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12 priorities for sustainable urbanization in MENA

12 priorities for sustainable urbanization in MENA

UAE identifies 12 priorities for sustainable urbanization in MENA posted by Saudi Gazette on June 1, 2019, is worthwhile going through to get to know what is meant by the MENA would perhaps be more specific and therefore more relevant to the Gulf area than to the rest of the MENA region.

Delegates at the UN-Habitat assembly in the Kenyan capital Nairobi on May 27-30

ABU DHABI — The United Arab Emirates has successfully delivered its central objectives for the first UN-Habitat assembly in the Kenyan capital Nairobi on May 27-30 and convened all UN Member States, as the world’s highest-level decision-making body on sustainable urbanization.

A delegation headed by Mohamed Al Khadar, Executive Director Strategic Affairs of the Department of Urban Planning and Municipalities (DPM), outlined 12 priorities identified for sustainable urbanization in the MENA region to United Nations Member States. These priorities were crowdsourced from the recent Pan-Arab Urban Development Symposium (PAUDS) held in Abu Dhabi. Classified in three categories corresponding to each of the four pillars – Economy, Environment, Society and Culture, these will form the basis for the UAE program at the 10th World Urban Forum (WUF10), which will be conducted in Abu Dhabi in February 2020.

Al Khadar said “the UN-Habitat Assembly provided a unique opportunity for Abu Dhabi to advance the UAE’s agenda for the upcoming World Urban Forum. Through our work at this event, we aimed to underpin WUF10’s goal to be an open platform for partnerships and new initiatives in representation of our best minds. To advance to more sustainable urban models we are convinced that we need to identify new ways of working together, breaking down silo mindsets, and promoting transformative working methods. What better way to do that than to open up the conversation to fresh and creative thinking as we did at PAUDS, and we are happy to have continued this momentum with the brilliant collection of minds at UN-Habitat.”

Also carried out was a reception event which promoted WUF2020 within UN Family and Ambassadors. This included a gala dinner and outlined WUF10 in greater detail to interested delegates.

The UAE Ambassador to Kenya Khalid Khalifa Abdullah Rashid Al Mu’alla said “the UAE global leadership in international diplomacy finds its manifestation in the implementation of the 2030 agenda and our success in leading global implementation of SDGs and assisting others in doing so. WUF10 is an opportunity for the UAE to develop methodologies that can be shared and replicated in other countries in the region”.

The UN-Habitat Assembly carried the theme ‘Innovation for a Better Quality of Life in Cities and Communities – Accelerated Implementation of the New Urban Agenda towards achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals’. The event will bring together urban practitioners and experts, national, regional and local governments, academia, civil society and the private sector. All are brought together with a shared focus on innovative urbanization and to provide solutions for a better quality of life in cities and communities.

The UN-Habitat Assembly is the United Nations’ focal point for sustainable urbanization and human settlements development. This event will adopt global norms and policies that will guide how cities and communities are planned, managed and governed. It will also determine the strategic priorities for accelerating implementation of the New Urban Agenda to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals for the next six years, through UN-Habitat’s Strategic Plan (2020-2025).

WUF10 will take place in Abu Dhabi in February 2020, convened by UN-Habitat and jointly organized with the Abu Dhabi Department of Urban Planning and Municipalities. The Forum will provide a platform to discuss 21st century city planning within a context of rapid development with specific cultural and demographic considerations. WUF10 will showcase the Abu Dhabi Plan, through which the city aims to realize its long-term sustainable development vision. This blueprint will advance concrete achievements that position the Emirate as a benchmark, in a region with one of the fastest urbanization rates on the globe.

Established in 2001, WUF is the world’s premier gathering on urban issues. The Forum examines the impact of rapid urbanization and its implications for social, economic and environmental policies in communities, cities and towns. — SG

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Mission to teach Kids how to Code

Mission to teach Kids how to Code

Entrepreneur Middle East‘s Education Tech published this fantastic story on May 14, 2019, on a certain Hadi Partovi who “Having built (and funded) great startups, this entrepreneur and investor opens up on his mission to teach kids how to code.

Here is his story.

Transformative Change: Code.org Founder Hadi Partovi

By Tamara Pupic Managing Editor, Entrepreneur Middle East.

