Shapers of the future gather in Dubai for World Economic Forum summit

Dubai Ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, right, and Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum. (Dubai Media Office)
Updated 11 November 2017
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Shapers of the future gather in Dubai for World Economic Forum summit

DUBAI: More than 700 international business leaders, policymakers and young intellectuals from 75 countries will gather in the UAE today to take part in a two-day summit to debate the impact of technological and communication change on the societies of the future.
Under the theme of “the globalization of knowledge in a fracturing world,” the Dubai meeting of the World Economic Forum’s Network of Global Future Councils will help to set the agenda for the WEF’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, next year, and “develop concrete, actionable recommendations for global decision makers,” the WEF said.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, ruler of Dubai, said that forecasting the future has proved pivotal for successful government work and empowering citizens, according to an official statement.
The UAE has become a global hub for the future industry and an established platform to forecast upcoming challenges in a world where the Fourth Industrial Revolution — the WEF term for rapid technology change — is opening new horizons, he added.
The WEF said: “The Fourth Industrial Revolution has the potential to exacerbate the challenges of a fragmenting world, but also to deliver new transformative solutions. The objective this year is to develop a shared vision for progress, building on the individual council discussions.”
The two-day WEF event will be opened by Mohammad Al-Gergawi, UAE minister of cabinet affairs and the future, and Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the WEF. It is the second time Dubai has hosted the event.
One subject that looks certain to be discussed at the meeting is Saudi Arabia’s $500 billion plan for a new mega-city, Neom, which will be dominated by robotics and new techniques in artificial intelligence.
“Neom will be an example of the new knowledge society and the Fourth Industrial Revolution in action, and is certain to be on everybody’s mind. It talks to all the themes we will be discussing here,” said a WEF official.
Other subjects to be discussed include “Reality check: The world in 2017” and “Toward a shared narrative about the future.”
Aside from the big set-piece plenary sessions, members of the Future Councils will hold 35 separate sessions to “explore ways of facilitating systemic change in critical areas such as health, energy and infrastructure through breakthrough technologies related to the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” the WEF said.
Dubai has led the way in the Arabian Gulf region to achieve “smart city” status, and is included in a list of 20 “data-driven cities” — which also include Boston, Copenhagen and Yinchuan — highlighted in a WEF report on cities and urbanization.
“The WEF seeks to empower cities as they prepare for the social, economic and technological transformations of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. It is now more important than ever to understand the consequences of data and how it affects people’s lives,” the report said.
Examples of “data driven” initiatives in the cities are sewage-powered cars, smart cycle paths and safer high-tech public transport, it added.
In Dubai, the government is driving an initiative to implement blockchain technology in as many government services as possible by 2020, while the UAE is exploring plans for driverless air taxis and ultra-fast “hyperloop” transport systems.
The event will be attended by Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al-Maktoum, crown prince of Dubai, and by Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al-Maktoum, chairman and chief executive of the Emirates Group.
Also present will be Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, minister for foreign affairs of the UAE, and Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, deputy prime minister of the UAE.
The world of business is represented by Fahad Al-Dhubaib, director of new business development for Saudi Aramco, Alain Bejjani, chief executive officer of Majid Al-Futtaim Holding, and Teresa O’Flynn, managing director of BlackRock, among many others.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution is a concept that has been promoted by WEF founder Schwab. It is “characterized by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres. The breadth and depth of these changes herald the transformation of entire systems of production, management, and governance,” he said.
The WEF has also unveiled a series of “transformation maps” that show the key factors shaping countries, economies and societies, like environmental sustainability, human capital, innovation, geopolitical position, economic diversification and infrastructure.


Oil dividend could turn Libya into North Africa’s Norway

Updated 19 October 2018
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Oil dividend could turn Libya into North Africa’s Norway

  • Production has topped 1.2 million barrels per day
  • Outlook improves following agreement with militias

LONDON: As Libyan oil production surges, the country has been noted for having some of the most important oil reserves in the world in terms of quality.
Middle East expert Fawaz Gerges, who is professor of international relations at the London School of Economics, told Arab News that the country had some of the most important oil reserves in the world in terms of quality.
“There is nothing to prevent it from becoming the Norway of North Africa,” he said, referring to the wealthy Scandinavian country that far outstrips the rest of Europe – apart from Russia – in terms of oil production.
With Libyan oil production growing there are hopes that the country’s goal of producing 1.6m barrels per day can be achieved by the early 2020s. Production has topped 1.2 million barrels per day sometimes this year.
The target is technically possible, and it would restore production to levels before the revolution that toppled Col. Muammar Qaddafi in 2011. According to the International Energy Agency, Libya holds Africa’s largest reserves at 48.4 billion barrels.
The country still faces huge obstacles, not least civil strife and political instability. But even so Libya’s National Oil Corporation (NOC) recently disclosed that oil and gas revenue in the first half of 2018 had reached $13.6 billion, more than for the whole of 2017.
A significant factor behind this performance has been the rise in the oil price. But there is more than that to the Libyan oil story, experts said.
In an interview with Arab News, Nicholas Fitzroy, Middle East analyst at the London-based Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) said NOC had managed to reopen key oilfields by forging security deals with militias. This has paved the way for a marked increase in production over the last 12 to 18 months.
“There has been a skewing of production data,” said Fitzroy. “Early 2017 showed output of around 600,000bbl/d against about 1million bbl/d in early 2018. The upswing follows the resumption of production from some of the country largest oilfields as accords with militias have taken hold.”
A recent EIU paper said: “The implications for Libya’s economy are wide-reaching, given the vital importance of oil exports to both the current and fiscal accounts — oil makes up more than 90 percent of both government and export revenue.
“Even though further security-related disruptions are likely to weigh on production, Libya’s oil sector has shown a capacity to recover in a short space of time.”
Fitzroy was doubtful that the NOC target to raise production beyond pre-revolution levels of 1.6m bbl/d, let alone to 2.2m b/d by 2023, would be possible. He added that investors and foreign investment were desperately needed.
Fitzroy said: “Any gains they achieve from here will be much harder. Their oilfields need significant investment to boost production further. Also, there are frequent breakdowns in power supply, and the threat of disruption as rival militias try to control oil terminals or pipelines. This can lead to fighting, as happened in July (when 700,000bbl/d was lost at one point).”
Gerges described Libya as one of the richest countries in the world in terms of the ratio of resources to its population “(But) without a central government, without a constitutional agreement among the various stakeholders, no amount of money will help Libya to transition to a new peaceful order. Without peace and security, you can never really use the money effectively to modernize the country.”
The Libyan oil outlook has improved since mid 2016 following an agreement between powerful militia chief Khalifa Haftar and the NOC designed to keep oil running to export terminals via Libya’s pipeline network which is in reasonable shape, according to Fitzroy. The EIU was considering raising its 2018 forecast of an average of 915,000bbl/d, according to one of its reports this year.
Meanwhile, the focus is on political developments. Outside powers hope that Libya’s chaos will be eliminated by elections for a new, united, government to end the east-west split between Libya’s UN-backed Government of National Accord in Tripoli and a rival House of Representatives parliament in Tobruk. In May, talks in Paris hosted by French president Emmanuel Macron saw key Libyan leaders set December as the election date.
But according to a report this week by Petroleum Economist: “Preparations are lagging, and the surge of recent violence has seen UN envoy Ghassan Salame suggest that the election might be scrubbed.”
That would push targets for Libyan oil production, most of which is exported, even further into the future, said analysts at Thomson Reuters in London.