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Business Opportunities in the United Arab Emirates

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The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a natural and stable hub for Swedish companies that are looking to do business in the Gulf region. A high average income and a broad use of the English language along with numerous long-term infrastructure projects collectively offer both opportunities and a simplicity when doing business in the region.

Exports from Sweden to the UAE during 2017 amounted to approximately SEK 6.3 billion. The oil and gas industry has historically been the driving force for the economic development of the country, which is the second largest economy in the Gulf region after Saudi Arabia. However, Dubai, which can be considered the financial hub of the UAE, the income from oil is less than 1% of the country’s GDP. In recent years, the UAE is looking for a more diversified economy, which in turn offers many opportunities for large, midsized, and small Swedish enterprises within different sectors.


Increased resource allocation due to a steady population growth has led to initiatives within sustainable energy – the UAE has large projects within solar energy – waste management, and waste-to-energy solutions. Cleantech and renewable energy are on the agenda for the UAE government, and there are large initiatives expected to develop over the coming years. The UAE is establishing itself as a regional hub and leader for renewable energy and sustainable technologies, with development driven by the country’s capital Abu Dhabi and its Masdar Initiative and an ambition to build one of the world’s largest solar energy parks, the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park.

The UAE plans to diversify the country’s energy mix by 2030, such that 5-7% comes from renewable sources and the UAE will apply mandatory green codes for construction, opening up doors for Swedish expertise and solutions in those segments. In general, there is a clear focus on energy efficiency and optimisation.


Large infrastructure initiatives within the transport sector are expected in the coming years in the UAE, offering an opportunity for Swedish companies that can contribute with solutions to both construction projects and transport-related initiatives. While the prices for steel and concrete in the region are decreasing, the UAE is preparing for a general investment in infrastructure, especially within transport and energy. A few examples of current large investments are the extensive expansion of the international airports in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, the Jebel Ali Port, and the interregional railroad. The aviation sector is becoming an increasingly important part of the country’s economy, and it is forecasted that 45% of Dubai’s GDP will come from the sector. The World Expo 2020 in Dubai drives the most extensive infrastructure and transport initiatives since the country is anticipating approximately 25 million foreign visitors during the Expo.


The Gulf region houses the third fastest-growing ICT market in the world and the UAE is the main driving force. A large share of internet and smartphone users in the population presents opportunities for service-based ICT companies. Grand initiatives – e.g. Smart Dubai – intend to push the UAE towards becoming a more connected and smart society, promoting liveability and happiness of its people. Project types vary from blockchain technology to 3D printing, from cloud computing to business analytics, and much more. Swedish companies are often strong in ICT and have a good reputation in the country.


The high purchasing power of the country’s population contributes to a strong demand of retail goods. A strong demand within the higher price segment is a natural implication of a high average salary, yet there are opportunities within the lower price segments as well. The UAE is home to some of the world’s largest shopping malls, such as the Dubai Mall, welcoming 80 million visitors during 2017. There are many mega projects within the shopping mall development, such as the Mall of The World in Dubai. Both Dubai and Abu Dhabi have visions of additional expansions within the segment and the e-commerce sector is growing quickly, driven by the lifestyle and a high share of smartphone users.

Healthcare and Life Sciences 

The UAE is regarded as being at the top when it comes to growth in healthcare and medical devices. A rapidly growing population, the rise in life expectancies, and an increase in lifestyle-related diseases are a factors contributing to growth. The GCC’s healthcare sector is expected to grow to $71 billion by 2020, emphasising the need for expertise from the outside of the country and region. The UAE’s insufficient manufacturing capacity also contributes to an import of 93% of all medical equipment in the country. Arab Health – the second largest exhibition in the world within the healthcare sector – is held annually in Dubai. Many Swedish companies, in cooperation with Business Sweden, participate each year and it has proven to be a good platform to reach important actors in the region.

Oil and GAS

As the seventh largest actor in the world, both in terms of production and proven reserves of oil, the UAE plays an important part in the global oil market. Abu Dhabi is the emirate controlling the large majority of the country’s oil reserves and production, and 40% of the world’s seaborne oil is carried through the nearby Strait of Hormuz daily. There are opportunities for Swedish companies with strong traditions in shipbuilding and knowledge within marine standards.

Dubai World EXPO 2020

In the coming years, there are multiple megaprojects planned presenting interesting opportunities for Swedish companies. In 2020, Dubai stands to host the first-ever World Expo in the MEASA region: ”Expo 2020: Connecting Minds, Creating the Future”. The country’s GDP is expected to grow by 4% annually from 2017 to 2020, with all industry sectors expected to be affected by the mega event.