Transformative Change: Code.org Founder Hadi Partovi
Hadi Partovi

Sitting in a corner of The Third Line Gallery in Dubai’s arts district of Al Serkal Avenue, Hadi Partovi, a tech entrepreneur and angel investor known for his early bets on Facebook, Dropbox, Airbnb, and Uber, is quietly tapping away on his laptop prior to an invite-only fireside chat organized by VentureSouq, a Dubai-based early-stage equity funding platform.

He is here, wearing his signature baseball cap, to present Code.org, a Seattle-based education non-profit dedicated to expanding access to computer science in schools around the world, of which he is the founder and CEO. The main reason for founding this global social-impact initiative is his belief that mastering computer science is no less than a life-giving skill.

Sonia Weymuller, Founding Partner of VentureSouq, introducing Hadi Partovi at a VSQ Talks event at The Third Line Gallery in Dubai. 

Yet, before we expand on that, I decide to focus on his approach to investing in early-stage tech startups, knowing that I will hear something different from a phrase that gets thrown around by every startup investor out there: “I invest in people, not ideas.” Partovi also has a people-first investment philosophy; however, not only can he specifically point out to what “investing in people” actually means for him, but he can even measure it.

The Partovi twins, Hadi and his brother Ali, currently the founder and CEO of Neo, a community of young engineers and the world’s top programmers, were jointly investing in startup founders for 17 years (since 2018, they have decided to focus on individual investments), but only in those who passed their coding test. It started with the founders of Dropbox, Partovi explains. “The best tech companies don’t hire a single technical person without putting them through a lot of tests, so why would an investor consider giving hundreds of thousands of dollars without even one test to show that they can do something?” he says. “Most VCs don’t do this because they themselves don’t know the technology, so they just think whether they like the idea or not, and they just take it for granted that a person can do it. If you look at the companies that have succeeded, the idea often isn’t unique, it’s the execution.” He points out that Google was not the first search engine company, Facebook was not the first social networking platform, and Microsoft was not the first company building an operating system- but what set all three of them apart was having the strongest engineers on board.

The Partovi brothers know this from their own entrepreneurial experience. Partovi may come across as being humble, quiet, and almost reticent, but he is a man who was part of the team that founded and sold Tellme Networks, a voice recognition software developer, to Microsoft for US$800 million in 2007. A decade earlier, in 1998, Ali Partovi was a co-founder of LinkExchange, an internet advertising company, that also got acquired by Microsoft for $265 million. The brothers’ website has a page listing their 34 ongoing investments, which include Airbnb, Classpass, and Uber, and 23 successful exits: Dropbox (IPO), Facebook (IPO), and Zappos (acquired by Amazon), to name just a few. If you scroll down this page, you will also find a list of 10 of their unsuccessful investments, and Partovi is open to say that there had been a few bruises before the brothers developed their investment muscle. “I did invest in a bad idea when I liked the person, but if I look at all my investments, the worst ones were the cases where I liked the idea but I didn’t like the entrepreneur, and also there are investment decisions that I chose not to invest even though I liked the entrepreneur,” he says. “And, I’ve made other mistakes too, such as when one of my college classmates wrote to me in 1998, saying that he had just joined a group of friends from his graduate program to start a company, and he was like, ‘They are the smartest people I know.’ I remember thinking that nobody needs another search engine, and that I wouldn’t invest in this company, that he was just the first employee, and that it was going to be a complete failure. Turned out that the company was Google, and he was their first employee and the Chief Technology Officer. He was also in the top of my class in computer science at Harvard. So, if I could go back and invest in all the best computer scientists I had graduated with, I would have made a lot more money, although I have done well, but I wouldn’t have missed the opportunities like this one.”

A key element of his stressing the importance of the engineering talent is that it was a key factor in how the Partovi brothers came to be where they are today. Born in Tehran, Iran, the twins taught themselves to code on a Commodore 64, which has fueled their passion for programming ever since. The family fled to the US in 1984, following the Iranian Revolution in 1979. Upon earning a master’s degree in computer science from Harvard University, Hadi Partovi rose up the executive ranks at Microsoft, before he went about launching his own startups. And now, he believes that every young person around the world deserves to be propelled forward in life by learning this specific skill. “This is a story about opportunity, and how we can expand who has access to that opportunity, what the jobs of the future will look like, and how we can ensure that everyone gets an opportunity,” Partovi says, on why he advocates computer science training, and why Code.org provides coding curriculum for schools around the country. “In the world of accelerating technological change, the most important thing everybody can learn is how to adapt to new technology. Many schools teach technology, but they teach kids how to use it, whereas we want to teach them how to create technology. And learning to create technology is important, not only because it leads to an opportunity, and not only because of the future of the job market, but because for kids, it’s fun and it teaches them creativity. Creativity is such a natural human desire, something that drives adults, and especially youth, but it doesn’t really exist in the school system.”

