Abu Dhabi
Abu Dhabi

The capital of the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi, is well known for its oil riches. Still, the latest official numbers paint a new picture – the emirate looks to have tipped its economic scale in favour of non-oil GDP.

Abu Dhabi has been increasingly popular among global investment banks and hedge funds in recent years. These have been drawn by its mammoth $1.5 trillion wealth fund, the ADX stock exchange, whose market capitalisation has skyrocketed 10-fold and reached over $800bn, and several other incentives such as the UAE's Golden Visa.

Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, BNP Paribas, and others have set up shops in Abu Dhabi. According to Abu Dhabi Global Market, 125 more leading global firms are expected to move to the Emirate of Abu Dhabi or "the capital of capital" shortly. Credit rating agencies such as Moody's and S&P all have a positive outlook on Abu Dhabi and are confident in its stability.

UAE officials affirm it has been part of their ambitious long-term vision all along, the result of a determined policy drive over the past decade to transition to a knowledge-based economy, leveraging the emirate's diverse talent pool.

According to the latest official data, the number of white-collar workers in Abu Dhabi has increased twice as fast as that of blue-collar workers (109 per cent compared to 65 per cent growth) since 2011, with the population nearly doubling (an increase of 83 per cent) and reaching 3.8 million people over the same period.

In this context, the most striking development in Abu Dhabi's success story is the changes in its economic landscape.

While Abu Dhabi's total GDP reached $310bn in 2023, data shows that the emirate's non-oil GDP is now elevated to a majority of the economy (at 53 per cent in 2023, up from 46 per cent in 2011), which is a substantial achievement since in a little longer than a decade. The growth of the financial sector has played a big part, but this shift is also driven by the rapid development of industries such as tech. Abu Dhabi has its own global AI champion, G42, which is tourism, healthcare, and logistics.

The ambition of Abu Dhabi continues beyond there. The emirate expects its population to exceed 6 million residents by 2040, firmly establishing the UAE's capital's status as a thriving metropolis and global hub for innovation and economic growth.