How has the development of Free Zones and Special Economic Zones influenced economic development in the United Arab Emirates?

AL AWADHI: The development of the free zones has played a very important and major role in the country’s economy. Very simply, there are a few factors that free zone companies have contributed. One is infrastructure such as ports and airports, thus increasing movements of cargo. Free zones have also increased the amount of manpower, increased the value of imports and exports, and the movement of the banks. The show of stability itself of doing business in the UAE was another message to the world. Having different types of activities in this country helped to develop many other sectors as well. The concept of doing business itself has been encouraged by free zones. The type of investment has been expanded. We have been able to attract foreign investment. These businesses have been able to expand from one to one business into many different fields. So there was definitely a very strong contribution from free zones.

I think more than half a million people are working in the free zones in the UAE and there are more than 50,000 or 60,000 enterprises of different sizes operating across the UAE’s free zones. This has a lot of positive and very strong effect on business and the economy itself. When we look at the numbers and the variety of activities and investments that have been introduced to the UAE’s free zones, it is very clear and obvious that investment in free zones and free zone development has a major and very important role in the Emirates’ economy. This has opened many channels and introduced a great deal of ideas. Most importantly, this has opened the UAE to the world in another aspect or another platform. We have built a foundation of confidence, trust and reliability. This in itself has enhanced non free zone related activity. One way or another, the free zones have definitely contributed to the UAE. For example, the half a million people that work in the free zones represent a significant amount of buying power. From all aspects, any type of investments in the free zone will always yield positive results. When we talk about numbers crossing hundreds of thousands, then it is definitely going to be a major factor.

How has the development of Free Zones impacted the economy of Fujairah specifically?

AL AWADHI: I think the same factors, the same affects, and the same results can be seen in Fujairah. The emirate of Fujairah, with its size, accommodates over 2,000 different companies and maybe 20% to 30% of this total is involved in processing, manufacturing, and service industries. It has definitely moved Fujairah to the international stage with business and trial, balances of business, and import and export. The activity through the port of Fujairah and neighboring ports has been increased. So the results are the same. In Fujairah itself, we would like to see even more growth and contribution from the free zone. In other emirates in general, there are many other major established sectors. For example, in some of the emirates, there is a very strong aviation sector, marine activities, and trading activities. So in these places the free zones are considered 1 of 5 activities or 1 of 10 activities. In Fujairah, the free zone is one of a very few activities. So we are proud and confident that the free zone in Fujairah has played a very major role in the economy of the emirate.

What are the best investment opportunities in Fujairah today?

AL AWADHI: In investment opportunities, I think it is very important to look at the best location, whether it is in Fujairah, any of the other parts of the emirates, or any other parts of the world. You need certain guidelines and certain infrastructure. Overall, Fujairah has the grounds for any type of activities. To achieve better results and better contribution to the local economy it is very important to select companies willing to establish a base in Fujairah. One of the major issues and problems in business and investment in many countries is the lack of branding. In developing any type of business in this region, it is very important to brand yourself. In Fujairah, we think there are great opportunities, especially in processing, services, and anything to do with the movement of cargo and materials. These are the best opportunities. We might develop a business that can be utilized in either the West or the East as a base raw material or a consumed product. Similarly, we can have a specific product such as food or medicine. Food and medicine has access to any market and to any consumer. These types of activities are more suited to Fujairah. Lastly, I think it is important to mention that Fujairah is a unique base and a unique location. We are a part of the United Arab Emirates, so we have access to the UAE and we also have access to the international market. That gives a lot of support and influence on the type of activities that can be undertaken. There are also good opportunities in marine activities and petrochemical that have advantages over others.