Since launching in 2013, Code.org has created the most broadly used curriculum platform for K-12 computer science in the United States. Its computer science classes have reached 30% of American students, while its Hour of Code initiative, a global campaign offering a one-hour introduction to computer science, has reached 10% of students around the world. Furthermore, the Code.org team informs that the nonprofit has more than 100 international partners and supports 63 languages in 180+ countries, with students having created 35 million projects on the platform. Importantly, they also state that 48% of Code.org students are underrepresented minorities. In addition to all of this, Partovi is a firm believer that among the future codingskilled founders tackling the world’s biggest problems, we will see many more women than today. According to a teacher survey by Code.org, 46% of users on the company’s Code.org Studio are female. “There is a misconception that this is for boys not for girls, which is totally not true,” Partovi says. “When girls reach 13 or 14, and if they haven’t tried computer science yet, there are too many other things to do and a pressure to be cool, and that this is not cool for them, because of that social stereotype that this is for boys. So, as a girl, if at 13, you haven’t tried it yet, you have to go against that social stereotype. However, for a boy, the social stereotype is that this is for you, that’s fine. It’s hard to go against the social stereotype for anybody, but it is especially hard for a 13-year-old, when you’ve just started learning how to be secure yourself.” To illustrate, Partovi mentions that Google search results for “software engineers” will mainly show the images of men, whereas the results for “students coding” will show men and women in almost equal numbers.

When it comes to other misconceptions about learning computer science, Partovi mentions the notions people falsely have about its scope and complexity. “I’ve probably made this worse, because of the name of our non-profit, but computer science is more than coding,” he says. “Code.org is about a whole bunch of fields that all are technical, and they are all part of computer science, and I believe that all of them belong in primary and secondary education. Just like you think of science, science has biology and chemistry and physics; you don’t teach just one of them.” Partovi adds, “The other misconception is that this is just for rocket scientists. People imagine that computer science is as hard as calculus, but they don’t realize that six-year-olds can start learning it. If you think about math, first grade math is easy, but 12th grade math could be more difficult, and university math is extra hard. Computer science is the same, the first-grade level of stuff is very easy.”

Code.org founder and CEO Hadi Partovi speaking about the importance of teaching computer science in schools.
Source: Code.org

For all these reasons, Partovi, despite coming across as a quiet man, is ready to make some noise with the recent announcement of the single largest expansion of Code.org’s computer science curriculum. Code.org’s Computer Science (CS) Fundamentals course, geared toward primary school, will be translated into the 10 most widely spoken languages in the non-profit’s database – Chinese (traditional and simplified), French, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish and Turkish- while it will also offer a new offline version of CS Fundamentals to empower schools in low- and no-bandwidth environments to teach computer science to all students.

Expanding into the MENA region is on Partovi’s agenda too. He says, “There are already 500,000 students and about 20,000 teachers in the Arab world using Codeiorg, despite it, for now, being only in English language and only on internet connected computers, meaning that we haven’t done almost any work to overcome the obstacles in the region, we haven’t properly transitioned into Arabic, we don’t yet support use on disconnected computers, we don’t yet work well on smartphones and tablets. Most of the students are in private schools or international schools, because they are using it in English, but it shows that the interest in what we do is already high.”

Region by region, Partovi hopes to achieve Code.org’s mission of changing the educational system, making computer science a permanent part of school curricula. “The education establishment especially doesn’t recognize that this is a field that is as fundamental as mathematics or science,” Partovi says. “Everybody understands that technology is the future, nobody needs to be explained that, and nobody needs to be explained that there is money in technology, and that it is changing everything. What people don’t realize is that when you start learning the alphabet, you can also simultaneously start learning computer science. Nobody questions why we are teaching math or science, but what they do question is whether they should teach computer science. They are not even asking whether they should also teach computer science.”

