By David Ross, President, Middle East, Indian Subcontinent and Africa (MEISA), FedEx Express
When you think of Dubai, you probably imagine a vibrant, international business hub suddenly springing out of the desert sand like a city in a futuristic movie. This is largely true — and the city certainly has enough construction cranes on the horizon to prove it.
At the same time, Dubai has an ancient history as a trading center.
Even today you can still get a glimpse of the city’s economic roots by paying a visit to the old souks (markets), which are located where Dubai Creek meets Port Rashid along the coast. This is where Dubai first welcomed outside trading partners en masse, beginning with camel trading, pearling, fishing and eventually gold re-exporting in the 20th century. This sort of trading activity is still going on today, as boats and merchants exchange goods and services along the banks of the creek, and tourists shop for spices and gold jewelry.
Not only does this cultural and economic activity visibly represent Dubai’s powerful role as a bridge between East and West, but it also gives us a glimpse into exactly how Dubai has transformed into a global business superpower:
- Open borders. Dubai first began luring new businesses to its port, fostering economic vibrancy and creating jobs, when it opened its borders in the 1980s. Outside trading partners have long been attracted to Dubai’s low barriers to market entry.
- World-class infrastructure. Dubai’s world-class marine port has only been strengthened by the addition of a world-class modern airport, making the city-state a premier logistics hub for the region.
- Economic diversification. As recently as 1990, oil made up nearly 25 percent of Dubai’s GDP. Since then, Dubai’s leaders have wisely invested in capital projects and policies that have broadly and purposefully diversified the region’s economy.
Dubai is one of the world’s most stunning economic successes, and a new chapter is being written nearly every day. It’s a story that any city can learn a lot from.