The road to recovery: UAE’s rebound will stand on rapid vaccine rollout and long-standing efforts towards digitalisation

Op-ed by Hisham Al Gurg, CEO, Seed Group and the Private Office of Sheikh Saeed bin Ahmed Al Maktoum


Last year caught us all off-guard, at all levels – be it individuals, communities, or countries – the pandemic was a surprise that no one could claim having predicted or being prepared for. Most of 2020 was spent waiting for a vaccine but as much as the whole world wanted an instant end to the pandemic, it didn’t take us long to realise that there still might be a long way to go.

This got us busy adapting to the new normal with technological upgrades. Right at the onset of the pandemic, the importance of ‘digital preparedness’ was realised. The lessons were profound, but thankfully that time of uncertainty is over and the world is well on the road to recovery.

The economies around the world are already preparing for a post-Covid world, putting in place strategies to cope up with the aftermaths of the pandemic.

However, I believe there are two factors that will play a key role here – the rate of vaccination and the ability of any country or business to keep up the pace of its digital transformation.

In this context, the UAE is an unmatched example.

As a young but resilient nation, our country believes in leading by example. The country’s hard work is time and again recognised by international authorities and global indexes, and this time is no different.

It is a fact worth a mention here that UAE is the second fastest country in the world in terms of administrating the vaccine, with Israel leading at the first position.

The UAE is poised for a modest rebound this year on the back of its well-monitored and well-planned vaccine rollout and its long-term efforts in digital transformation – asserts the Institute of International Finance (IIF), the Washington-based trade group for the global financial services industry.

Another report backing the ongoing improvements in the business sentiment is the IHS Markit Dubai Purchasing Managers’ Index. The index for the UAE was recorded at 50.6 in January and 51 in December – indicating a subtle economic expansion. The government has shown similar confidence by forecasting a 4 per cent growth in 2021 for Dubai’s economy alone. According to the UAE Central Bank, the nation’s economy is expected to grow 2.5 per cent in 2021 and 3.6 per cent the following year.

With these facts in place, it is safe to say that we are on the right track.

The long term efforts made in digital transformation are also bearing fruit for the UAE and helping the country put up a brave fight against the disruptions. The country recently ranked sixth (globally) in the World Economic Forum’s index on Information and Communications Technology and fourth in the 2020 Global Entrepreneurship Index, by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor.

Now, how does this fit into the road to recovery mathematics? This means the SMEs, which are the backbone of the UAE’s economy, are poised to see brighter days ahead and fared much better than their regional and many known international counterparts last year. This is also reflective of the overall optimism that defines the business sentiments in the country in the present times.

Overall, the way the UAE has responded to the challenges and the way it is rising above the adverse effects of the uninvited pandemic that brought the entire world to a standstill, is nothing short of exemplary. With vaccine rolls out at the speed of light and digital preparedness at its best, we are ready to reach our destination on the road to recovery, sooner than expected.

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