Daily Insider: How the UAE has transformed in just 10 short years
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Daily Insider: How the UAE has transformed in just 10 short years

Daily Insider: How the UAE has transformed in just 10 short years

The sheer rate of change in the UAE and gulf region over the last decade is nothing short of astounding, writes Gulf Business group editor, Gareth van Zyl.

Gareth van Zyl
Dubai Frame symbolically faces both the older and newer parts of the city.

Arriving back in Dubai after a more than decade’s break has made me realise how quickly life in this part of the world is changing. It was almost 15 years ago that I first arrived in this city, in late 2008, as a young journalist, embarking on a new expatriate life. The Global Financial Crisis (GFC) was yet to fully hit, while the Burj Khalifa was still under construction.

Thousands of cranes dotted the landscape, and we still had Fridays and Saturdays as our formal weekends. The rest — as they say — is history as I would spend the next four years of my life traversing this country, making friends, and expanding my horizons.

In 2012, I returned to my home city of Johannesburg where I would spend another decade, rediscovering the beautiful sights, sounds and experiences that South Africa has to offer. However, the impact of Covid-19 from 2020-2022 is still rippling across the globe today, with many economies, from South Africa to Sri Lanka, struggling to get back on their feet.

One bright spot in the world today, though, is the UAE and the GCC, a region emerging as a major engine of growth. Having been back in Dubai for just two weeks, these are my quick takes on three ways that this part of the world is transforming.

World-class public transport

To be a world-class city, you need a highly advanced public transport system. And the leaders of Dubai have understood this very well. Travelling through the new metro stations that now exist in areas such as Discovery Gardens and Expo 2020 has been an eye-opener. The scale of these new metro lines and the short period within which they have been developed is astonishing.

What is more impressive is the high-level adoption of these facilities. In the early days of 2009, it was still easy to find a seat on the Dubai Metro. Fast forward to 2023 and the metro system is proving so popular that standing is often one’s only option.

But it’s not only the trains (and trams) that excite me. E-mobility seems to be an equally fast-growing trend, with scooters, bicycles and electric vehicles closing the last-mile gap.

E-commerce boom

Gone are the days of having to carry dozens of heavy grocery bags to the nearest taxi. The explosion in choice when it comes to shopping delivery apps in the UAE is adding a level of convenience that one could only have dreamed of 10 years ago.

The wide network of delivery drivers and the incredibly short periods of time within which one gets their deliveries (often under 30 minutes) is something that the UAE can teach the rest of the world a thing or two about.

Advances in e-government

Finally, nations like the UAE are leaders in the adoption of e-governance. The introduction of an e-visa system has transformed how work and travel visas are processed, dramatically speeding up the time that this process takes. It’s no wonder that this part of the world is so attractive to professionals across the globe.

It’s a privilege for me to be back in this region as the new group editor of Gulf Business, and I’m excited about us walking this journey together as we strive to keep you informed of the latest and most important business developments in this region.

Keep posted to my Daily Insider note to get future takes on the behind-the-scenes happenings in the GCC’s business world. If you haven’t already, please subscribe to our daily email newsletter by visiting the home page of our website, and clicking on the ‘Sign Up’ link.

Gareth van Zyl is the Group Editor of Gulf Business. Gareth has more than 15 years of experience covering the technology and business sectors in the UAE and South Africa.

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