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06 July 2021, 16:26
Mohamed Ali Alabbar

We are looking at Belarus with our own eyes – at the basic principles of relations and at the economy

Mohamed Ali Alabbar
Mohamed Ali Alabbar
Founder of Emaar Properties

H.E.Mohamed Ali Alabbar doesn't need an introduction. He is the Founder of Emaar Properties, one of the largest real estate companies in the Middle East, as well as Chairman, Co-Founder and CEO for a multitude of international companies across various sectors including real estate, hospitality, e-commerce, logistics, catering and fashion. In addition he acts as a key advisor to the leaders of Dubai and Abu Dhabi on the economy in general and a multitude of investment opportunities. H.E. Mohamed Ali Alabbar is an inspired visionary with interests in over 35 countries globally. Today, he turns his attention to Belarus and an investment agreement recently signed for the development of a new district in Minsk, a so-called smart city expected to be complete by 2040. The largest private investor in the economy of our country was indeed a very charming and pleasant character who happily agreed to talk about why he chose Belarus.

Your Excellency, you founded Emaar Properties, which is now one of the world's largest developers and construction investors with presence in various regions including the Middle East, Africa, Asia, Europe and North America. What attracts you to Belarus? How do you assess our investment climate?

- The first visit to Minsk touched my heart. I saw Belarusians. They are the kindest people in the world. And how hospitably we were greeted by the government determined a lot. I was inspired by the meeting with Belarus President Alexandr Lukashenko. He is a great motivator. I was also attracted by the principles of the Belarusian economy, because without good, correct economic principles, you will not do business just because you like the city. And I like Minsk, it is a wonderful city, there are wonderful people, excellent economic policy and wonderful relationships. I feel that I am welcomed in Belarus. And I am really very excited that I am entering this country and I am ready to do a lot.

What factors became decisive when deciding to build a business in the Republic of Belarus?

- In order to start a business in a new country, of course, you need to take into account a number of conditions. First of all, there should be talented, well qualified people who can organize your business - analyze the situation and form proposals in a particular area in which you want to work, be it a restaurant business or real estate. It is also important to know if the economy is active enough, how banking legislation works and how safe the country is in general. This is as important as the economic policy of the government. All these conditions became key factors in my decision to come to the Republic of Belarus.

Did the EU restrictive measures somehow influence your plans in Belarus?

- You know, such questions make me smile, since I myself am from the Middle East and in our region, is it good or bad, it is customary to live with our own mind. We are looking at Belarus with our own eyes - at the basic principles of relations, at the economy. This is what I am paying attention to. I see how interested the government is in my investments. I see how much the President of Belarus trusts to me and is disposed towards me. I see how safe the country is, whether the people are happy in it. These are the basic principles of my relations with Belarus and Belarusians. This is what I am paying attention to. And I assess all of the above in Belarus extremely positively.

At the meeting with our President, you recalled an interesting formulation of the concept of "democracy" by Nelson Mandela: "If my children are safe, if they receive a good education, are optimistic about their future, there is good health care and infrastructure - this is the real democracy." How much do these words influence your decision to work in a particular country?

- I believe that an ideal life is when it is safe, when there is a wonderful future ahead, there is excellent health care and education, a good labor market, a well-functioning economy. This is what we all want. You can call it a strong economy. You want to call it a happy life. To be honest, I don't think that all of the above is available in every country, since nothing is perfect. I have worked in different countries. Some states have 90 percent of what I said, some countries - 50 percent. But those with only 50 percent, for example in the Middle East, are trying to raise their level. I believe that every society wants to get better. This is inherent in human nature. And I love being a part of this process.

The range of your interests is certainly impressive - your companies do business not only in the field of construction but also in the field of catering, fashion, design, e-commerce. What areas of entrepreneurship today, given the pandemic, do you think are the most promising?

- People should understand that the pandemic will end someday. And we will forget about it. And I am sure that the policy of Belarus in this respect is remarkable. The President of Belarus is a very brave person who did not stop the economy, and it continued to work. Probably, he have been the only one in the world who made such a decision, and I am confident that after the pandemic all sectors of the economy will return to a normal level. Therefore, my advice is that you can work in any field, be it IT technology, real estate, restaurant business, fashion, construction, industry. You need to try, educate yourself, learn, develop and work hard.

We know you not only as a successful investor but also as a creator of the largest e-commerce platform for the Arab world and the largest company in this industry of GCC. Can we expect that your interests in Belarus will manifest themselves in this area, especially since there is still a huge potential here?

- Yes, we communicate with some Belarusian technology developers and I think that Belarus has a high level of technologies and startups. And it's something the whole world looking at. So, we are looking at collaborating with some technology providers. For example, we are interested in interaction in the field of digital banking and e-commerce. I hope we will be able to export technologies from Belarus to the Arab world.

Your Excellency, you intend to implement in Belarus a project of a «smart city». The volume of investments is estimated at $ 4 billion. How will the project transform Minsk?

