DUBAI: Dubai has further reinforced its position as the world’s leading hub for foreign direct investment (FDI). According to the Financial Times Ltd’s “fDi Markets” data, Dubai ranked No.1 overall in global Greenfield FDI projects attraction in 2023, the third successive year it has achieved this ranking.

The city was also No.1 globally within key clusters including consumer goods, energy, e-commerce, and tourism for Greenfield FDI projects attraction, Greenfield FDI capital attraction, and jobs created through FDI attraction.

Aligned with the ambitious goals of the Dubai Economic Agenda D33, launched in early 2023 by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, to double the size of Dubai’s economy by 2033, the global FDI performance underscores the city’s robust economic growth and attractiveness to international investors.

In 2023, Dubai welcomed 1,070 global Greenfield FDI projects – 142 percent more than second-placed Singapore (442) and 148 percent more than third-placed London (431). In the past five years, Dubai’s global share in attracting such projects has more than tripled, increasing from 1.7 percent in 2019 to 6 percent in 2023.

Highlighting its appeal as a headquarters destination, Dubai ranked No.1 globally for HQ FDI projects for the second year in a row, after attracting an impressive 60 projects in 2023. Singapore and London were second and third globally, with 40 and 31 HQ FDI projects respectively. Overall, Dubai also ranked fourth globally in the number of jobs created through Inward FDI, up from fifth in 2022, and for Greenfield FDI capital attraction it ranked fifth globally, up two spots from seventh position.

H.H. Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of The Executive Council of Dubai, said, “Dubai’s ability to secure the No. 1 ranking in global greenfield FDI projects in 2023 for the third consecutive year demonstrates the city’s ability to continually generate new opportunities for global businesses. The growing FDI inflows support the objective of the Dubai Economic Agenda D33, launched by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, to double the size of the emirate’s economy by 2033.”

“Dubai’s stability, cutting-edge infrastructure, and dynamic business environment have made it a focal point for investment, enterprise and talent. The city’s stature as a leading global investment destination also reflects its robust economic fundamentals, strong ethos of partnerships and innovative initiatives to sustain growth and innovation across various sectors. In 2024, as we work to accelerate the D33 Agenda, we will continue to intensify our initiatives to nurture a competitive economic ecosystem that fosters value creation. We are committed to making Dubai a place where the world’s leading companies, entrepreneurs and innovators come to build the future.”

Helal Saeed Almarri, Director-General of Dubai Department of Economy and Tourism (DET), said, “Dubai's sustained leadership in global FDI for the third consecutive year is a direct result of the visionary guidance of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai. This achievement highlights the successful collaborations with our stakeholders and international partners, affirming Dubai's status as a premier global hub for high-quality foreign direct investment. The enduring confidence of investors, multinational corporations, startups, and global talent in Dubai’s robust investment and business climate is a testament to our strategic initiatives.

“Looking ahead, we are dedicated to bolstering Dubai's global competitiveness and business ecosystem. Our commitment is to create a fertile environment for sustainable growth, supported by advanced policy frameworks and dynamic attraction initiatives, fully aligned with the objectives of the D33 Agenda. By capitalising on our unique strategic advantages, Dubai is poised to provide unparalleled opportunities in the global economic landscape, establishing itself as an essential destination for emerging businesses, investment, and talent, and as a vital expansion hub for global corporations.”

Hadi Badri, CEO of Dubai Economic Development Corporation (DEDC), said, “Dubai has created a stable and sustainable environment for international investment and the results from 2023 are in line with the objectives set out by our visionary leadership in the D33 Agenda. In addition to strong upswings across greenfield projects, there has been a surge of talent coming into Dubai across various key sectors, and the achievement in creating jobs through FDI has solidified Dubai’s status for attracting and retaining skilled professionals. The No.1 ranking in the attraction of headquarter FDI projects has also strengthened Dubai’s enduring appeal for multinational corporations, and we continue to work with our partners and stakeholders across the public and private sectors to not only attract new global companies but also support them in widening their geographical footprint and innovating and diversifying their business models within our jurisdiction”

According to “Dubai FDI Monitor” data, the emirate recorded a total of 1,650 announced FDI projects in 2023, a strong growth of 39 percent compared to the 1,188 FDI projects in 2022. These projects included Greenfield FDI, new forms of investments (NFIs), mergers and acquisitions (M&A), reinvestments, venture capital (VC)-backed FDI, and Greenfield joint ventures. The data revealed a significant upswing in job creation through FDI in Dubai, increasing by 15.5 percent YoY with 44,771 total estimated jobs. This growth was primarily driven by retail, business services, headquarters, sales, marketing support, and manufacturing.

