The United Nations has been quite clear that in order to ensure a prosperous future for all, we, as a collective of nations, must remain committed to fulfilling its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030 – a global aspiration that aligns in many ways with the Kingdom’s Vision 2030. As I reflect on the Bahrain Economic Development Board’s (EDB) recent recognition as a recipient of the UN’s Investment Promotion Award, I am both humbled by the ambitious efforts of our team and hopeful about the promising path we have laid out for Bahrain’s dynamic economy.
Today, the creation of an economic landscape that simultaneously benefits people and businesses can seem like a complex puzzle of imbalanced trade-offs. However, in Bahrain we continue to join together the right ‘puzzle pieces’ that advance us towards that objective. This is at the heart of our Team Bahrain approach, which sees our Government and the private sector come together to help businesses thrive, strengthening our economy in the process. Our partnership with Amazon Web Services (AWS), which underpins the UN award, represents a significant outcome of this long-term economic strategy.
In a true demonstration of Team Bahrain, the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Tourism played a pivotal role in optimising the business environment that led to the AWS partnership. By driving legislative reforms that updated economic and fiscal policies – including the way that financial restructuring is handled in Bahrain – this ministry’s leadership set a collaborative tone that has shifted Bahrain further toward a digital-centric society.
The establishment of AWS’ first Middle East Region in Bahrain will have a transformative impact on business growth – strengthening emerging sectors, enhancing productivity and further fostering innovation – both within our borders and throughout the GCC. From legacy corporates to early-stage startups, businesses in Bahrain will increasingly seek to develop cloud-based commercial strategies to meet the needs of their customers. AWS’ technological leadership coupled with the estimated 10,000 data solutions jobs needed to service the growing demand for cloud computing are sure to power Bahrain’s digital economy.
Our transition towards a digital economy is further bolstered by a range of initiatives aimed at harnessing innovation:
- reduction of the minimum capital needed to start a business in Bahrain, making the market more accessible to entrepreneurs at any stage of their commercial journey
- introduction of a data protection law that standardises practices for efficient, secure processing of big data
- reform of existing bankruptcy law, enabling experimentation and innovation within the market
Such measures represent our private sector approach to business and are all fundamental pieces in the puzzle that will produce a thriving digital economy across the Middle East.
The UN award also acknowledges the unmatched investment we made in our local workforce. For example, Tamkeen, Bahrain’s labour fund, and AWS have shaped the way access to high-quality education has taken root in Bahrain. In fact, when AWS launched its Training and Certification programme as part of its investment into the Kingdom, more than 2,300 young Bahrainis registered within the first few months – far outpacing sign-up rates in China and India. This is a demonstration of the motivation and ingenuity so inherent within our local population.
Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon, once said, ‘What we need to do is always lean into the future.’ The EDB is clearly leaning forward, with an intentional agenda that will create lasting impacts on responsible business growth and wealth creation for generations to come. An agenda oriented towards a prosperous global future – within which we all thrive – revolves around two key components: 1) construction of a true digital economy; and 2) investment in our most precious resource, our people. The UN award recognises that in Bahrain we are proactively moving forward on both pillars of that agenda, with great strides to show for these efforts.