Dubai vs Shanghai – the race to metaverse economy dominance

Dubai’s new metaverse strategy to attract 1,000 firms comes hot on the heels of Shanghai’s own ambitious metaverse plans – but which city will prevail?

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that Dubai does everything bigger, bolder, faster, taller, and stronger, sometimes even first – from building the world’s tallest building (Burj Khalifa) to creating the world’s first incubator for sustainable cities.

And this week, the UAE emirate lived up to its big, bold, and ambitious reputation with the unveiling of a Metaverse Strategy, as it looks to become one of the world’s top 10 metaverse economies.

This ambition to become a world-leading metaverse hub comes hot on the heels of a similar one unveiled by Shanghai just two weeks ago, in which the populous Chinese city laid out its own metaverse plans – to become ‘the’ global leader in metaverse technology and build a metaverse economy worth US$52bn by the end of 2025.

And while Dubai’s new Metaverse Strategy isn’t counting on adding quite so many billions to its economy, given the city’s much smaller size, it is certainly punching above its weight – with plans to create a metaverse economy worth US$4bn in five years and become a leading global metaverse hub.

So, what do these city strategies involve, and how likely are they to deliver?

Dubai’s Metaverse Strategy to attract 1,000 new firms and create 40,000 virtual jobs

The Dubai Metaverse Strategy, the launch of which was announced in a Tweet by the emirate’s Crown Prince HH Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, aims to attract more than 1,000 blockchain, crypto and metaverse companies to the city and support more than 40,000 virtual jobs by 2030.

Roles could be as diverse as digital architects, AR and VR engineers, 3D graphic designers, artists and architects, innovators, NFT experts, storytellers, and digital salespeople.

“We launched the Dubai Metaverse Strategy today, which aims to foster innovation in new technology,” he tweeted. “Dubai is home to 1,000 companies operating in the metaverse and blockchain sector, which contributes US$500m to our national economy.”

This strategy would further boost Dubai’s economy and support the UAE government’s vision of increasing the number of blockchain companies by five times the present number, a government statement read.

In March 2022, Dubai introduced its first virtual asset regulations, joining a list of regions such as Singapore, the US, the UK, and El Salvador, where regulations on cryptocurrencies have been rolled out.

And earlier this year, the Dubai government established a task force to monitor the latest developments in the digital economy as it seeks to capitalise on opportunities in the metaverse.

This metaverse strategy launch comes just months after the UAE Cabinet approved a new Digital Economy Strategy that seeks to double the contribution of the sector to GDP to 19.4% over the next 10 years.

The plan of the UAE, whose two main emirates include Dubai and Abu Dhabi, is in enhancing its regional and global position as a hub for the digital economy. This includes more than 30 initiatives and programs.

Shanghai plans to create 100-plus companies as part of US$52bn metaverse industry

Exactly 10 days prior to Dubai’s metaverse strategy unveiling, the Shanghai city government released a policy paper outlining its plans to become ‘the’ global leader in metaverse technology, with a view to growing a US$52bn industry by 2025.

The aim of the city, which is China’s most populated, is to create more than 100 companies that specialise in core metaverse technologies as well as 10 ‘chain-owner’ enterprises that will compete on a global scale.

This announcement follows a draft of Shanghai’s metaverse development plan unveiled in December, where it set out a five-year goal to increase research of underlying technologies including sensors and the use of blockchain.

But while its plans sound impressive, the Chinese city may struggle to pull them off, because unlike Dubai – which has rolled out regulations on cryptocurrency – China is not yet embracing the crypto economy, with the People’s Bank of China enacting a large-scale cryptocurrency ban in June last year.

That could all change, though, given the high interest in the metaverse in China and in Asia generally. According to Statista, there is a greater interest in the metaverse in China, Singapore and Hong Kong than in Europe and the US.

Who will emerge the metaverse city champion? Watch this metaverse space…


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