THE VIEW FROM DUBAI: NAVIGATING THE CURRENT CLIMATE AND CONTINUING OPERATIONS WHERE POSSIBLE
We are almost halfway through what has been an unexpected and turbulent start to the year. While tens of millions remain in lockdown, others are slowly easing their way back into a “normal” rhythm, albeit at a slow and careful pace. I am proud to say that here in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), we are among the latter category.
As we have grown accustomed to, the UAE Government’s response has been exemplary. Decisive actions across the board were taken early on to protect the health and wellbeing of citizens, residents, visitors, communities and the nation as a whole. And that is why we are in a position to resume many of our activities.
The leadership’s efforts went well beyond our borders. For years, the UAE has given priority to humanitarian relief and topped rankings of development aid, and this crisis is no different. For weeks, cargo planes carrying tons of medical supplies and relief material to those in need have been dispatched to all corners of the globe, with a long and growing list of beneficiaries. The sense of solidarity and giving are deeply rooted in our nation’s culture and they come to the fore in challenging times like these.
Like everywhere, in Dubai, people’s everyday lives have been impacted and disrupted. In such circumstances, businesses have a responsibility to act, to be part of the solution and to shoulder the burden and support their employees, their partners, their customers, and their entire communities.
At DMCC, we recognized this duty early on. We implemented a series of protective measures across our community to safeguard the 100,000 people living and working in our Jumeirah Lakes Towers district. The economic wellbeing of businesses in our community was also front and center. As such, we launched our largest ever commercial promotion to support our existing 17,000 member companies through the “DMCC Business Support Package.” This included a range of measures, from discounts to waivers, to ensure that companies can successfully navigate the current climate and continue operations where possible.
While the impact of COVID-19 is unprecedented, overcoming seemingly insurmountable challenges is something that Dubai knows how to do very well. Our visionary leadership has always pushed the boundaries of what is possible through its progressive outlook, its willingness to engage with the world and importantly, its bold ambition. In the words of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai: “Impossible is a word used by some people who fear to dream big.”
Dubai’s diamond trade is a perfect example of this. Twenty years ago, there was virtually no diamond business in Dubai. In 2003, just one year after DMCC was established, the annual total trade of rough and cut diamonds was worth $3.6 billion. By 2018, and against all odds, that figure had grown significantly to $25 billion, ranking the emirate among the world’s top three diamond trading hubs.
Dubai’s strategic location at the crossroads of the world is undoubtedly a competitive advantage. Add to that an enabling ecosystem with state-of-the-art infrastructure and facilities and a robust regulatory framework, and we had the recipe for success. In 2016, the UAE became the first Arab country to chair the Kimberly Process in recognition of its commitment to stemming the flow of conflict diamonds, and I was honored to be its Chair. This came on the heels of the DMCC’s committed involvement in the activities and deliberations of the World Diamond Council, including the hosting in Dubai of the third WDC Annual General Meeting in 2004. In 2017 we once again played host to the WDC Annual General Meeting.
Also in 2017, the UAE’s first state-of-the-art diamond polishing facility was inaugurated in DMCC. In 2019, we hosted the first ever rough laboratory-grown diamond tender. Today, the Dubai Diamond Exchange (DDE) is among the most advanced diamond trading floors in the world with over 1,000 members. And the list goes on.
As a responsible business, we are also proud to be supporting programs such as the Diamond Development Initiative (DDI) to promote sustainable business practices throughout the diamond supply chain. Furthermore, we have developed the Dubai Diamond Award to recognize outstanding contributions to the development of the global diamond industry.
As you will know all too well, the diamond industry was already at an inflection point before the pandemic.
In September 2019, we hosted our flagship Dubai Diamond Conference (DDC) to discuss the many ways in which the industry would tackle some of the major disruptive forces impacting the trade, such as technology and automation. The current environment calls for a renewed sense of discussion and collaboration to support the trade and build a roadmap for a successful future. While the industry is faced with challenges today, like almost every other sector of the global economy, we remain confident in its resilience. Just as the price of oil bounced back from negative territory, we too have what it takes to climb back.
This has been an incredible journey, for me personally, for DMCC, for our partners and for Dubai. But the journey doesn’t end here. Together we will overcome this challenge and come out the other end in a position of strength, and a renewed sense of what is important. I hope that everyone reading this is safe and well, and I look forward to working with you all in the years to come.