Abu Dhabi plans to invest Dh22 billion ($6bn) over the next five years in its culture and creative industries as it seeks to diversify its economy away from oil, create new jobs and attract talent.
After pledging Dh8.5bn in the past five years, the government has earmarked an additional Dh22bn to develop new museums – such as the upcoming Zayed National Museum and the long-anticipated Guggenheim Abu Dhabi – as well as invest in the performing arts, music, media and gaming sectors, the emirate’s Department of Culture and Tourism (DCT) said on Tuesday.
DCT Abu Dhabi is “uniting the more traditional elements of the culture sector with cutting edge creative domains and creating the conditions for multidisciplinary businesses, creators and partnerships to innovate and grow, now and for years to come,” Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, chairman of the DCT, told The National.
The move comes as the oil-rich emirate emerges from the Covid-19 pandemic with a sharper focus on accelerating its economic growth beyond oil revenues and into high value-added sectors. Abu Dhabi has invested heavily in the arts, opening its Louvre museum in 2017 to position itself as a cultural tourism city with the aim of drawing visitors from around the world to view the artworks on display.
The latest round of cultural funding will be funnelled into more large-scale projects that are yet to come. These include the Zayed National Museum (which details the history of the nation and showcases the life of its founding father Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan), the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi (which will complement the Louvre’s offering with modern and contemporary art) and the Abrahamic Family House, all located in the Saadiyat Cultural District.
With 20,000 people already employed in the emirate’s culture and creative industries, Abu Dhabi expects this “to grow significantly” in the coming years following its investment, with a target of 16,000 new jobs in multimedia and gaming, Saood Al Hosani, undersecretary of the DCT Abu Dhabi, told The National.
“As thousands of new jobs will be created, the industry’s direct contribution to economic output will grow significantly as more professionals and families make their lives here in the emirate,” he said.
To attract new talent, Abu Dhabi is offering the Creative Visa to ease the entry of skilled professionals. The fast and affordable application process has already received more than 1,000 “expressions of interest” so far, Mr Al Hosani said.
“Our ambition is for creative professionals to thrive in Abu Dhabi; to make attainable to them sustainable, long-term careers that offer unparalleled opportunities to develop, grow and make a great living in Abu Dhabi for years and even decades,” the undersecretary said.
Abu Dhabi has already started training hundreds of culture professionals across various fields and developed programmes for young people to learn the skills needed to compete in a digital future, he added.
AD Gaming has partnered with global giant Unity Technologies to offer students in the UAE an opportunity to hone their skills in design, code and the use of 3D technology, while Image Nation Abu Dhabi’s Arab Film Studio has graduated over more than 150 aspiring filmmakers and scriptwriters, Mr Al Hosani said.
Besides attracting talent to live and work in Abu Dhabi, the cultural and creative industries are also a key tourism driver for the emirate.
In 2020, when movement restrictions posed challenges to cultural institutions worldwide, DCT Abu Dhabi’s cultural initiatives attracted 6 million visitors, Mr Al Hosani said.
DCT Abu Dhabi plans to bring the culture and creative industries under its umbrella, adding cutting-edge fields such as film, TV, multimedia, gaming and e-sports to its existing sectors of heritage, crafts and design, publishing, visual and performing arts. The aim is to leverage “the natural synergies between the emirate’s culture, tourism and creative sectors”, Mr Al Mubarak said.
The DCT’s cultural and creative industries’ strategy is underpinned by five pillars: creating policies, talent development, fostering innovation and digitisation, business development and building infrastructure that improves people’s quality of life, it said.
In the past five years, Abu Dhabi invested Dh8.5bn on cultural projects including Saadiyat Cultural District, Yas Creative Hub, and initiatives such as the Creative Visa.