Dr. Ahmed Abdul Rahman Al Banna’s life has been nothing short of impressive. He brings a wealth of experience owing to an illustrious career spanning more than three decades in the private sector.
Having joined the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation in 2013, he has a prominent presence in public affairs and has held numerous significant positions within the Ministry. Notable responsibilities include that of Director of the Department of Economic Affairs (2013-2014), Director of the Department of African Affairs (2014-2016), and, most recently, Ambassador of the UAE to India (2016-to date). Prior to joining the Ministry, he held several key positions at the Dubai Quality Group (Chairman), Dubai Chamber of Commerce & Industry (Deputy Director General), Dubai Expo 2020 and Dubai Rent Committee.
Over the course of his career, Dr. AlBanna has developed expertise in two key areas: developing business strategies and international economic affairs. As regards the latter, he has participated in the negotiations of various free trade agreements, notably in the GCCEU EFTA and was a part of the UAE National Committee for the World Trade Organization. He has also participated in the technical drafting committees on Commercial Law, Intellectual Property law, and Company’s Law.
Dr. AlBanna uses his superior management skills, economic and soft diplomacy tools adeptly in forging bilateral relations, acquired through the vast and valuable experience gained in the private sector and quasi-government entities.
As for professional affiliations, he was the Assistant Coordinator General of the 2003 Annual Meetings of the Board of Governors of the World Bank Group, International Monetary Fund, held in Dubai; Board member of the Arab Union for International Exhibitions & Conference (AUIEC) and the Assistant General for Media (1999 – present); Member of GCC-EU subcommittee; member of Economic committees of the UAE-Canada and the UAE Finland; Member and Coordinator of the Trade and Economic Committees of Dubai – UK and Dubai – Iran, to name a few.
Ambassador AlBanna obtained a Doctorate degree in International Economics and WTO Agreements and a Master’s in Business Administration Degree from the University of Hull, in Yorkshire, England, after graduating from the American University, in Washington DC, United States of America.
ARC Group is proud to have H.E Dr. Al Banna as Board Advisor for the MENA region, who was appointed in conjunction with the office inauguration in March, 2023.
In an interview with ARC Group, Dr. Al Banna shares his experiences and thoughts about the future.
Could you tell us a bit about your background and what led you to the career path you chose, and to becoming the UAE ambassador in New Delhi?
Throughout my career, I have had the privilege of being involved in various significant roles within the private sector and quasi-government entities. I began by serving as the Deputy Director General at the Dubai Chamber of Commerce & Industry, where I gained valuable insights into the economic landscape and business environment.
Additionally, I had the opportunity to contribute as an Advisor in Dubai Expo and as Chairman at the Dubai Quality Group, emphasizing the importance of quality standards in the industry.
These experiences, coupled with my involvement as a member of the Dubai First Committee and Board Member of the German.Arab Friendship Association, fostered my passion for international relations and economic affairs. I recognized the potential to further strengthen bilateral relations and promote economic cooperation between nations.
Given my background and expertise, I was appointed as the UAE Ambassador to India in 2016. This prestigious position allows me to utilize my extensive knowledge in business strategies, international economic affairs, and soft diplomacy tools to enhance the bilateral ties between the United Arab Emirates and India. It is an honour to represent my country and contribute to the mutually beneficial growth and development of both nations
Can you share some of your most memorable experiences in your previous roles? How have those experiences influenced your diplomatic career?
During my tenure as the UAE Ambassador to India, I have had the privilege of being involved in numerous significant milestones that have further strengthened the bilateral relations between our two countries. One of the most memorable experiences was the signing of several important agreements, which have paved the way for enhanced cooperation and mutual benefits.
Over the course of my seven years in India, we were able to sign a marathon 18 agreements covering various areas of cooperation. These agreements include the Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA), which facilitates the avoidance of double taxation on income and assets between the UAE and India. This agreement has played a crucial role in promoting trade and investment between our nations.
Another noteworthy agreement was the Protection of Foreign Investment, which aimed to provide a secure and conducive environment for investments from both countries. This agreement has helped to build trust and confidence among investors, fostering greater economic collaboration.
One of the significant achievements was the signing of the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA). India became the first country to sign this comprehensive agreement with the UAE. CEPA has opened up new avenues for trade, investment, and economic cooperation, strengthening the foundations of our bilateral relationship.
These experiences have been truly memorable as they have contributed to forging closer ties and fostering a spirit of partnership between the United Arab Emirates and India. I am grateful to have been a part of these transformative moments, which have brought our countries even closer together.
Can you elaborate on how your background in diplomatic affairs intersects with your role as a board advisor at ARC Group?
Given my extensive experience in diplomatic affairs, particularly as the UAE Ambassador to India, my background intersects with my role as a board advisor at ARC Group in several ways. Diplomatic affairs require a deep understanding of international relations, economic cooperation, and the ability to navigate complex negotiations. These skills are transferable and valuable in the corporate world, particularly in an advisory capacity.
As a board advisor at ARC Group, I can leverage my expertise in developing business strategies and international economic affairs to provide valuable insights and guidance. My experience in negotiating free trade agreements and participating in technical drafting committees on commercial law and intellectual property law equips me with a comprehensive understanding of global business dynamics.
Furthermore, my background in diplomatic affairs has honed my soft diplomacy skills, which are crucial in building and nurturing relationships, whether it be with clients, partners, or stakeholders. Effective communication, cultural understanding, and the ability to navigate diverse perspectives are essential in both diplomatic and business environments.
