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Oil-rich Abu Dhabi wants to be an AI leader. Aligning with the US is just the start

CNN  —  The world’s first minister dedicated to developing artificial intelligence (AI) strategy is already becoming embroiled in a global power struggle for tech supremacy. In April, Microsoft (MSFT) announced a $1.5 billion investment in G42, an AI group based in Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and chaired by an influential member of the ruling royal family. The deal, which analysts say was motivated by the Biden administration’s desire to limit Beijing’s influence in the region as the US battles to maintain its lead over China in the AI race, firmly pulled the firm into the orbit of the United States. “I think the UAE and the US really see eye to eye with regards to how these technologies are pushed forward,” UAE AI Minister Omar Al Olama, who was appointed in 2017, told CNN in a recent video interview. “I think we’re going to see more alignment there.” G42, a holding firm, is comprised of seven companies that work across data centers, energy, healthcare, surveillance and biotechnology. Its controlling shareholder is Tahnoun bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who also serves as the UAE national security adviser. The UAE is one of the world’s largest producers of fossil fuels, and Abu Dhabi sees its AI push as crucial for diversifying away from oil. AI could contribute $96 billion to the UAE economy by 2030, equivalent to nearly 14% of its gross domestic product, according to a report by PwC Middle East. “We want to ensure that we are at the frontier of the technology, and that’s why we work with partners around the frontier,” said Olama, “and play by the rules that are set by the market leaders.” Olama, whose ministerial remit includes digital economy and remote work applications, wants to make the UAE a global leader in artificial intelligence by 2031.