Code.org founder and CEO Hadi Partovi teaching students. 
Source: Code.org

However, some of Silicon Valley’s most prominent leaders did not need much persuasion- so far, Code.org has been backed by Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Infosys Foundation USA, and many others. Furthermore, Partovi recently helped Pope Francis to write a line of code for an app, during an event organized by the Scholas Occurrentes foundation in Vatican City. “Computer science belongs in primary and secondary schools as a fundamental thing, not just for the students who want to become coders, but for those who want to become lawyers, nurses, farmers, because understanding technology is going to be important,” Partovi concludes. “It’s because building the creativity that computer science teaches will be important, and learning the digital skills that will be required in every career will be important. The biggest obstacle for us is this education administrative mindset. Individual teachers and parents recognize this, but nobody thinks that this should be a part of schools. They want their own child to learn to code, and they don’t think about why schools are not teaching it.”

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UAE plans $163 billion spend on sustainable energy

UAE plans $163 billion spend on sustainable energy

The UAE will invest Dh600 billion ($163 billion) until 2050 to meet the growing energy demand and ensure the sustainable growth of the economy, said the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (Dewa) in a new report.

The UAE has taken early steps to bid farewell to the last barrel of oil, and achieve a balance between development and maintaining a clean, healthy, and safe environment. The UAE Energy Strategy 2050 aims to achieve an energy mix that combines renewable and clean energy sources to balance economic requirements and environmental goals.

The Dubai Clean Energy Strategy 2050

Dubai has become an international pioneer in developing the clean and renewable energy sector. It has developed a number of techniques and practices to enhance the efficiency of the energy sector while rationalising consumption and finding alternative solutions to conventional energy. This supports the sustainable development of the Emirate.

The Dubai Clean Energy Strategy 2050, which was launched by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, aims to provide seven per cent of Dubai’s total power output from clean energy by 2020. This target will increase to 25 per cent by 2030 and 75 per cent by 2050. Dubai is the only city in the region to have launched such a promising strategy, with set goals and timelines that map the future of energy until 2050.
The strategy consists of five main pillars: infrastructure, legislation, funding, building capacities and skills, and having an environment-friendly energy mix. The infrastructure pillar includes initiatives such as the Mohammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park, which is the largest single-site solar energy project in the world, with a planned total production capacity of 5,000 megawatts (MW) by 2030, and a total investment of Dh50 billion.

Dubai to be the city with the lowest carbon footprint in the world by 2050

“We are working to achieve the ambitious vision of our wise leadership within the framework of federal and local strategies, including the UAE Vision 2021, the UAE Centennial 2071, and Dubai Plan 2021. Our strategies and business plans are inspired by the vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Rule of Dubai, for the Emirate to be the city with the lowest carbon footprint in the world by 2050,”said Saeed Mohammed Al Tayer MD & CEO of Dewa.

The Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park is one of the key projects to achieve this vision. Since its launch, the solar park’s projects see considerable interest from international developers, reflecting the confidence of international investors in the projects that are supported by Dubai Government,” he added.
“We are proud that the solar park, which bears the name of an exceptional personality who is leading the sustainable development of Dubai, was recognised as one of the UAE Pioneers, an achievement that the late Sheikh Zayed bin Zayed Al Nahyan would have been proud of.
“Naming the solar park as one of the UAE pioneers drives us to continue our efforts to achieve the vision and directives of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, which guides us in all our projects and initiatives and achieve the objectives of the Dubai Clean Energy Strategy 2050, which aims to produce 75 per cent of Dubai’s total power output from clean energy by 2050,” Al Tayer concluded.

TradeArabia News Service

More Middle East billionaires during 2018-2023

More Middle East billionaires during 2018-2023

11 per cent growth will be seen in Middle East billionaires during 2018-2023.

Why the number of millionaires is set to rise in UAE

By Waheed Abbas / Dubai

March 7, 2019

The number of millionaires in Dubai and Abu Dhabi will increase from 440 last year to 511 in 2023 and from 192 to 223, respectively.

The number of millionaires in the UAE increased last year and this trend will continue over the next five years as growing investment opportunities will generate more millionaires locally as well as political and economic stability will also woo rich individuals and families from foreign countries, say researchers and analysts.

According to the latest report released by global consultancy Knight Frank, the number of millionaires, or high net worth individuals, in the UAE expanded 3 per cent to 53,798 last year from 52,344 in the previous year. The numbers are projected to grow 14 per cent to 61,292 by 2023. Similarly, the number of ultra-high net worth individuals (UHNWIs) – who own more than $30-million wealth – in the UAE grew from 672 in 2017 to 693 last year and will reach 799 by 2023.

