Mubadala The Map Maker

Ashby Monk

Given my love of maps – in case you hadn’t noticed, I have PhD in economic geography – how can I do anything but congratulate Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala for its new foray into mapmaking. Apparently, the Abu Dhabi development company will absorb the Military Survey Department and then relaunch it as a commercial geospatial data company called Bayanat. Here is Mubadala’s Chief Operating Officer Waleed Al Mokarrab Al Muhairi explaining the deal:

“Against a backdrop of rapid development in the UAE, Bayanat’s comprehensive offering will enable businesses to take advantage of the latest customized geospatial data to facilitate strategic planning; day to day business activities; and the development of new and innovative services across a range of industry sectors.”

According to GulfNews, the new entity will continue to service the UAE Military – its largest client – while expanding commercial operations. It is hoped that this move will facilitate map-making efficiency and professionalism, which will in turn provide the UAE military with better maps than it’s getting now. Here’s how a Bayanat spokesperson explained things:

“We also believe that by launching Bayanat as a commercial company we will improve service levels, efficiency and delivery for the UAE Armed Forces, which remains our most important client.”

The decision to locate Bayanat within Mubadala sort of reminds me of Beijing’s decision to locate Central Huijin within the China Investment Corporation. In both cases, there was an expectation that the commercially-oriented investor (Mubadala and CIC) would impose efficiency and professionalism on the state-owned operations (Bayanat and Huijin). I don’t know whether that’s a realistic expectation, but it is interesting to see these governments using their sovereign funds to infuse commercial norms and practices into bureaucratic entities.

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This website is a project of Professor Gordon L. Clark and Dr. Ashby Monk of the School of Geography and the Environment at the University of Oxford. Their research on sovereign wealth funds is funded by the Leverhulme Trust and The Rotman International Centre for Pension Management.

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