UN Secretary General opens GMIS summit with call for greater investment in digital infrastructure

DUBAI, 22 November 2021 – The United Nations Secretary General, António Manuel de Oliveira Guterres, on Monday called for greater investment in technological infrastructure to increase the resilience of businesses, bridge the digital divide, and help marginalised communities.

Guterres was among several world leaders addressing the Global Manufacturing and Industrialisation Summit (GMIS) at Dubai Exhibition Centre, Expo 2020 Dubai, which is bringing together world leaders and chief executives of local and global corporations to explore advances in manufacturing technologies, as organisations embrace digitalisation, shape new business models and revitalise operations in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of digitalisation in increasing business resistance and safeguarding the central value chain. UNIDO [the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation] has found that just 10 economies accounted for about 90 of the advanced innovation patents worldwide, while 88 countries have yet to utilise advanced technologies and digital production in a significant way,” he said.

“Digital technologies can propel the circular economy and address the climate crisis. But making the most of this potential, particularly to help the most vulnerable, requires extensive climate finance partnerships, more robust commitments to decarbonise, support for innovation ecosystems, and greater investments in digital infrastructure.”

Bruno Le Maire, France’s Minister of Economy and Finance, warned against digital giants with private interests replacing the role of sovereign states.

Le Maire said: “[The digital revolution] is a mix of opportunities and threats… It is the best and the worst, it is the devil and the angel. This is how I would describe the digital revolution. And that is why I strongly believe that it is time for citizens and political leaders, and business leaders, to take the lead and play the role, and to guide the digital revolution.”

In his keynote address, His Excellency Dr Sultan Al Jaber, Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology of the UAE, said: “For industry leaders, the lessons of the post-pandemic recovery are very visible, and in fact very clear: real recovery requires resilience and agility. We need to reinforce industrial capacity, strengthen supply chains and control and reduce costs.

انطلاق “القمة العالمية الرابعة للصناعة والتصنيع” في مركز دبي للمعارض بإكسبو 2020 

“No economy exists in a vacuum, and we know that progress is faster – much faster – when people work together. And in that spirit, I invite all of you to partner with the UAE; together, we can reinforce our collective resilience and agility, and we can all succeed and help bring prosperity through prosperity in the world.”

Lord Gerry Grimstone, UK Minister for Investment, highlighted the importance of merging multilateralism and free trade flows with technology as an essential part of keeping trade channels alive and ready to face the challenges any crises may present in the future.

Lord Grimstone said: “Multilateralism has brought the world to where it is today. But for multilateralism to work, it has to live up to its responsibilities of being genuine, efficient and able to get things done.

“The benefit of free trade and investment flows is that it speeds the adaptation of new technologies enormously. Of course, money flows, but also technology and expertise flow. Investment is becoming very sustainable, often driven by digitalisation.”

DUBAI, 22 November 2021. John Kerry, Special Presidential
Envoy for Climate, USA speaks during Global Manufacturing & Industrialisation Summit at Dubai Exhibition Centre, Expo 2020 Dubai. (Photo by Antony Fleyhan/Expo 2020 Dubai)

Delivering an introductory address at a session on funding for SMEs (Small to Medium Enterprises), His Excellency Ahmad Belhoul Al Falasi, UAE Minister of State for Entrepreneurship and SMEs, lamented the gaps for funding, despite the fact that the sector comprised 90 per cent of global businesses, and made up 50 per cent of the global economy. He said that the UAE had made great strides in creating an ecosystem that facilitates funding for businesses, especially through bodies like the Emirates Development Bank.

HE Al Falasi added: “With technology, more sophisticated financial tools are being used to cater to the specific requirements of different SMEs. The need for developing an ecosystem for funding SMEs was never greater, and we can see that the gap is being bridged by digital technology.”

Redha Al Saleh, chairman of Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said Oman’s authorities were giving increasing importance to SMEs, as falling oil prices and COVID-19 had adversely impacted the economy.

Al Saleh said: “SMEs in Oman have been facing huge difficulties in the past. They had difficulties in getting finances because of guarantees, mortgages, PDCs etc. But in recent times, the government has introduced many measures to address their problems. More importantly, SMEs today have started embracing technology, which allows them not only to access funding but find new ways of selling and marketing.”

A joint initiative between UNIDO and the Ministry of Industry and Advanced Technology of the UAE, the six-day GMIS will conclude on Saturday 27 November.