- I did a lot large-scale developments. And I realized that life is not about only consumption. It is interesting for me to participate in changing the quality of human life.

We want to live in our own homes and expect to get a good quality of design and comfort. We expect that there will be all the needed infrastructure facilities - shops, facilities for winter and summer sports, children's, educational, and entertainment areas. These requirements are constantly changing and growing. And I believe that in 25 years we will do it.

I do my job honestly. I love what I do and want to help people live and live with a smile. This is the so-called full life, to which we all strive and you can call it whatever you like a democracy or somehow otherwise.

In addition, I believe that it is our responsibility as developers, after we provide real estate also to provide good quality maintenance. The most important decision in every person's life is to buy their own home. And after that, a person needs to be able to live happily and enjoy their home. To do this, you need to keep the premises in order and maintain them. We are proud that we have objects that are more than 10 years old but we still serve them. We come, repair and do everything that is needed for free.

The projects that you have implemented in different countries of the world are amazing. They are becoming world landmarks. Burj Khalifa is the tallest building in the world, Dubai Mall, which attracts 19 million visitors per year, or King Abdullah's Economic City in Saudi Arabia. And who is working on the design of objects in Minsk? Will Belarusian specialists be involved in this project?

- I am very emotional about the cities in which I work because I believe that our duty is to bring maximum benefit to the local population. Therefore, I am convinced that the contractors who will work on the Minsk project must be from Belarus. Also the materials to be used must be Belarusian.

Designers and architects occupy a fairly significant part in the structure of our company but we want to work with Belarusian specialists as well. By the way, architects from Belarus at this stage are already very seriously involved in the work.

We bring together the best architects from all over the world. For example, we invited CallisonRTKL from Los Angeles to design the Dubai Mall but then we also hired local specialists as they are better versed in local guidelines and regulations.

By the way, the same company participated in my favorite project which is very special to me - Galerija Belgrade. The joint work of local and international specialists is also needed in order to understand the tastes of consumers in each of the countries, their habits. So, such a combination is needed. But the main work will be done by Belarusian firms after all. The international team performs the function of conceptual vision of the project.

The concept of “smart city” which describes the project in the Belarusian capital is rather vague. Could you elaborate on what this means and what benefits it will bring to the residents of the new area?

- The concept of a smart city is changing all the time because the way of life of people is also changing.

We need to get a wealth of information to be sure that people can live efficiently in our smart city. If we talk about the transport system or the power supply system, then it is necessary to collect the entire array of data to be sure that the environment will be protected from negative impacts and the houses will consume a minimum of energy. It is necessary to correctly organize wireless Internet. Since now Wi-Fi is sometimes more important than food because you can order any food online. Building materials are also changing. They are trying to make the materials more durable and lighter, retaining heat well. It's also important to use the most advanced technologies that will include rational organization of traffic management and parking systems. All mentioned above is an important factor in the effectiveness of a smart city.

For example, we will build a hospital. It's good. But you need to think about how to provide the necessary healthcare assistance to residents of a smart city without visiting a doctor. If we talk about education, then we need to think about how to provide the education to children with the help of modern technologies. You even need to think about how to organize the delivery of groceries to your home at short notice, within 10 minutes. Up to the point that to think over the lawn irrigation system and the time when it will be used. At the same time, we strive to reduce the costs of city residents and organize the system of water and electricity consumption in such a way that our customers will pay significantly less for water and electricity. This is what is called a smart city. We must think over and calculate all the nuances in order to fully meet the needs of our residents. Our goal is to provide maximum comfort and truly make people's lives better.

Your father was a sailor, a captain of a traditional Dubai ship. He did a lot for his 12 children but he could not give them millions. You have achieved everything on your own, with your persistence, with your initiative. Experienced people are the most valuable example for young people. What would you say to your grandchildren to all other young men and women who are taking their first independent steps in their lives?

- I like the word "courage". And I sincerely believe that, firstly, secondly, and thirdly, the most important thing is to work hard. Those who work hard are lucky. And if they are lucky, they are successful.

The person must be positive. And you need to surround yourself with positive-minded people. This will help you to believe that everything is possible. This is what will keep your faith in yourself. Communication with great people who have achieved certain results helps you to grow above yourself.

You need to improve your education, improve your skills and abilities. You need to scoop up information about the world, read a lot.

Be bold and take responsibility for your business decisions. Yes, it is risky, but brave people do not think about risks. They are just brave by nature. Communication with great people who think and act like this influence on us the best way.

Thus, success is a combination of hard working, responsibility to take risks, leveling up your education, connecting with great people and doing all mentioned above with courage. Don't worry about losing. You can lose a lot of times, this is normal. I started my career at the age of 22 and I was able to achieve a certain result when I was 39 years old. That is that I tried to achieve success for 18 years, but I never gave up and was always optimistic. Be optimistic! Optimists succeed!

And I also always say: let your mother pray for you, because a prayer is always good. Because, believe me, you need God's help.

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