Theme 2021

The Global Business Forum Series (GBF) was launched in 2013 as a platform to drive trade and explore opportunities between the Gulf Region and some of the world’s fastest-growing markets. In 2021, the Global Business Forum turns to Asia and the Association of southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to explore the changing dynamics of the region, examining opportunities to increase business and investment between both regions, and push the boundaries of inter-regional trade.

Across ASEAN and the Gulf, the pandemic has caused a sharp economic contraction but there have been some bright spots – accelerated digitalization, a growing appetite for investing in sustainable infrastructure, and increased emphasis on supporting startup ecosystems. These new dynamics have pushed ASEAN’s digital economy to exceed $100 billion for the first time, while financing sustainable infrastructure is estimated to be a $2.8 trillion investment opportunity by 2030.

As ASEAN’s focus switches to building for a world after coronavirus – scaling-up tech-led businesses, accelerating digitalization – leveraging partnerships and hubs, have become urgent priorities as the region seeks to rebuild and lay the foundations to respond to future challenges; ingredients that make this an exciting region to watch with opportunities for business and investors to match.

Over the next five years, ASEAN members and their counterparts have the potential to create the world’s largest free trade area, riding on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership agreement to add an estimated $186 billion to global GDP by 2030, forging new partnerships that will re-shape global connectivity.



GBF ASEAN Programme Pillars 2021

What, and where, are the new frontiers? What are the drivers of ASEAN’s economies? How will a post-Covid world redefine economic growth? And how might a new reality shape ties between the UAE and ASEAN and the role of hubs like Dubai and Singapore as catalysts for their wider regions?

What, and who, is shaping the change? And seizing the opportunities? Designers will explore the potential for the UAE and ASEAN to leverage commonalities – to build the infrastructure and accelerate entrepreneurship, the connectivity needed for resilience for future shocks and the role of leadership in preparing for the future.

What will determine the outcome – and deliver results? This pillar looks at how government can work with business - to enable hubs to thrive and accelerate connectivity between ASEAN and the Gulf. It will also explore the role of smart regulations in helping define business growth, and how re-thinking supply chains, and infrastructure backbones have the potential to accelerate recovery.