The study predicted that the number of UHNWIs in Dubai and Abu Dhabi will increase from 440 last year to 511 in 2023 and from 192 to 223, respectively.

Issam Kassabieh, senior financial analyst at Menacorp, believes that the ultra-rich will continue to flock to the UAE in coming years.

“At the moment, Dubai is attractive for foreigners. Now, it is a place not just for good investments returns but also to stay for long term. Government is focusing on key sector so that the cash comes in and stays in the country through different measures such as longer visas and ease of doing business initiatives,” Kassabieh said.

“The UAE is an attractive place for foreign investors – financial markets are at an early stage and have a long way to go. Real estate was the first to anchor the economy and that brought foreign investors here. Going forward, the focus will be on more diverse sectors. Also, the ease of doing business chart shows the UAE is first in the region and also competitive globally,” he added.

“Dubai offers a full package – good quality of life, healthcare, education and investment opportunities. All these complement each other and attracts high net worth individuals to this country. In addition to that, diversity of population plays a big role in this,” said Kassabieh.

Knight Frank data revealed that Dubai and Abu Dhabi will witness higher growth in UNHWIs as compared to Manama and Riyadh.

Raju Menon, chairman and managing partner, Kreston Menon, said the number of millionaires will undoubtedly continue growing in the UAE in coming years.

“Whatever the business challenges or revenue decline the companies are facing today, it is temporary. We need to look at long-term of 5 to 10 years. Millionaires should grow here in the UAE because money is available here so the investment avenues will be opened. The UAE’s economy offer big opportunities,” he said.

Menon believes that most of the new millionaires will be homegrown mainly in retail, trading, healthcare, real estate, services and shipping sectors. 

Iyad Abu Hweij, Managing Director of Allied Investment Partners, said the UAE, home to over 9.4 million residents, remains an attractive destination for HNWIs in the region.

With investor and business friendly policies, world class infrastructure and a stable outlook, HNWIs are expected to continue to grow in numbers in the country over the next coming years. Such policies and initiatives have played an important role in bolstering the confidence of investors and attracting Foreign Direct Investments in the UAE, which in turn creates jobs for a highly talented workforce,”  Abu Hweij said

Additionally, the UAE, viewed as a regional startup hub and a digital leader, continues to boast more startups than any other country in the region. Naturally, such startups attract more venture capital and private equity investments locally than anywhere else regionally, he added.

“The UAE continues to provide solid investment opportunities for investors locally and globally, which, along with a rapidly developing financial services sector, has played a catalyst like role for the growth of HNWIs in the country.”

Regional performance

The number of millionaires in the Middle East with wealth below $30 million grew three per cent from 446,384 in 2017 to 459,937 last year. The number is projected to grow 18 per cent to 541,311 by 2023. Similarly, the ultra-high net worth individuals with more than $30m assets grew four per cent year-on-year to 8,301 last year. It’s estimated that the number will grow 20 per cent over the next five years to 9,997.

According to Knight Frank forecast, the number of billionaires in the region will grow from 89 last year to 99 by 2023.

Globally, the number of millionaires with less than $30 million assets are projected to expand from 19.6 million in 2018 to 23.4 million by 2023, an increase of 19 per cent. While ultra rich will increase 22 per cent during 2018 to 2023 from 198,342 to 241,053.

waheedabbas@khaleejtimes.com

The UAE and Hydrogen its power revolution

The UAE and Hydrogen its power revolution

Industrialists the world over say the gas can become a crucial part of the global energy mix – and faster than many people might imagine

UAE in prime position as hydrogen power revolution accelerates

By Satish Kumar / The National.

Updated: February 28, 2019.

Toyota’s hydrogen fuel cell car the Mirai. Such vehicles may power a sea-change in the use of the gas.

An energy source that can power everything from mass transport by land, sea and air to heavy industry, that does no harm to the environment and is practically limitless sounds like an ecologist’s Utopian dream.

But it’s no dream – and the revolution is already underway. Its name? Hydrogen – the most abundant element in the universe.

Industrialists the world over say the gas can become a crucial part of the global energy mix – and faster than many people might imagine. “I think the real test is when will the man in the street starts to recognise that hydrogen is part of the energy mix,” Ronnie Chalmers, vice president of the French industrial gases’ supplier Air Liquide’s Africa, Middle East and India hub, tells The National. “I think that will come before 2030, at different places and different times around the world.”

