Background To Business in the UAE

The United Arab Emirates consists of seven states: Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Ajman, Fujairah, Ras al Khaimah, Sharjah and Umm al Qaiwain.

Each of these states has its own identity and individual characteristics (some are more liberal in their attitudes to clothing etc. than others) but they also share a great many commonalities and this country profile will concentrate on the commonalities and, as such, can be used as a guide to all the states which comprise the UAE.

A key issue to bear in mind when doing business in the Emirates would be the cosmopolitan nature of the population. Over 80% of the population of the region are non-locals. It is almost more likely, therefore, that you will be doing business with a western expatriate then with a local Emirati.

A key question to ask before starting any project in the UAE would be: ‘Who am I dealing with?’ Obviously dealing with an American expatriate will require a different approach than when dealing with a local Emirati. Do some research in advance and work out, not only who you will be dealing with directly, but also who is the final decision-maker. You may be dealing with an American – but are they reporting to a local, senior business man?

Another key issue to bear in mind is that beneath the veneer of Westernisation, the Emirates remain a region heavily influenced by the all-embracing influence of the teachings of Islam. There is little separation between religion, life in general and business – they are all interlinked in a way that is alien to most western business people. Show great respect to local religious sensitivities at all times – not to do so could be a real deal-breaker.

A brief overview of some key concepts to consider when doing business in the United Arab Emirates

Written and Produced by Keith Warburton

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The United Arab Emirates is still predominantly dependent on oil revenues but, having said that, represents the most diversified economy in the Gulf region. All the Emirates have made concerted efforts over the past couple of decades to develop a future in which the country could continue to prosper in a post-fossil fuel world.

As a result of this drive for economic diversification, the UAE has become a magnet for international companies looking to develop new markets and increase their global footprint. As an affluent society, the UAE offer good opportunities across a wide-range of both consumer and industrial areas and will continue to do so into the foreseeable future.

However, the UAE is a Gulf state and needs to be approached with a degree of caution. Things work differently in the UAE than they probably do ‘back home’ and if you are considering doing business in the United Arab Emirates then it is essential to do some homework in advance. Do not be fooled by the fact that the country is home to a large number of expatriates from all over the world – the decision-makers are Emirati and you need to understand their local culture and business mentality if you are to have any hope of success.

Remember that relationship -building is the key but that it takes time and patience to build those relationships. Don’t try to rush things and don’t expect immediate results – you may be lucky but usually patience is an essential trait when working in the UAE.

This country profile provides an overview of some of the key aspects of Emirati business culture in a concise, easy to follow-format. The document includes information on:

  • Background to business
  • Business Structures
  • Management style
  • Meetings
  • Teamwork
  • Communication
  • Women in business
  • Entertaining
  • Top tips