Digitising services, facilitating public-private sector cooperation and advocating on behalf of member companies were the main efforts that helped Dubai Chamber respond to new Covid-related challenges swiftly and effectively.
That was the message from Hassan Al Hashemi, Director of International Relations at Dubai Chamber who spoke today at the 12th World Chambers Congress in Dubai.
He took part in the session, titled ‘Inspiring Tales: Case Studies from the Chamber Front Line’, where he was joined by Michael Barnett, CEO of the Auckland Business Chamber in New Zealand, and Adolfo Diaz-Ambrona, Secretary General of Spain Chamber.
“Dubai Chamber played a leading role in helping the private sector navigate its way around COVID-related obstacles,” Al Hashemi asserted. “We shifted our core services to digital channels, and now 100% of our core services are smart – saving our members time and money, and we have taken our digital ambitions one step further as we are now on track to become 100% paperless by the end of this year.”
“During the early stages of the COVID-19 outbreak, the Chamber launched a comprehensive campaign to mobilise companies to implement preventive measures enforced by the government and offered valuable guidance on the transition to remote working,” he continued. “Advanced digital infrastructure and preventative measures in place enabled Dubai Chamber employees carry out their work from home during the lockdown phase and later return to the office, serving as an example of reopening for the business community.”
Al Hashemi went on to note that Dubai Chamber launched new digital platforms, such as Business Connect and ‘Ask the Expert’, to guide businesses as the navigated new COVID-related challenges. He cited the Chamber’s collaboration with Google to launch ‘Business Online Presence’, a comprehensive digital solution designed to help businesses in the UAE manage their online presence.
“We doubled down on our efforts to foster constructive dialogue and cooperation between public and private sector stakeholders in Dubai by organising business forums,” Al Hashemi said. “After getting business in Dubai back on track, we organised a series of live business forums and retreats, which sourced policy recommendations from the private sector. Such efforts supported the Chamber’s position of being the voice of the private sector.”
The Director of International Relations moved on to speak of the role that Dubai Chamber’s representative offices play from their locations around the world. “Over the last year and a half, we witnessed a surge in inquiries received from our international offices, which reflected growing confidence in Dubai as a global business hub,” he explained. “What’s more interesting is that international startups, in particular, were keen on learning more about Dubai and moving their businesses to the emirate, which was seen as a land of opportunity at a time of disruption and instability in other markets.”
Al Hashemi added that in line with its commitment to supporting the business community, Dubai Chamber launched the Chamber Connect Series as a platform for the world chambers community to collaborate and share knowledge on new strategies and solutions that address shared challenges.
Moving on to comment on lessons learned for recent years, he noted his pride in the UAE and Dubai for taking measures that guaranteed a positive return to normalcy, unlike much of the world. Al Hashemi asserted that going into the virtual world enabled the Chamber to ensure continuity, allowing a balance of safety from one side, but also allowing life and businesses to keep going and to continue.
“One thing Dubai did quite different than the rest of the world was by allowing that balance,” he asserted, noting that “the path of economic recovery has been one of resilience, hope and foresight and has reminded us that the journey we face today, as nations, can only be solved by shared, coordinated and equitable responses.”
“We are seeing the fruits of our efforts in Dubai’s latest economic indicators, which are showing signs of strength and recovery,” he added.
Al Hashemi concluded with a few key points on the Chamber Model Innovation (CMI), noting that the Chamber is now focusing on pioneering and developing new initiatives, services and solutions that really create value for not only its members, but also chambers of commerce around the world.
“The Chamber Model Innovation framework is our legacy, which will live on well after the 12th World Chambers Congress is over,” he asserted. “CMI was designed to fast-track Chamber-led innovation around the world and guide chambers as they adopt a more customer-centric approach. This model has been piloted by several chambers from around the world that reported promising results and major benefits, and I am confident that many more chambers will adopt it. Our end goal is to foster a culture of innovation within the global chambers community.”
For his part, Michael Barnett emphasised the importance of mental health and wellbeing, noting that “dealing with businesses is like dealing with people”. The government responded to companies’ request for assistance with a USD10 million fund that included 24-hour mental health and wellbeing support, online tools, counseling, and regular interviews and webinars with psychologists. “Instead of making many small demands, they partnered with retail, events, and hospitality organisations to create ‘one strong pandemic voice’, better informed and with a singular message,” he said.
Meanwhile, Adolfo Diaz-Ambrona showcased the flagship new programme that was launched today and will go on until December 2024 – the Digital Kit. The project is part of the EUR750 billion ‘Next Generation EU’ fund, which allocates EUR150 billion for Spain. A total of EUR3 billion is specifically allocated to the digitalisation of one million Spanish SMEs and 80% of microenterprises and self-employed workers. A network of 87 field offices will be set up to support the process with public-private partnerships playing a prominent role.