Ronnie Chalmers. Chris Whiteoak/The National

The Hydrogen Council says that by 2030 the gas will be a significant energy player with millions of hydrogen-powered vehicles on the road. Launched at the World Economic Forum 2017, in Davos, Hydrogen Council founders include Air Liquide, Toyota, BMW, Alstom and Airbus, among other big names.

The council believes the hydrogen sector will carry similar financial weight to the hydrocarbons industry with revenues worth some $2.5 trillion annually by 2050 and jobs for more than 30 million people globally. By comparison, the oil and gas market had total revenues of $1.97tn worldwide in 2017, according to BusinessWire’s Global Oil & Gas Industry Guide 2013-2017.

The council’s view may be a little optimistic, Robin Mills, the chief executive of the consultancy Qamar Energy, and author of The Myth of the Oil Crisis, tells The National. “Oil today is a $2.2tn business, gas say $0.5tn, coal $0.8tn,” he says. “So $2.5tn for hydrogen looks like a stretch. But it could certainly be a very major business.”

The mass implementation of hydrogen as a transport power source is already taking place. Hydrogen fuel cells power electric forklift trucks around the world and helps businesses such as Amazon, Ikea and others increase their production hours and reduce operating costs. The fuel cells do not need recharging like traditional battery-powered forklifts – hydrogen powered forklifts can be fully fuelled in under five minutes.

Hydrogen has been used in industry for decades such as in refining, treating metals and food processing but it is the acceleration of renewable energy that has spurred the multinationals’ interest – and Air Liquide sees the UAE as an ideal destination to further the hydrogen cause.

As a pioneer in renewable energy, particularly solar, the Emirates is committed to developing its green energy economy and, in part, this is why Air Liquide recently undertook a study in collaboration with Al Futtaim Toyota – which distributes Toyota’s hydrogen-powered Mirai vehicle in the UAE – and Khalifa University to look at strategies to grow the hydrogen industry here.

This month, the first solar-driven hydrogen electrolysis facility in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region was inaugurated in Dubai.

Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, chairman of the Dubai Supreme Council of Energy and chairman of the Expo 2020 Dubai Higher Committee, broke ground on the project, a collaboration between Dubai Electricity and Water Authority, Expo 2020 Dubai and Siemens. It will be built at Dewa’s outdoor testing facilities in the Research and Development Centre at the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park in Dubai, state media agency WAM reported.

Mr Chalmers adds that the UAE has all the right ambitions regarding decarbonisation in the economy and “it was easy for us to say to Al Futtaim, ‘You have the same problem as us, you have the product, you need somebody to build fuel stations, we need somebody to market the cars'”.

A Toyota Mirai hydrogen-powered car. Reuters

Speaking at a press event in December to showcase hydrogen mass transport potential, Saud Abbasi, managing director of Al Futtaim Toyota, said: “In our next chapter, and in line with the UAE Vision 2021, we believe that Mirai [hydrogen fuel cell-electric vehicle] and any other FCEV in the future, once adopted on a large national scale, can actively help the UAE in its march towards serious climate action thanks to the many practical benefits it presents such as zero pollutants, zero behavioural change, long mileage and minimal hydrogen filling time of three to five minutes.”

So far, Al Futtaim in partnership with Air Liquide has opened a hydrogen station, the first in the Middle East, at Al Badia, Dubai Festival City. A second station is set to start construction this year in Masdar City, in collaboration with Adnoc, Masdar and Al Futtaim.

Hydrogen refilling station in Al Badia. Reem Mohammed/The National

Air Liquide is also pushing the use of renewables as a source of hydrogen.

“The ultimate goal is to have 100 per cent green hydrogen – the definition of green hydrogen is that it comes from green energy. This could be solar, wind, biogas,” says Olivier Boucat, head of Air Liquide’s H2 Mobility unit.

Olivier Boucat. Chris Whiteoak/The National

The company admits it is not at that stage yet. Today, Air Liquide uses a mix of green and “brown” hydrogen – where methane sourced from coal or natural gas is processed to release hydrogen – producing a lot of CO2 as a byproduct.

But it aims to rapidly ramp up its share of green hydrogen produced by using water electrolysis and renewable sources of electricity, such as solar in the UAE, which does not emit CO2. In January, Air Liquide announced it had acquired an 18.6 per cent stake in Canadian company Hydrogenics Corporation for $20 million, which makes electrolysis hydrogen production equipment and fuel cells.