Greenfield FDI wholly-owned projects recorded a slight percentage increase with an increase of 260 FDI projects in 2023 from 2022, according to Dubai FDI Monitor data, while New Forms of Investments saw projects growing from 25.2 percent in 2022 to 31.4 percent in 2023 – a 6.2 percent rise YoY.

In the technology sector, the percentage of high and medium-tech projects in Dubai was 58 percent in 2023, when measured by share of total FDI.

Dubai remained the top city destination globally across several key technologies, with artificial intelligence (AI), FinTech, cloud computing, and cybersecurity featuring prominently. The city also placed first for the estimated number of jobs created by e-commerce investments.

According to UN Trade & Development, Global foreign direct investment (FDI) flows in 2023, at an estimated US$1.37 trillion, showed an increase of 3 percent over 2022. Yet, excluding few large European deals, global FDI flows were 18 percent lower. In line with global FDI flows, Dubai attracted an estimated AED39.26 billion (USD10.69 billion) in total FDI capital during 2023.

Dubai FDI Monitor data revealed that the top five source countries by FDI capital accounted for 66.6 percent of the total estimated flows into Dubai in 2023, while for FDI projects, the top five source countries accounted for almost 55.7 percent for the same period. Canada featured in the top five source countries by FDI capital due to one large M&A deal – Canada-based Brookfield Business Partners acquiring Network International for US$2.76 billion.

The top five source countries by total estimated FDI capital into Dubai in 2023 were Canada (26.5 percent), United States (17.5 percent), Saudi Arabia (8.9 percent), United Kingdom (8.2 percent), and India (5.5 percent), while the top five source countries based on total announced FDI projects were the United States (15.5 percent), United Kingdom (15.3 percent), India (14.9 percent), France (6.3 percent), and Italy (3.6 percent).

The top five sectors accounted for 67.6 percent of the total estimated FDI capital flows into Dubai in 2023, and 69.3 percent of total announced FDI projects, according to Dubai FDI Monitor data. Top sectors by total estimated FDI capital were financial services (29.1 percent), business services (19 percent), consumer products (9.2 percent), software and IT services (6 percent), and textiles (4.3 percent), while the top sectors by total announced FDI projects were business services (22.8 percent), food and beverages (14.3 percent), software and IT services (14.1 percent), consumer projects (9.5 percent), and textiles (8.6 percent).

Financial services and business services recorded significant increases in FDI capital and number of FDI projects respectively, indicating a clear preference for service-oriented industries. The data highlighted a shifting landscape with a clear preference for services and also signalled areas for potential improvement, particularly in the software and IT services sector.

In 2023, the top five business functions accounted for 73.7 percent of the total estimated FDI capital flows into Dubai, and 96 percent of total announced FDI projects, according to Dubai FDI Monitor data. Top business functions by total estimated FDI capital were business services (38.3 percent), retail (15 percent), recycling (8.6 percent), construction (8 percent) and headquarters (3.8 percent). For total announced FDI projects, the top business functions were business services (42.2 percent); retail (33.7 percent); sales, marketing and support (14.3 percent); headquarters (4.2 percent); and logistics, distribution and transportation projects (1.8 percent).

The business services function retained its prominent status both in terms of FDI projects and FDI capital, underscoring its pivotal role in Dubai’s economic landscape. Retail experienced a notable YoY increase in both FDI capital (6.3 percent) and the attraction of FDI projects (6.2 percent). The data suggests a positive outlook for the retail sector, highlighting opportunities for further expansion and investment.