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI) is introducing several new initiatives in realising the country’s collective goals.

“Our last year non-oil exports were even higher than the pre-pandemic levels,” informs President and CEO, DCCI, Hamad Buamim. He attributes the quick turnaround to application of agile principles for business resilience, constant review of suppliers to avoid disruption and solid backing by government, committed to create a safe business environment for investors.

“Many businesses have expansion plans. This will further support our export growth and help us achieve the target of AED 2 trillion external trade by 2025,” Buamim sounds optimistic while articulating the need to identify potential export opportunities that are crucial for Dubai as it works overnight to support the country’s vision.


Expansion of existing sea and air network to cover 200 new cities around the world, comprehensive economic partnership agreements with 8 countries including India and the UK and the 10x10 program aimed at achieving 10% annual increase in exports in 10 markets and trade and investments in 13 markets are some of the emirate’s diversification strategies to boost exports.

DCCI is conscious of the fact that product diversification too has a pivotal role to play in increasing export volume and on this score Dubai is better than Saudi Arabia, though it is yet to catch up with some emerging countries like Indonesia and Malaysia, admits Buamim. We are encouraging firms to move towards import substitution industries in essential products wherever it is viable, he adds.

In terms of product category, Dubai has an AED 123 billion market to exploit going by the value of trade balance deficit. Buamim believes local production of products will partially substitute some amount of imports even while contributing to exports and Dubai is focused on increasing the export of newly diversified products. It is part of the Industrial Strategy 2030. 

DCCI has come up with a series of recommendations to boost export of non-oil products that includes identification of products that are in demand, markets that holds potential and new partners who will help expand existing market. DCCI believes digital transformation will throw open the doors to new markets via online B2B platforms.

Al Zeyoudi, meanwhile, informs that the country’s foreign trade sector greatly benefitted from the success of Expo 2020 Dubai. “It is a success for the entire country. It strengthened our stature as a preferred business destination. The event also helped us forge partnership with other countries besides opening up new international markets,” he says while explaining why the new script is working wonders.

Disclaimer: This article is a part of featured content series on Business in Dubai


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