Electrolysis works by passing electricity through water which splits it into hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen is collected, transported and stored either in gas form or as a liquid super-chilled to minus 253°C – which, incidentally, is the form in which it is used to power space rockets. The oxygen can be used in other industrial processes.

Toyota’s Mirai has an electric motor over the front wheels, fuel cell under the front seats and a high pressure hydrogen tank beneath the rears. Courtesy Toyota

To power a car, for example, the hydrogen runs from the fuel tank into a fuel cell, where it re-combines with oxygen from the air, producing energy as electricity, rather than explosive energy as in an internal combustion engine. The resulting electricity is released in a controlled manner to power the engine, the same kind of engine an electric battery car uses.

But there is another significant difference between an electric battery vehicle and an FCEV.

“The heavier the car is the more energy it consumes,” says Pascal Schvester, Air Liquide’s director of the Middle East and India Industrial Merchant unit. A high-end electric vehicle (EV) today needs about 700kg of battery, which is maybe a third of the weight of the vehicle, he says. “That is something you do not have with a hydrogen fuel cell car – in which you have, say, 6kg of hydrogen.”

Pascal Schvester. Chris Whiteoak/The National

Currently, however, green hydrogen is prohibitively expensive to produce. But as countries move away from hydrocarbons as a fuel, economies of scale will bring the price down. “At the moment it’s better to have a large facility and then transport the hydrogen as a gas but when the volumes get big enough it will be better to transport as a liquid,” says Mr Boucat.

“This is happening already in California; we are just commissioning the first liquid hydrogen plant to provide liquid hydrogen to a station.”

With construction to start later this year, at a cost to build of around $150m, the plant will have the capacity to generate nearly 30 tonnes of hydrogen per day – enough to fuel 35,000 hydrogen-powered vehicles. The facility is designed to accelerate the deployment of new hydrogen FCEVs – cars and fleet vehicles such as taxis, trucks and buses and trams, as is happening in Europe.

However, hydrogen’s cost as a fuel is unlikely to reach commercial parity with petrol, diesel or electric battery power, although price is not likely to be the determining factor for its uptake, according to Mr Mills. “I think hydrogen will always be more expensive than petrol or diesel, but the reasons for its adoption would be that it’s zero-carbon, clean at the point of use, and (potentially) indefinitely renewable. The question is whether it can compete cost-wise with electric vehicles which are improving rapidly.

“Hydrogen’s at quite an immature stage, so this really depends on how much support it gets to build scale and bring down costs.”

Mr Mills says that the large-scale vehicle sector is most suited to hydrogen as a transport fuel. “Probably it will have to find its role in long-distance, heavy-duty transport like trucks, rail, shipping and perhaps aviation,” he says.

However, the more down-to-earth fleet vehicle sector is Air Liquide’s main focus in the UAE. “We’re not targeting the super cars like Jeremy Clarkson might drive on Top Gear,”says Mr Boucat, but he says “the aeroplane would be the last goal for us”.

Air Liquide’s Mr Schvester also points out that regarding fleets “you don’t need to have a massive network of hydrogen filling stations because in this case you are dealing with vehicles that are commuting from one place to the other on a fixed basis” so fuelling stations can be centralised.

Globally, Japan is generally seen as the leader so far in hydrogen take-up. The country’s Basic Hydrogen Strategy, released in December, 2017, reiterated its commitment to pioneer the world’s first “Hydrogen Society”. The strategy primarily aims to achieve cost parity of hydrogen with competing fuels, such as petrol in transport and Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) in power generation.

“By 2030 Japan will start to import hydrogen in liquid form to produce energy for various applications in the country,” says Mr Boucat. “When we reach that point we are at a very large scale.”

Last month, South Korea announced a major investment plan to go the same way. By 2040, the country aims to increase the cumulative total of fuel cell vehicles to 6.2 million, raise the number of hydrogen refuelling stations to 1,200 (from just 14 today) and also boost the supply of power-generating fuel cells.

Through these measures, the government hopes to create 420,000 jobs and $38.35 billion in value added to the economy each year by 2040.

