UAE President Sheikh Khalifa, Who Steered Nation To Economic Prominence, Dies At 73

BY Benzinga | ECONOMIC | 05/13/22 10:11 AM EDT

United Arab Emirates President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al Nahyan, who oversaw the transformation of his country into a global economic power, has died at 73.

Early Life: Khalifa was born on Sept. 7, 1948, in Abu Dhabi, which was one of the seven Persian Gulf sheikhdoms that existed as British protectorates under the banner of the Trucial States. The sheikhdoms would join together as an independent UAE in 1971, with Khalifa's father Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan as the nation's first president.

Khalifa graduated from the U.K.'s Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. Following the UAE's independence, he held several cabinet positions within Abu Dhabi's government and then at a national level, including deputy commander of the UAE Armed Forces, head of the Supreme Petroleum Council and chairman of the Environmental Research and Wildlife Development Agency.

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Leadership Years: Khalifa succeeded his father as president in 2004 and focused on increasing the UAE's visibility as a global hub for commerce, financial services, energy, real estate and tourism. He steered his country through the 2008 worldwide economic crisis and coordinated the UAE's rise as an economic powerhouse within the Middle East -- a feat symbolized in the construction of Dubai's Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building that was named in his honor.

Khalifa suffered a stroke in 2014 and was rarely seen in public after that. While his brother Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed was widely viewed as the nation's de-facto ruler after Khalifa's illness, he nonetheless signed off on significant financial and foreign policy decisions including the 2020 peace treaty with Israel.

No successor has been named; under UAE law, he will be succeeded temporarily by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the emir of Dubai and vice president of the UAE, until the federal council of the seven emirates' rulers meets to elect a new president. The UAE government announced a 40-day mourning period.

Photo: Sheikh Khalifa in a 2003 photograph, courtesy of the U.S. National Archives.

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