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Cisco announces $1.58bn UAE ICT investment

Cisco announces AED 5.8 billion, five year expansion plan focused on increasing presence and building skills base in the UAE

Cisco has announced an AED 5.8 billion ($1.58 billion) ICT investment plan for the UAE.

The five-year plan, includes expanded head count, new offices, local training centres and sponsorship of Dubai School of Government research.

The plan was announced today as part of a regional visit by Cisco's CEO and chairman, John Chambers. It follows on from a similar announcement made in April 2006, when Cisco pledged an investment of SR 1 billion ($265m) in the Saudi Arabian ICT sector.

As part of the investment, Cisco says it will expand its headcount by 650 to around 1,000 in the UAE by the end of 2010.The additional staff will fill a wide range of roles, according to Sam Al Kharrat, managing director of Cisco Gulf and Pakistan.

"There is a lot of headroom for growth, we are not bringing in sales people anymore, we will be bringing all lines of business here - R&D, engineering, leadership, Cisco Capital - we are not just driving our business in the region; but driving our presence in the region," he said.

The company is already set to open a new regional headquarters at Dubai's Knowledge Village in April of this year, and says it will also open an Abu Dhabi office in June. The new headquarters will include a customer briefing centre, which will serve as a global base for Cisco's real estate practice, to provide customer briefings and demonstrations for Cisco solutions for the sector.

The plan also includes an expansion of the Cisco Networking Academies program, which works with academic institutions to give students skills and experience to prepare them for careers in the IT sector. At present the company has 39 academies in the UAE, but the company will look at expanding the program to build new academies with universities, businesses and other parts of the public sector to address a shortfall in networking skills, Al Kharrat said.

"We can't have enough of Networking Academies- there is a huge shortage of network skills worldwide. These academies not just about certification, they are about getting experience with the technology as well, so we making sure that we are breeding the skills we need," he said.

Also included in the investment is up to $400 million in channel and customer financing, through Cisco Systems Capital Corporation. Cisco Capital is already involved in some finance projects in the region through Cisco's London office, but the company now plans to establish a Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) entity, to make Dubai the headquarters for Cisco Capital for the whole MEA region.

Paul Mountford, president, Emerging Markets, Cisco said: "This investment demonstrates our continued, long-term commitment to the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The vision of the country's leadership has allowed it to transition quickly to a ‘connected' world. We look forward to continued collaboration working closely with the government to help support and realize the nation's ambitious development and growth vision."

Cisco's Saudi Arabian investment plan includes increasing headcount in the Kingdom from 70 to 600 employees; the establishment of a technology and entrepreneurship centre and 100 new networking academies to add to the existing 42 academies in the country. The company also said that it would provide equipment and support for a project to provide networking for 2,000 underprivileged homes.

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