This article provides an overview of Abu Dhabi for those keen to explore the possibility of living and working in the city. The information presented is gathered from open sources and is not exhaustive or meant to supplement or substitute legal and professional advice.
Country: United Arab Emirates
National language: Arabic
The city of Abu Dhabi is the largest city in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) after Dubai. “Abu Dhabi” means “land of the gazelle” in Arabic. Located on an island, the city is connected to the mainland by two main bridges, the Maqta and Mussafah. More bridges linking the city to the mainland are currently under construction.
With a land area of 67,340 square kilometres, the Emirate of Abu Dhabi is also the largest emirate in the UAE, making up 87 percent of the total area of the UAE. Abu Dhabi shares a border with the kingdoms of Oman to the east, Saudi Arabia to the south and the Emirate of Dubai to the northeast.
In 2016, the population in Abu Dhabi was 2.908 million, of which 2.36 million were expatriates and the remaining 23.4 percent (551,535) Emirati citizens. Its population comprised 1.86 million males and slightly over a million women.
In 2017, Abu Dhabi’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was worth 785,591 million dirhams (US$213,911 million). Its oil sector contributed 35.9 percent to the GDP, while the non-oil sector accounted for 64.1 percent.
Abu Dhabi’s economy is supported largely by natural resources. However, it is making efforts to diversify its economy by growing its non-oil knowledge-based sectors. Among these include the US$13.6 billion Ghadan 21 reforms that include a series of initiatives aimed at attracting foreign businesses and investments. Apart from offering loans and encouraging investment and eco-tourism in its underdeveloped areas, Abu Dhabi is seeking industrial sector investments from SMEs, as well as establishing downstream manufacturing clusters around the petrochemical, aluminium and steel industries.
Tourism is one of the key non-oil sectors of Abu Dhabi. The emirate has been one of the fastest growing tourist destinations in the Middle East over the past decade, with its average nominal growth of gross value added for tourism reaching 12.8 percent between 2006 and 2016, thus contributing 2.7 percent to its GDP. In 2017, it received 4.875 million guests, which was a 9.8 percent increase from 2016. Visitors from countries such as China, India, the United Kingdom, the Philippines and the United States formed the largest groups of non-UAE tourists. Abu Dhabi is currently seeking to grow its tourism sector as part of efforts to diversify its economy and reduce its dependence on oil revenue. Besides tourism, it is seeking to grow its business, medical and cultural sectors.
Singapore and Abu Dhabi
Since the first Abu Dhabi-Singapore Joint Forum (ADSJF) was set up in 2007, a number of Singapore companies dealing with energy, water, urban solutions and consumer goods and services have established themselves in Abu Dhabi. Among them are DBS Bank, SembCorp Utilities and education provider MindChamps. Companies from Abu Dhabi that have investments in Singapore include ground handling firm Dnata and GlobalFoundries.
During Minister S Iswaran’s visit to Abu Dhabi on 13 and 14 November 2019, both parties sought to deepen their collaboration on space industries and develop “partnerships on innovation with the UAE’s large enterprises, such as GlobalFoundries and Abu Dhabi National Oil Company.” In addition, the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company also expressed its interest in partnering Singapore in the area of innovation.
On 8 March 2017, the Monetary Authority of Singapore and the Abu Dhabi Global Market signed a Cooperation Agreement that would provide “a strategic framework for both regulators to assist start-ups and innovators to better understand the regulatory regime in each jurisdiction and provide support through the application and authorisation process”. In addition, both parties “will also undertake and explore joint innovation projects on the application of key technologies including digital and mobile payments, blockchain and distributed ledgers, big data, flexible platforms (API), and other new technologies”. Other areas where Singapore and Abu Dhabi have collaborated include urban planning, wastewater management, and semiconductor research and development.