UAE and France maintain dialogue on entrepreneurship and talents

ABU DHABI: In one of the most dynamic economies in the region, what is more important than talent?

The third edition of the Abu Dhabi Talks ‘UAE: Toward an International Hub of Talents’ tackled this issue at Sorbonne University in the capital, with participants saying skills development was key for economic growth sustainable.

The November 14 event saw attendees focus on developing partnerships between France and the UAE, and the importance of attracting and developing talented people for future industries.

Jean-Baptiste Chauvel, regional economic adviser at the French embassy in the Arabian Peninsula, said strengthening relations was vital for “sustainable…and long-term growth”.

Opening the event, Martin Tronquit, Vice-Treasurer of CCI France United Arab Emirates, said the meeting was an opportunity to identify synergies between the two nations in terms of scientific developments and to attract talent. “In France we don’t have oil, but we have ideas… In the UAE we have both,” Tronquit said.

The UAE is home to more than 600 French companies. It also has the largest French community in the Middle East, totaling 30,000 people.

The Emirates rank fourth in the world in terms of attracting talent, said Geoffroy Bunetel, President of CCI France Emirate Arabes UAE, referring to an INSEAD report.

The event was held under the patronage of Minister of State for Foreign Trade, Dr. Thani Al-Zeyoudi, who said the UAE continues to diversify its economy and develop the technology and service sectors financial. “France remains an important partner, namely the country’s third largest trading partner.”

Al-Zeyoudi said the Emirates was planning for the next 50 years and expected to have “a thousand digital businesses over the next five years, in robotics, artificial intelligence and agritech”.

The two nations have strengthened their economic ties, with UAE President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed visiting France in July 2022 to focus on joint investments in key industries, including the small and medium enterprise sector.

Jean Yves LeDrian, former French Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, spoke about the progress made over the past 10 years. “First, it is a relationship based on (Gulf) security, initiated by former President (Nicolas) Sarkozy, committing France vis-à-vis the Emirates and the creation of French companies,” said said LeDrian.

LeDrian underlined the importance of commercial and cultural relations between the two countries, marked by the fifth anniversary of Louvre Abu Dhabi.

Zaki Nusseibeh, Cultural Advisor to the President of the United Arab Emirates, highlighted the ongoing developments in the country, including women occupying two-thirds of government positions. Significant investments have also been made in health care and education to ensure a socially cohesive society.

Another major topic discussed was higher education and the digitization of learning. Professor Silvia Serrano, vice-chancellor of Sorbonne University, said online courses can be an alternative in specific situations, but the lesson learned from the COVID-19 pandemic is that it cannot replace on-site teaching.

Serrano said educational institutions must embrace technological change, but their role in an increasingly digitized world is “to teach what the machine can never teach (ethics, privacy, regulation of new technologies)” .

Elias Kassis from TotalEnergies and Ismail Abdulla from Strata manufacturing shared their insights on transitioning to a knowledge economy with dedicated long-term training programs.

Mona AlHashmi, who focuses on social entrepreneurship in Ma’an Abu Dhabi, said that in addition to the funding needed for businesses, it was important to upskill citizens through education.

Participants also discussed the UAE’s transformation into a post-oil, human capital-based economy that requires examining how companies hire and promote talent.

The Chalhoub Group, for example, launched a youth program in France and signed an agreement with Dar Al-Hekma in Saudi Arabia.

“Stimulating people growth and focusing on youth empowerment in line with the UAE vision and KSA Vision 2030 is key when looking for talent,” said Florence Bulte, CSO at Chalhoub Group.

The Abu Dhabi Interviews were organized in partnership with the French Embassy in the United Arab Emirates, Sorbonne University and Les Entretiens Royaumont.

Originally published in Arab News France