China now invests about 100bn yuan a year (Dh54.09bn) in hydrogen energy, according to Professor Zong Qiang Mao of Tsinghua University’s Institute of Nuclear and New Energy Technology, who adds that the country has the capacity to produce about 170,000 FCEVs per year. It’s likely to become a huge market. “I predict that in about 10 years we will also be the largest market in the world for hydrogen energy,” Mr Zong told cH2ange, an organisation dedicated to promoting the hydrogen economy and which is supported by Air Liquide.

Germany in September opened its 50th hydrogen filling station. With the ramp-up of the number of fuel cell vehicles, another 300 hydrogen refuelling stations are planned over the next two or three years.

In Paris, the Societe du Taxi Electrique Parisien has a total of 100 hydrogen-powered vehicles in its fleet, and is aiming to have 600 such vehicles by 2020. In the UK, meanwhile, the government announced last year police cars and taxis will be among nearly 200 new hydrogen powered vehicles as part of a project that has won £8.8m (Dh42.4m) in funding from the Department for Transport to increase the number of hydrogen cars on the roads.

Air Liquide believes such developments are just the start.

“I think within a few years we’ll see more [hydrogen-powered] trains, taxis, buses and trucks and the man in the street will think, ‘ah yes, it’s just another hydrogen vehicle,'” says Mr Chalmers.

“We got used to LNG trucks, we’re getting used to EVs and next will be hydrogen.”

UAE tops MENA for wage equality, but . . .

UAE tops MENA for wage equality, but . . .

GULF BUSINESS Economy posted this enlightening article by Aarti Nagraj on how It will take the MENA economies “153 years to close the gender gap at the current rate of change”

UAE tops MENA for wage equality, Arab region remains world’s least gender-equal

The UAE has been ranked as the top country in the Middle East and North Africa for wage equality, according to a new report released by the World Economic Forum (WEF).

However, the UAE’s performance on the WEF’s Global Gender Gap Report 2018’s wage equality indicator saw a slight decrease compared to last year, a statement said.

The Emirates also topped the region in terms of the number of women in ministerial positions, with improvements recorded in gender parity in the legislators, senior officials and managers and healthy life expectancy indicators.

Overall, the report found that despite the gender gap across the MENA region closing narrowly in 2018, it remains the world’s least gender-equal region.

It will take the Middle East and North Africa economies “153 years to close the gender gap at the current rate of change”, the report stated.

While Tunisia topped the region for gender equality – ranking 119 globally, the UAE ranked 121 with the gender gap closed at 64.2 per cent. Saudi Arabia, ranked 141 with a 59 per cent gender gap rate, showed “modest progress”, with improvement in wage equality and women’s labour force participation, the report stated.

Globally, the report found that the global gender gap only slightly reduced in 2018, as stagnation in the proportion of women in the workplace and women’s declining representation in politics, along with greater inequality in access to health and education, offset improvements in wage equality and the number of women in professional positions.

According to the report, the world has closed 68 per cent of its gender gap, as measured across four key pillars: economic opportunity; political empowerment; educational attainment; and health and survival.

Last year was the first since the report began publishing in 2006 that the gap between men and women widened.

At the current rate of change, the report indicated that it will take 108 years to close the overall gender gap and 202 years to bring about parity in the workplace.

Globally, having closed more than 85.8 per cent of its overall gender gap, Iceland topped the list for the 10th consecutive year. It was followed by Norway, Sweden, Finland and Nicaragua.

“The economies that will succeed in the Fourth Industrial Revolution will be those that are best able to harness all their available talent,” said Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the WEF.

“Proactive measures that support gender parity and social inclusion and address historical imbalances are therefore essential for the health of the global economy as well as for the good of society as a whole.”

The report also found that while the income gap between men and women has become narrower, fewer women are participating in the workforce.

“This a worrisome development for which there are a number of potential reasons,” the report said.

“One is that automation is having a disproportionate impact on roles traditionally performed by women. At the same time, women are under-represented in growing areas of employment that require STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) skills and knowledge. Another potential reason is that the infrastructure needed to help women enter or re-enter the workforce – such as childcare and eldercare – is under-developed and unpaid work remains primarily the responsibility of women,” the report explained.

“The corollary is that the substantial investments made by many economies to close the education gap are failing to generate optimal returns in the form of growth.”

According to Saadia Zahidi, head of the Centre for the New Economy and Society and member of the WEF managing board, industries must “proactively hardwire gender parity in the future of work through effective training, reskilling and upskilling interventions and tangible job transition pathways”.

“It’s in their long-term interest because diverse businesses perform better,” she added. e-height:norm