Five reasons for positivity as the UAE turns the corner into 2021


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The past year will no doubt live long in the memory. But for many businesses, it’s been one to forget.

The coronavirus pandemic brought much of the world to a standstill, at least temporarily, with stay-at-home orders issued, businesses closing their doors, and airlines grounding their fleets.

This, naturally, took an economic toll, with global GDP falling by 4.2%.

But nothing lasts forever. With 2020 soon to be behind us, there’s plenty of cause for optimism. Here are five reasons business owners should feel positive about 2021.

1. Vaccine rollout

On 2 December, the UK become the first country to approve a vaccine for COVID-19, quickly followed by several others, including the US and the UAE. With immunity the fastest ticket out of the pandemic, this can only be great news for us all.

While we are now relatively free to travel and trade within the UAE, for many of our closest partners, this is still not the case. The vaccine looks set to change that with medical experts in the EU, US and UK predicting a return to normal freedoms by spring 2021.

Why this is good news for UAE businesses

This is not just a huge boon for the countries in question but for us here in the UAE too. With an 80%-plus expatriate population, increasing levels of foreign direct investment, and comprehensive trade links with every corner of the globe, the resumption of worldwide travel and trade will bring with it a significant economic boost.

2. Economic recovery
The potential for a worldwide return to ‘normality’ next year is just one factor set to drive growth in 2021. UAE rulers are also committing billions to drive ‘the world’s fastest recovering economy’.

Next year’s USD 15.8bn (AED 58bn) budget will focus on improving infrastructure, raising living standards, and further developing welfare, health, and education in the nation.

“The UAE economy will be among the fastest to recover in 2021, and the government has dealt with the 2020 budget efficiently and has all the tools to continue its financial and operational efficiency in 2021. It will be a better and more efficient year for all.”

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum

The ultimate aim, of course, is to stimulate the economy and increase GDP beyond pre-pandemic levels. And the early signs look good.

Why this is good news for UAE businesses

Central Bank estimates suggest that the UAE will quickly rebound from its 2020 contraction, with non-oil GDP increasing by 3.6% next year. In yet more encouraging news, Frost & Sullivan’s GCC Region Mega Trends Forecast predicts ‘impressive growth’ in the region from 2021 through to 2030.

3. Expo 2020
After seven years of planning, the decision to postpone Expo 2020 was met with national disappointment. However, this year’s loss is very much next year’s gain.

The event is set to be the biggest of its kind in the Middle East, attracting 25 million people to the UAE. Some 14 million of these visitors are expected to come from overseas, bringing a considerable financial injection to the local economy. According to the Oxford Business Group, the event is predicted to generate revenues of USD 38bn (AED 140bn) over its six-month duration.

Why this is good news for UAE businesses

Expo 2020 is the perfect platform to sell your business to a global audience. The event will be a who’s who of the business world, making it a hotbed for collaboration and networking opportunities. Organisers have even created an online tool to help businesses connect and compete for opportunities.

4. New ways of working
The coronavirus pandemic changed the way we work almost overnight. While inconvenient at the time, the enforced switch to remote working essentially acted as a mass test-case for its benefits.

Businesses that either couldn’t or wouldn’t implement more flexibility have now seen what’s possible, with many intending to continue current working practices for the foreseeable future.

Why this is good news for UAE businesses

This is good news for many reasons. Remote working has been shown to improve wellbeing, morale, and productivity over the long-term, and can also help to reduce office and equipment costs.

But that’s not all. Greater trust in remote working also widens the talent pool at your disposal, increases the scope of collaboration, and opens up a much larger potential customer base.  With more of us than ever comfortable working in virtual environments, your next hire, business partner, or customer could be anywhere in the world.

5. A chance to look forward

Finally, perhaps the biggest reason for positivity as we turn the corner in 2021 is that we can finally look forward after a year of disruption and uncertainty. The pandemic might not be over yet, but even the most pessimistic among us must admit there’s a very bright light at the end of the tunnel.

Why this is good news for UAE businesses

If you’re reading this as a business owner or intending to start or expand your enterprise next year, that in itself is a reason to be cheerful. You’ve survived one of the least expected and most disruptive events in recent memory and remain in a strong position, ready to take on the year ahead.

Room for optimism

Of course, we must remain cautious. But after such a challenging year, it’s important that we allow ourselves to focus on the positives – and here’s to plenty of them, in 2021 and beyond.