By Dany Farha
With the initial shock about the outcome of the Brexit vote just about over, it’s time to think about the consequences for the UK, the EU and our MENA region, as it pertains to the technology sector.
The tech sector is driven largely by human capital. Talent is everything. One of the greatest benefits to the UK being in the EU is/was its ability to attract deep technical talent from the almost 500 million people living in the EU. London and Berlin have been leading the charge with the UK receiving around a third of all VC dollars invested in the entire EU and London having approximately 18 unicorns. Both London and Berlin have very international and cosmopolitan demographics with a meaningful contingent of immigrants (I shall use the word expatriates/expats instead from now on), in some cases not just from the EU. Germany relaxed immigration laws around 5 years ago to allow professionals with technology related degrees (computer science, computer engineers etc.) to live and work in Germany, which is another one of the tremendous drivers of the tech sector.
If the divorce proceedings post Brexit are going to be as quick and aggressive as the rhetoric suggests, we in MENA, particularly Dubai with its modern infrastructure, business-friendly attitude and welcoming nature to expats, should seize the moment. Furthermore, If Sweden, Spain and Netherlands all follow suit, which seems like a very likely progression at this stage, we in the UAE have a once in a lifetime opportunity to play a big role in transforming our tech ecosystem by working on a plan over the coming years to communicate to expat talent in the UK (and other countries that secede from the EU in future) that they are welcome here, and create policy that facilitates the attraction and retention of this highly valuable tech talent.
We need to work with our governments to create a concerted and consistent PR and marketing program which includes having Dubai represented at major tech events, road shows to tech centres, co-working spaces, leading tech companies and other tech clusters.
We need to work with our governments to identify the type of technology talent that we need to attract to our region and provide special tech visas and other fast track and subsidies to attract this talent. People with degrees and/or work experience in AI, VR, data scientists and other deep tech talent, in addition to mobile developers.
We at BECO are driven by our mission to elevate the level of technology entrepreneurship in the Arab world, compressing the gap with developed nations. We want nothing except to see our ecosystem thrive and reach its true full potential and in the process, and have Dubai lead the development of the technology sector as it has done and continues to do on so many fronts.