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With one of the highest per capita incomes in the Middle East, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a focal point for investors in this region. The UAE is traditionally associated with oil and natural resources. However, this is certainly not the only industry with business opportunities. The governing bodies within the emirates that make up the UAE are proactive in developing incentive schemes and building infrastructure to make the region competitive with business hubs around the world.
Free Zones are one such program to provide infrastructure and incentives to a variety of industries and investors. A variety of free zones have been developed within the UAE. These include Dubai Airport Free Zone, Hamriyah Free Zone, Dubai Internet City, Jebel Ali Free Zone and many more. Some of the appealing benefits for incorporating in the UAE include the option of 100% foreign ownership, extensive infrastructure, a wide range of facilities (warehouses, offices, industrial parks) amongst other things. The UAE has made a strong, combined effort to diversify their economy, slowly shifting the dependence on their oil reserves. They have achieved success in their tourism industry, spurred by the lavish and luxurious lifestyle images of Dubai. The other sector lobbying for development is the service industry. Their main attraction – the free zones; these Free Zones are all encompassing business models providing readily available access to the technology and infrastructure a modern day business requires to be competitive.
Some examples of the free zones available are outlined below.
Jebel Ali Free Zone, the first free zone in the UAE, was established in 1985 to coincide with the Jebel Ali Port, the world’s largest man-made harbour. It is strategically located between the two cargo transport hubs, the Jebel Ali Port, and the Jebel Ali Airport, both boasting large capacity for freight transfer. Since its humble beginnings the flagship free zone has matured to a fully-fledged micro-economy, boasting 6000 companies, 150 of which can be found in the Fortune Global 500.
The Dubai Airport Free Zone is another popular choice for international branch offices, or entrepreneurs. Still relatively new, it was built with the most cutting-edge technology and infrastructure, such as optical Fiber Optic networking. It also boasts access to a large number of consumers, most of which are highly affluent individuals; predictions forecast 60 million commuters through Dubai International Airport in 2010.
Both of these zones offer a wide variety of facilities; high-class offices, storage and warehouses with the potential to be adapted into an assembly factory. They also offer entrepreneurs assistance with their business models, finding potential business partners within the free zone, and are available for consultation.
Hamriyah Free Zone is located on the west coast of Sharjah. Because of its deepwater port and import/export-orientated infrastructure, a Hamriyah Free Zone entity is suitable for international trading activities. Low annual license fees make it particularly attractive to manufacturing companies. For small to medium enterprise, there is a specific ‘Hamriyah SME Zone’ consisting of seven strategic clusters to promote the development of SME’s. Programs include the E-office package that provides SME’s with individually tailored assistance to operate a business successfully.
The Dubai Internet City (DIC) provides an open knowledge economy ecosystem, setup with the infrastructure to support business development for ventures in the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) field. It has reach to the large emerging markets of the developing world, including the Middle East, India and Africa – covering 2 billion people. The big players in the ICT world have already established operations at DIC, including Microsoft, IBM and DELL.
All of these zones offer tax exemption for entrepreneurs who wish to undertake company incorporation.
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