Countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council region have traditionally relied on oil as the cornerstone of their economic growth. However, recognizing the imperative to cultivate alternative revenue sources, these nations in recent years have actively undertaken diversification initiatives.
At the forefront of this transformative journey is the landmark Vision 2021 strategy, initiated in 2010. It not only provides a robust framework but has also paved the way for the establishment of a pivotal institution. And that is the federal export credit agency, Etihad Credit Insurance (ECI).
Since then, ECI has evolved along with the UAE’s remarkable progress. Now with ‘We are the UAE 2031’ and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development strategies in place, ECI is uniquely positioned to further support the UAE’s economic diversification ambitions.
Shift to non-oil
Founded in 2018, ECI serves as a transformative force and a catalyst for change. It helps facilitate the government’s ambitious shift to a non-oil economy. One of its key roles is enhancing the global competitiveness of UAE exports.
More specifically, ECI acts as an enabler of the UAE’s economic ambitions to grow its global trade. It also empowers businesses to access trade opportunities.
According to data from the Ministry of Economy, non-oil foreign trade reached $340 billion in the first half of the year. This marks a 14.4 percent growth compared to the same period in 2022. The non-oil sector as a whole experienced a remarkable 5.9 percent growth. Collectively, it accounted for about 71 percent of the UAE’s gross domestic product.
These figures underscore the success of the country’s diversification efforts.
An important institution
In a rapidly evolving global economic landscape, the UAE is making significant strides in diversifying its economic portfolio and strengthening global trade. At the forefront of this evolution is Exclusive interview with ECI CEO H.E. Raja Al Mazrouei
In its annual report in 2021, ECI disclosed that it issued 6,620 revolving credit guarantees. This amounts to $3.1 billion in insured non-oil trade. Moreover, the value of exposure underwritten by ECI experienced a remarkable 266 percent increase during the same period, reaching $1.5 billion. These statistics vividly illustrate ECI’s pivotal role in not only mitigating risks for businesses but also catalyzing substantial growth in the UAE’s non-oil exports.
Further reinforcing ECI’s credibility is its AA- rating by Fitch Ratings. Al Mazrouei views this rating, maintained for five consecutive years, as a testament to international trust not only in ECI’s financial position but also in the economic prowess of the UAE.
Nevertheless, ECI’s mission extends beyond mere financial support. It includes equipping UAE businesses with intelligence, knowledge and export strategies. This holistic approach empowers these entities to explore new opportunities and navigate global markets.
ECI alignment with UAE
The UAE has consistently pursued diverse avenues to foster economic growth, and global trade is no exception in this endeavor. Under Al Mazrouei’s leadership, ECI has played a pivotal role in realizing the UAE’s vision for economic diversification. According to Al Mazrouei, “Aligning ECI with the UAE’s global trade targets opens up an opportunity for UAE-based manufacturers, traders and exporters to contribute to the diversification of the UAE economy. They can do so by providing solutions to protect global trade transactions. We’re talking about tailor-made insurance products, financial support and risk assessments – all these tools. They’re not just services; they’re building blocks for our clients to step confidently onto the global stage.”
In 2022, a landmark year, the UAE achieved a significant milestone as its non-oil foreign trade exceeded AED 2 trillion for the first time. Looking ahead to 2031, this economic pillar aims to raise AED 4 trillion. “ECI played a crucial role in supporting the UAE’s non-oil trade. Specifically, it covered a non-oil turnover of AED 14.4 billion across 17 sectors in 106 countries. Moreover, ECI is committed to strengthening non-oil exports and re-exports in alignment with We the UAE 2031’s agenda,” Al Mazrouei added.
Another aspect that sets ECI apart as a government entity is its ability to leverage UAE-CEPA agreements. These agreements not only open doors to robust, diverse markets, but they also create an ecosystem of global players, facilitating UAE-based companies in navigating global trade with confidence.
Succeeding in global markets
In the ever-evolving landscape of global trade, ECI plays a major role in mitigating risks for UAE exporters and helping them succeed internationally.
For Al Mazrouei, “global trade is complex and entails risks. Over 90 percent of world trade takes place on the basis of very short-term credit. The need for credit insurance comes with the risk of nonpayment or delayed payment, uncertainties in the importing country or the long duration of trade credit. And that’s where ECI comes in – we’re here to demystify it for UAE exporters. It’s not just about providing insurance; it’s about understanding the nuances of international markets, the risks and how to navigate them.”
ECI offers a range of products tailored for UAE exporters/re-exporters, banks and financial institutions, global export credit agencies, investors, developers and contractors. Its goal is to help them secure their transactions. With a vast network of more than 300 million global companies, ECI facilitates risk assessment and identifies global business opportunities for UAE-based companies.
“Moreover, ECI operates as a strategic partner for UAE businesses, giving them that peace of mind. We help them focus on what they do best. It’s really about ensuring that our exporters are not just participants in global trade but are thriving in it,” Al Mazrouei said.
Partnerships and collaborations
In global trade, connections are the key to success, and this is where ECI makes a huge difference. “We’re not just about solutions; we’re an entire ecosystem with about 50+ partners. Our collaboration with governments, financial institutions and international ECAs are like bridges. We connect UAE businesses to new opportunities and markets worldwide,” Al Mazrouei said.
