This post is part of a series following the “Pre-MBA World Tour,” organized by Shoaf and members of the class of 2010.
Dubai is clearly one of the fastest-growing cities in the world. Just compare a satellite image of five years ago with that of today. What was once a small desert city along the gulf coast is quickly becoming a large metropolis with miles of skyline and hundreds of man-made islands emerging from the Arabian Gulf.
What is most fascinating about this rapid growth is that it’s not based on slow economic progression. It’s based on the decision of a single ruler who has realized that the emirate’s oil reserves may be gone someday and he needs to diversify the framework of his economy . . . and quickly.
To understand what is happening in Dubai, simply take a blank sheet of paper and use your imagination to design a brand-new city that would rival any of the world’s largest — including New York, Los Angeles or London. And then, find a way to build it within 10 years.
In Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s design, he subdivided the city into several economic free zones intended to be the world’s hub for nearly every major industry. Some of these zones are designed for the services sector (e.g., Media City, Internet City, International Financial Center, etc.), while others are designed for education and liberal arts (Knowledge City, etc.).
Another important component of Sheikh Mohammed’s plan was to establish Dubai as the most visited tourist destination in the world. In order to attract tourists, he commissioned several iconic attractions (such as the World, the Palm Islands and the Burj Dubai) that would give tourism magnets such as the pyramids or the Eiffel Tower a run for their money.
Right now the population in Dubai is nearly 1.5 million (and it’s estimated that only 15 percent are actually Emirati citizens), and there are hotels and housing developments being built with an expectation for more rapid growth.
The obvious question is: If you build it, will they come?
Fortunately, much of this investment seems to be trickling down into every level of the emerging market economy, and everyone in the system seems to be making a lot of money. This new land of opportunity is creating such a huge demand for jobs and materials that it’s attracting top talent and capital investment from all around the world.
The other important component of this economic plan is that the large sovereign wealth funds and government agencies have two bottom lines: profit and GDP growth. From what we can tell from visiting with several of these organizations, Dubai is probably experiencing a real estate bubble, but it is still on a fast track to becoming one of the most fascinating and diverse cities in the world.
Next Stop: Mumbai
Photo Credit: .EVO.