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United Arab Emirates - Overview

Contents extracted from the comprehensive atlas of international trade by Export Entreprises


Capital:: Abu Dhabi
Area:: 84 km2
Total Population:: 9.206
Annual growth rate:: 3.00%
Density:: 110.00/km2
Urban population:: 85%
Population of Dubai (2.100), Abu Dhabi (897), Sharjah (1.120), Ajman (226)
Official language: Arabic
Other languages spoken: Persian, Urdu and Hindi in relation with expatriate communities.
Business language: English
Ethnic Origins:: 87% Arabs; 1.6% Persians; 0.5% Baluchis; 0.5% Africans; 0.3% British; 10.1% others
Beliefs: Official religion: Islam.
Sunni Muslims: 78%; Shia Muslims: 18%; Christians: 3.5%; Others: 0.5%
Telephone codes:
To make a call from: 00
To make a call to: +971
Internet suffix:: .ae
Type of State::
Federation uniting 7 Emirates: Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah, Sharjah and Umm al-Qaiwain.
Type of economy::
High Income nation
One of the richest areas in the world based on the petroleum sector.

Economic overview

Benefiting from its political stability in a tumolous region and high oil prices, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) maintained sustained economic growth in 2013 (4.5%). The country's GDP is dominated by the economic strength of Abu Dhabi (60%), including its hydrocarbon production and management of almost all savings. Dubai participates at 26% of GDP and functions as the commercial platform of the Emirates, especially with its port and airport infrastructure. Economic growth of the UAE should accelerate in 2014, and in the long term the country's economy should receive an additional boost from its hosting of Expo 2020

The UAE economy in a fairly good shape, characterised by low inflation, growing tourism revenues and a lavish budget surplus. A slight slowdown of the oil sector growht in Abu Dhabi has been offset by the accelerating development of non-hydrocarbon activities in Dubai thanks to the country's effort to reform its financial sector. Similarly to its previous budget and in accordance with the three-year developmental plan for 2014-2016, the 2014 budget (12.5 billion USD) allocates half of the resources to social spending, especially focusing on healthcare, education, welfare and public servcies. In Dubai, a number of large-scale projects which had been suspended during the crises have now been given the green light and new projects have been also planned (such as Mohamed Bin Rashid City or MBR). Abu Dhabi is focusing on diversifying its economy and developing alternative energy sources. In 2017, it should launch a fleet of nuclear power plants and massively invest in renewable energies (the "Masdar" project costing USD 22 billion). It still needs to implement a more rigorous guidelines for the banking a real estate sector in order to avoid cyclical crises. Because it is aware of the finite nature of its oil resources, the UAE have lauched a policy of economic diversification in order to reduce it dependency on hydrocarbons and guarantee a more fair distribution of wealth. The strategy pursued is trying to take advantage of the complementarity between the different emirates. While Abu Dhabi has taken the lead in economic diversification, Dubai is primarily trying to develop its tourism.

The UAE has one of the highest per capita income levels in the world and a highly developed welfare system. It also has one of the lowest rates of unemployment in the Middle East (4.5%) and depends heavily on foreign labor (more than 85% of the workforce). A policy of "emiratization" has been launched to encourage the employment of the local workforce.

Main industries

Agriculture contributes to less than 1% of the GDP. Raw material exploration accounts for nearly 36% of the GDP. United Arab Emirates is the 3rd largest oil producer in the world, with large reserves. Presently, their oil and gas reserves are estimated for 100 years of exploitation.

Manufacturing activities have witnessed an unprecedented growth in the last five years, particularly in sectors such as metal processing, furniture, industrial preparation of food stuffs, aluminum production, cement and construction materials, fertilizers, petrochemical industry, fiberglass and finally real estate.

As for tertiary sector (especially international trade, air transport, tourism, financial activities), it contributes up to 55% of the GDP

Foreign trade overview

United Arab Emirates are amongst the world’s most dynamic markets in terms of foreign trade. It is amongst the world's 20 largest exporters and 25 largest importers of commodities. Its imports have grown at a rate higher than 20% on average per year. In 2009-2011, trade represented on average 150% of the GDP. United Arab Emirates has a trade surplus and has benefited from the rising oil prices.

In 2013, due to the imports rising more quickly than exports, the country's trade surplus diminished but still remains significant. WIth the development of exports unrelated to oil the UAE should retain its trade surplus. 

UAE is considered a central business hub of the Gulf countries, Iran, South Asia and East Africa. The main UAE trade partners are Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Singapore, China and Pakistan. The main products exported by the country are hydrocarbons, natural gas, dried fish and dates. Its main suppliers are India, China, the United States, Germany and Japan. The United Arab Emirates mainly imports machinery, transport equipment, chemical products and food stuffs


According to the 2013 Global Investment Report published by the UNCTAD, the United Arab Emirates is the third largest FDI recipient in the West Asia region, behind Turkey and Saudi Arabia. The main investors are Britain, Japan and Hong Kong. In 2013, the UAE attracted $12b, the political and economic stability of the country attracting investors fleeing the revolutions of the "Arab Spring." The bulk of FDI is concentrated in the sectors of oil production, water and electricity production. The strengths of UAE is its easy access to oil resources, low energy costs, a willingness to diversify the economy and high purchasing power.

The absence of direct business taxation (excluding banks, oil companies and telecommunications operators) and direct income taxation, of exchange controls and of any limitations on the repatriation of capital, as well as the existence of a strong and profitable banking sector, plus a large pool of expatriate labor are the country's undeniable assets. Its main weakness is the small size of its domestic market.
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