For instance, the UAE’s comprehensive economic partnership agreements help open doors for domestic firms to expand exports to existing markets and to export to new untapped markets. This enables the expansion of trade. “It’s thrilling to see sectors we support thriving under these agreements,” Al Mazrouei added.
“To highlight one of our collaborations, ECI and the Abu Dhabi Export Office have partnered to strengthen the UAE’s position in international trade and innovation. Presight AI secured funding from ADEX, backed by ECI Insurance for their project in Angola. This way, ECI and ADEX aim to support more such expansion ventures. This reinforces the UAE’s commitment to supporting technological advancement and global business growth,” she said.
With Al Mazrouei at the helm, ECI has also been leveraging innovative financial solutions to empower UAE exporters and importers. With a background spanning over two decades in the financial services and technology sectors, she brings a wealth of experience to support these initiatives.
“Technology has transformed all sectors globally, and trade credit insurance is no exception. By adopting a digital-first mindset we can benefit from new technologies to advance the industry 4.0 concept among our traders, access technologies to accelerate production, secure transactions and monitor goods movements globally,” she said.
One of the key areas where the company has seen a significant impact is in the risk assessment processes. By adopting real-time analytics, it was able to enhance decision-making, especially in capacity building and predicting potential risks. This technology-driven approach has enabled ECI to offer more tailored and responsive solutions to its clients. Moreover, it helped the company ensure that UAE exporters and importers are not just protected, but also primed to capitalize on emerging opportunities in the global market.
The Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is a significant event for the UAE, as the host country for this edition. With the nation declaring 2023 as the “Year of Sustainability,” the movement to go green has never been more urgent and relevant.
ECI, as a crucial entity in the UAE’s pursuit of economic diversification, is also contributing to the global dialogue on sustainability. Initiatives and strategies implemented by ECI align with the sustainability goals of COP28.
“ECI is not only empowering global trade. COP28 is also a pivotal moment for us,” Al Mazrouei said, emphasizing that the UAE has embraced sustainability as a national priority. The country aims to instill environmental consciousness across diverse sectors.
According to Al Mazrouei, hosting this landmark conference provides the UAE with the opportunity to engage with global leaders and influencers. It underscores the critical need to integrate sustainability in all aspects of life, whether in business or personal decisions.
“For us at ECI, this is not just about participation; it’s about leading by example and inspiring change. We are becoming more conscious of our impact, integrating sustainability into our operations and offerings, and exploring ways to support the green projects’ journey,” ECI’s CEO noted.
ECI strives to efficiently contribute to the UAE’s sustainability journey. One of the more notable developments is the memorandum of understanding with the state-owned renewable energy company Masdar. Through this MoU, the two institutions will collaboratively develop risk insurance solutions to improve bankability and financing for Masdar’s renewable projects, spanning endeavors within the UAE and globally. For its part, ECI will help Masdar in attracting funding partners, reducing bank funding costs and conducting trade credit insurance sessions for businesses.
In addition to this partnership, ECI plays a key role in the significant Africa-aiding initiative launched by COP28 UAE President-Designate H.E. Dr. Sultan Al Jaber. During the Africa Climate Summit held earlier in September, Al Jaber announced a $4.5 billion finance initiative aimed at unlocking Africa’s clean energy potential. ECI’s contribution to this project includes providing $500 million in credit insurance to support sustainable development and energy access.
Moreover, ECI is involved in Uzbekistan’s independent power projects and other major initiatives such as the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park and Barakah Nuclear Power Plant. These involvements underscore the agency’s commitment to fostering low-carbon energy systems.
Shaping UAE’s economic landscape
Every December 2, the nation commemorates UAE National Day. This day serves as a significant celebration of camaraderie among the seven emirates that constitute the country. Reflecting on the “Spirit of the Union,” Al Mazrouei noted that since ECI’s inception in 2018, it has always been intertwined with the UAE’s vision of building a resilient export community.
“We’re a young organization. However, ECI quickly became an integral part of the UAE’s economic narrative, boosting global trade. Our journey isn’t just about supporting trade. We’re part of a larger story – the UAE’s story of growth, resilience and ambition,” she said.
“On National Day, we celebrate not only our achievements but also our role in the UAE’s visionary future. ECI has been focused on developing its position as the leading trade credit insurance provider of choice for UAE-based companies.
“And as the UAE grows and expands into new horizons, we at ECI remain committed to supporting our companies to protect them against risks of international trade, and to access larger markets and the international arena of trade opportunities,” Al Mazrouei added.
About Raja Al Mazrouei, chief executive officer of Etihad Credit Insurance
Raja Al Mazrouei is the chief executive officer of the UAE’s credit export agency, Etihad Credit Insurance. She joined the ECI as a board member in January 2022, becoming its managing director in November 2022 and its acting CEO in January 2023. During her tenure at ECI, she has been pivotal in implementing the agency’s transformation plans. She also played a role in boosting operation efficiencies.
Backing her is over 20 years of experience in the financial services and technology sectors. Previously, she was the executive vice president of the Dubai International Financial Center’s FinTech Hive, which is a pioneering financial technology accelerator in the region.
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