"We don't need to import companies like Uber": Marwan Al Sarkal

UAE official says government should tap into local start-ups to introduce new technology

Image used for illustrative purpose. Night view of buildings at Al Khan Lagoon, Sharjah Night view of the residential buildings around Al Khan Corniche St., in Sharjah city

Image used for illustrative purpose. Night view of buildings at Al Khan Lagoon, Sharjah Night view of the residential buildings around Al Khan Corniche St., in Sharjah city

Getty Images/ abalcazar

The UAE government should think local rather than global when it comes to exploring new and innovative technology by supporting their start-ups and harnessing local expertise, a top official said on Wednesday.

Marwan Al Sarkal, chief executive of Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq) delivered a strong message during a session about the role of technology in weathering uncertainties at the UAE Economic Forum in Dubai.

He said the UAE should provide a platform for homegrown companies to come and develop their full potential and boost their contribution to the growth of the economy. He noted that the UAE is already home to several companies and start-ups that can help with technology developments. All that the country needs to do is tap into them and engage themselves “with more enablers.”

“We don’t need to import companies like Uber. We can make something like Careem,” said Al Sarkal. 

“I think we’re so proud in the region that [some of] the biggest companies, whether it’s Careem or souq.com, were created here in this part of the world. They were not imported from America. So, we need to create a platform,” he pointed out.

Sarkal said that technology has already transformed everything that people do daily, from riding to work to ordering food and interacting with people. And in the next ten years, more significant changes are going to happen and the way people live will also change.

To prepare itself for further technological changes, Al Sarkal said, the government should take advantage of its resources. He said there’s also a need to tap into local researchers, as well as skilled individuals who can help analyze data.

“We need to take risks more, we need to create an appetite for [local] start-ups. We need to create a platform where it’s fine to fail,” he said.

“We [also] want to have more researchers in the Arab world, we need to have more data analyzers to become and part of our economy. Our economy will change and we have to be prepared for it,” he added.

In its pursuit to become a leading smart city in the future, the UAE has been working with several companies from abroad who could develop and bring new technology into the country, such as autonomous and ultra-high-speed transportation.

It was earlier announced that U.S.-based Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, also known as Hyperloop TT, has been commissioned to help put in place a super-high-speed transportation system in the UAE that is going to significantly cut travel time for long-distance commuters.

Another company, AutoX in Hong Kong, was also reportedly in talks with stakeholders in the UAE to introduce self-driving taxis.

(Writing by Cleofe Maceda  Cleofe.maceda@refinitiv.com, editing by Seban Scaria)

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