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IT opportunities in UAE to leap 80% thanks to AI uptake

  • Middle East antidote to global layoffs
  • Companies relocate to Abu Dhabi
  • Specialists in AI most in demand

Job opportunities in the UAE’s information technology sector will rise 80 percent as IT leaders plan to augment their teams in the next 12 months, according to a survey. 

The driving force behind this surge in demand for IT professionals is the advance of technology such as artificial intelligence (AI), generative AI and machine learning, according to the Equinix 2023 Global Tech Trends report.

Conversely, there is a shift away from two other focus areas – hardware engineering and data analysis.

“AI is being used across diverse business functions in the UAE from IT operations to cybersecurity and sales,” Kamel Al-Tawil, managing director of Equinix Mena, said in a statement.

“With this uptake, there is a significant shift in the landscape of IT and operations, which has elevated its position from a mere backend operation to a pivotal driver of business success.”

However, the Middle East has not been immune to tech layoffs, particularly during periods of economic uncertainty. 

Companies such as Majid Al Futtaim, a retail and real estate conglomerate, and Noon, an e-commerce platform, made workforce reductions in March and April this year.

Nor is industry turbulence exclusive to the Middle East. US-based employers announced job cuts of more than 47,000 in September, a decrease from 75,000 in August, according to Challenger, Gray & Christmas, an outplacement company.

Tech giants such as Google, Meta, Spotify, Apple and Amazon have also laid off highly skilled workers.

Opportunities in the Middle East

Tech professionals are now increasingly turning to the Middle East as a hub for career growth, given its favourable geographic position, buoyant hydrocarbon earnings and rapid recovery from the Covid pandemic. 

A report by Cooper Fitch, a recruitment specialist, said the GCC was projected to see a surge in new job openings in the last quarter of this year, as companies gear up for 2024. 

The region witnessed 5 percent job creation in the third quarter, up from 3 percent in the April to June period, Cooper Fitch said in its Gulf Employment Index report.

Alex Koumi, managing director of the recruitment agency Kingston Stanley, told AGBI that the technology job market in the region “displays a fluctuating nature, marked by periods of inconsistency”.

“Some businesses experience rapid expansion, but overall the technology job market appears more balanced, showing a mixture of growth and retrenchment,” Koumi said.

The UAE and Saudi Arabia in particular are seeking to attract entrepreneurs and tech talent from around the world.

The two states have created free zones and special economic zones which offer reduced bureaucracy and incentives to foreign investors.

The Abu Dhabi-based Hub71’s Impact Report found that the startup ecosystem doubled to more than 200 in 2022 as 51 early-stage companies relocated to the UAE capital.

These startups raised almost AED4 billion ($1 billion) collectively by the end of 2022 in venture capital and have created more than 900 jobs, the report said.

In Saudi Arabia employment opportunities continue to grow, thanks to projects such as Vision 2030, Neom and The Red Sea.

The kingdom’s information and communication technology strategy for 2023 foresees the creation of more than 25,000 jobs in the sector.

The strategy aims to increase the size of the IT industry and emerging technologies by 50 percent and elevate the sector’s contribution to overall GDP by $13.3 billion, a report by the Prague-based network solution provider Qrator Labs said.

Qrator Labs also said that jobs in cybersecurity and IT in the kingdom have grown strongly over the past five years. 

A report by the social network platform LinkedIn said that specialists in software development, artificial intelligence, data science and cybersecurity are most in demand.

“The shift towards digital transformation is not only reshaping the way we live and work but also influencing the dynamics of hiring and restructuring, driving a need for adaptability and agility in the modern job market,” Koumi said.

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