British Business Group panel debates commercial opportunities of Emiratisation


Experts say localising workforce means embracing diversity not chasing quotas

Dubai, UAE: A panel of experts convened by the British Business Group Dubai and Northern Emirates (BBG) has revealed the opportunities for growth and diversification that come with the UAE Government’s renewed Emiratisation initiatives. Amid concerns among businesses about the annually increasing quota for Emirati employees, the panel pointed to the potential for better interaction with local enterprises and government entities, as well as the ability to embrace diversity in the workforce.

Moderated by BBG Director for Government Relations, John Martin St. Valery OBE, the panel discussion drew on the expertise of Abeer Husseini and Haider Hussain, Partners at Fragomen in Dubai; Diana Wilde, Founder of Aurora 50; and James Binding, Managing Director of Binding Partnerships. Running alongside the debate was a live poll, questioning members of the audience on their understanding and preparedness for the localisation directives.

Set in the context of the UAE Centennial Plan 2071 and Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, the Emiratisation and Saudization initiatives can help to activate a change in mindset, according to the panel. Ms. Wilde said, “It’s not about chasing quotas and avoiding fines. This an opportunity for multinationals in particular to reframe their approach to inclusivity in the workplace, to build relationships and to boost productivity with the support of local talent. We need to create working environments that attract and retain locals and foster collaborations that enable better business performance.”

Mr. Hussain added, “Employers need to look at the bigger picture and understand what the government is trying to achieve, to align their own business strategy with the national vision. Emiratisation must be integral to the recruitment process, and upskilling local employees to take on leadership roles should be seen as an opportunity to strengthen the organisation.”

Addressing concerns around the availability of talent, Ms. Husseini said, “Local graduates are increasingly aware of the opportunities that come with private sector employment, such as learning and development, working with other nationalities, and long-term career growth. There has been a shift in mentality among the younger generation who have been overseas for their education and are now looking for that international exposure in their professional life.”

Speaking about boosting the local talent pool, Mr. Binding added, “There is an appetite to contribute to achieving the visions the regional governments have set out. We’ve seen a lot of mobility among Saudi nationals moving out of the provinces to participate in the urban masterplan projects. This commitment means that we also have the opportunity to attract some of the best talent back to the region from overseas. We need to work with higher education providers as well, to identify local talent and help build bridges with employers at an early stage through mentoring and internships.”

According to the audience polls conducted alongside the discussion, 65% of respondents were aware of the importance of specific criteria for local hires, though 20% were yet to meet the localisation quota in their own organisation. With 44% of respondents saying they were lacking clear guidance on the process, the experts stressed the need to reference original government sources for information and advice. 

Concluding the discussion with an audience Q&A, the panel explained some of the practical steps that businesses can take towards localisation, including registration on the Nafis platform, which connects local jobseekers with hiring companies.

Speaking about the importance of the event, Katy Holmes, General Manager, BBG said, “We are continually looking for ways to support our members in the region. Where we see a change or a development that will affect UAE business operations, we work with experts within our membership and provide a platform for knowledge sharing, connectivity and awareness. This event’s purpose was to show the opportunity of localisation and inform our members beyond what they assumed, and I am sure that we succeeded in this with such a great panel.”

About British Business Group:

The British Business Group, Dubai & Northern Emirates (BBG) supports British-owned, Dubai-based businesses and UK PLCs at every stage of their growth and provides a platform from which to market directly into the British business and expat community. The BBG has built a credible voice in the region with an impressive reach across all social media platforms including its weekly e-newsletter, with a diverse audience here in the UAE, the GCC and the UK. The BBG provides a great exposure opportunity for brands looking to increase their local market recognition. 

Through a considered and strategic calendar of events, the BBG ensures high quality networking opportunities, market knowledge sharing, valuable engagement opportunities and exclusive experiences for its members.

The BBG has a strong working relationship with the British Embassy and the Department for International Trade, Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry and is a member of the Global Business Network and initiative of the British Chambers of Commerce.

About Fragomen:

Fragomen is a leading firm dedicated to immigration services worldwide. The firm has 6,000 immigration professionals and support staff in more than 60 offices across the Americas, EMEA and Asia Pacific. A member of the Am Law 100 and Am Law Global 100, Fragomen offers immigration support in more than 170 countries. Fragomen’s professionals are respected leaders in the immigration field, and the firm is regularly recognized as a leading employer of minority and female attorneys.

The firm supports all aspects of global immigration for corporate, academic, nonprofit, and individual clients, including strategic planning, quality management, reporting, case management and processing, compliance program counseling, representation in government investigations, government relations, complex matter solutions, and litigation.

Fragomen is a long-time leader in the immigration technology space and continues to lead the way in the digitization of the immigration journey. It has created Fragomen Technologies Inc., a Fragomen subsidiary focused on the nexus of law and technology to further enhance its technology offering.

These capabilities allow Fragomen to work in partnership with individuals and corporate clients across all industries to plan talent strategy, facilitate the transfer of employees worldwide, and navigate complex challenges.