By combining my diplomatic background with my role as a board advisor at ARC Group, I can contribute to the company’s strategic decision-making, international expansion efforts, and fostering fruitful collaborations with partners across the MENA region.
In your opinion, how does your experience in diplomacy and international relations add value to ARC Group’s mission and clientele?
My experience in diplomacy and international relations brings significant value to ARC Group’s mission and clientele in several ways. Firstly, my role as an advisor for Dubai Expo allowed me to witness firsthand how strategic diplomacy can position a city or region as a global contender. Through effective diplomatic efforts, Dubai was able to compete with top cities around the world and ultimately secure the bidding for the Expo. This experience underscores the importance of diplomatic engagement in achieving ambitious goals and elevating the profile of organizations and regions.
Furthermore, my involvement in high-level meetings such as the Board of Governor meeting of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank in 2003 provided me with invaluable exposure to international decision-makers, dignitaries, and ministers. These interactions allowed me to accumulate a wealth of experience, knowledge, and establish strong relationships on an international level. Such connections and insights are instrumental in navigating complex business landscapes, fostering collaborations, and identifying opportunities for ARC Group’s clientele.
In addition, my experience in diplomacy has honed my skills in effective communication, cultural understanding, and negotiation. These skills are essential in building relationships with clients and stakeholders from diverse backgrounds and fostering mutually beneficial partnerships.
By leveraging my expertise in diplomacy and international relations, I can contribute to ARC Group’s mission by providing strategic insights, guiding international expansion efforts, and facilitating connections with key stakeholders across the MENA region. The accumulated experience, knowledge, and relationships I have gained enable me to understand the intricacies of conducting business on a global scale and help ARC Group’s clientele navigate the challenges and opportunities presented in international markets.
Can you speak about any trends or changes you’ve noticed in the financial sector over the years, particularly in the Middle East and how these may affect ARC Group’s strategies?
Over the years, I have witnessed notable trends and changes in the financial sector, particularly in the Middle East. The region, and specifically the UAE, has emerged as a prominent hub for financial services, characterized by significant developments and initiatives aimed at fostering a favorable business environment.
The UAE has been proactive in establishing specialized financial centers, such as the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) and the Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM). These financial free zones provide attractive regulatory frameworks, modern infrastructure, and access to a diverse range of financial services. These developments have positioned the UAE as an appealing destination for financial institutions, multinational corporations, and investors, thereby driving economic growth and facilitating international business transactions.
Additionally, the UAE has taken significant steps to update and enhance its benchmarking by-laws, creating a robust regulatory framework that ensures compliance, transparency, and accountability. These measures contribute to building trust among financial institutions, safeguarding investor interests, and promoting stability within the sector.
Such trends and changes in the Middle East’s financial sector have important implications for ARC Group’s strategies. Firstly, the UAE’s status as a hub for financial services presents significant opportunities for ARC Group to expand its operations and tap into the growing market. By leveraging the favorable business environment and the presence of established financial centers, ARC Group can strengthen its position and attract clientele seeking financial services and expertise in the region.
Moreover, the UAE’s commitment to regulatory updates and benchmarking ensures that ARC Group can operate within a stable and well-regulated ecosystem. This provides a solid foundation for ARC Group’s strategies and enables the organization to deliver reliable and compliant financial solutions to its clients.
By staying abreast of these trends and changes, ARC Group can align its strategies to leverage the growth potential of the financial sector in the Middle East. This may involve identifying emerging markets, exploring innovative financial products and services, and capitalizing on the UAE’s reputation as a financial haven.
In summary, the UAE’s emergence as a hub for financial services, the establishment of financial free zones, and the focus on regulatory enhancements all contribute to an evolving landscape in the Middle East’s financial sector. By understanding and adapting to these trends, ARC Group can position itself strategically and capitalize on the opportunities they present.
Based on your expertise, what future developments or opportunities are you most excited about for ARC Group, and for UAE international relations?
Based on my expertise and insights, I am particularly excited about several future developments and opportunities for ARC Group and UAE international relations. These include:
Expansion into the GCC & MENA Region: ARC Group can serve as a vital entry point and catalyst for expanding its presence in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and MENA region. By leveraging its expertise and capabilities, ARC Group can explore new authorities and lines of activities, enabling the organization to tap into emerging markets and unlock growth opportunities in these regions.
Facilitating Small and Medium Business Growth: I am enthusiastic about ARC Group’s potential to contribute to the growth and development of small and medium businesses. By providing the right products and support, ARC Group can play a crucial role in helping these businesses access capital markets and expand their operations. This will not only foster economic growth but also contribute to job creation and sustainable development.
Acting as a Bridge for International Companies: With my experience and extensive network, I am eager to utilize my family office vehicles and relationships to serve as a bridge for international companies. By leveraging my connections and understanding of the region, I can facilitate and strengthen business ties between international companies and the UAE, fostering mutually beneficial collaborations and investment opportunities.
These future developments and opportunities align with ARC Group’s mission and the UAE’s vision for international relations. By capitalizing on emerging markets, supporting small and medium enterprises, and leveraging relationships, ARC Group can expand its portfolio, strengthen its position as a regional leader, and contribute to the UAE’s goal of becoming a global business hub.
I am excited to be part of this journey, and I believe that with the right strategies, ARC Group can seize these opportunities, contribute to economic growth, and drive positive change in the UAE and beyond.