What new initiatives and developments are currently underway at ZonesCorp?
AL QEMZI: From its inception in 2004 until today, ZonesCorp has managed to develop around 50 km sq of specialized economic zones tailored for the industrial sector. Today, ZonesCorp is considered to be the largest purposed zone in UAE tailored for the industrial sector and that's something we are very proud of in Abu Dhabi and in the UAE. Our initiative is not going to stop here. We have some more things coming in the pipeline. We are looking forward to the development of further industrial cities in the Western Region. We're talking about 16 km sq of land that will be developed in the near future, tailored to serve the Western Region based on Abu Dhabi Vision 2030. The Western Region is a very important area in Abu Dhabi and the industrial sector will play a bigger role over there
ZonesCorp is not going to stop here. We believe in 2020, ZonesCorp's land will be expanded up 100 km2, in line with the vision of Abu Dhabi 2030, where the industrial sector will play a bigger role and ZonesCorp is a leader in that role, in operating industrial zones. We're going to be reaching that target based on a studied road map we have come out with, the Abu Dhabi industrial strategy vision. The 100 km sq is already in the pipeline. We know exactly what we are planning to do. We have an Auto City development in an area of 6.9 km sq. We also have in the future, in line with the Etihad Railway, the creation of the ZonesCorp Logistics Centre in an area of 8 km sq. We are building the value chain, supporting the industrial sector, and coming in with these initiatives in our zones.
How much does industrial activity and manufacturing contribute to the overall economy of Abu Dhabi? What part of that contribution is associated with the ZonesCorp platform?
AL QEMZI: Overall, in terms of the industrial contribution to GDP in 2008, we talk about 77bn dirhams ($21bn). At that time, Abu Dhabi contributed around 38.9bn dirhams ($10.5bn) to GDP on the industrial side. At ZonesCorp, the number we’ve had in past years relating to the contribution of manufacturing within ZonesCorp, we’re talking about contributing 50% of the GDP of the industrial sector in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. We believe there is growth coming down the road based on the initiatives we have, and based on the sectors we're targeting as a strategy, the industrial strategy. Such growth will be bolstered by the transparency of the strategy and the direction of the government of Abu Dhabi.
How does ZonesCorp fit into the overall industrial infrastructure in Abu Dhabi? In what ways do you work together with the Khalifa Industrial Zone Abu Dhabi (KIZAD), Etihad Rail, and other industrial sector stakeholders?
AL QEMZI: All the entities, ZonesCorp, KIZAD, Etihad Rail, our aim is to serve Abu Dhabi to the best mandate being given to us. There is a very strong level of collaboration between all of us. We talk about the ZonesCorp Logistics Centre in ICAD IV, which will be a main hub for Etihad Rail. We talk about our colleagues in KIZAD; we are working together to diversify the industries between us. There are industrials coming to us, there are some investors coming that are keen to have access to seaport operations. We direct those investors to go toward KIZAD. Likewise in KIZAD, there are investors looking forward to having a closer distance to Abu Dhabi city and other anchor operations within our zones, such as Emirates Steel. They divert such investment or investors toward us. So there is collaboration between us, both of us, and all other stakeholders that are related to the industrial sector. There is harmony; there is integration and a way forward. At the end, it's Abu Dhabi that we are working for.
How successful has ZonesCorp, and Abu Dhabi in general, been at developing clusters and creating downstream activity around anchor industries?
AL QEMZI: The clustering approach that ZonesCorp implemented was based on the environmental impact of that operation. If we talk about a real clustering approach, that would require heavy investment in the beginning, which is not our approach, not our execution. When we execute, or we say when we create a cluster based on the environment impact of that operation existing, we manage to do so by doing that approach. We’ve managed, every year from 2011 until today, to lease land of around 2 km sq every year, and that helps. We are also shifting toward the eco-friendly operations. The knowledge, the base of understanding and the proper, real, industrial contribution or added value to the economy, is now becoming very clear to the investors themselves. This is also part of the strategy of Abu Dhabi.
By default, going through this approach, we have managed to create those clusters. We managed to create the value chain around the existing anchor investors, for example Emirate Steel. We managed to gather any operation related to the steel sector in ZonesCorp, and we believe this is a very beautiful model we can continue moving forward on, and that will help us down the road. When you look at ZonesCorp's master plan, you will see there's clustering based on the environment, where any investor, when he comes, he knows his land and his operations will not be impacted by the neighbour’s operation. We believe, even though the government of Abu Dhabi has always been very sincere toward environment related issues, that we also play a very important role in that because as much as we do contribute to the economy, also we need to contribute to our environment and to protect it and save it for the future.
I remember, 4 years ago or 3 years ago, an application for locating land would take you 365 days, one year. Gradually we discounted that number of days. In 2012, we reached 50 days. Today, we can say we have reached 20 days. We did not do this by ourselves. We managed to do this with other stakeholders, with our partners, and other government entities.
What legal and regulatory framework exists within ZonesCorp’s industrial parks? What incentives and programs should potential investors be aware of?
AL QEMZI: Well, today we are not a free zone. When we talk about a free zone for the industrial sector, our colleagues in KIZAD have this part; they have a free zone for the industrial sector. But today, ZonesCorp is considered to be an investment zone.
We are an investment zone. That's a very important element for any investor when he looks to invest. When he knows that we are an investment zone that will facilitate a lot of things for him when he approaches banks for funding for his investment. The regulations that we have implemented are in line with the policy and the laws of what is implemented for Abu Dhabi. For ownership, we have here 51% local ownership and 49% partner ownership, and it's an advantage for any investor, especially the foreign partner when he comes here. He looks at the structure and it opens doors for him. For example, he's exempt from duties on any imported raw materials. He's exempt on the equipment that he's bringing for his operation. In addition, for his finished product, when he exports it within the GCC, it's an open market for him. He doesn't have to pay tax. So it is very attractive actually, the structure we have, not forgetting that a free zone is also important.
This was not created out of nothing. It came out of our visionary leaders, and we as nationals, it's our duty to achieve what they have put for us as a target. I believe that any foreign investor, when he comes, he sees that commitment, that genuineness, honesty, and the most important thing, that trust that we are creating in doing business. That is what any investor is looking for, security for his money, for his family, for where he lives, and that's what we are giving, a full package. As part of the industry, we are proud to have all of these components with us when he approaches Abu Dhabi and looks to do an investment in Abu Dhabi.
What is your future outlook for industrial development in Abu Dhabi and for the continued growth and expansion of ZonesCorp?
AL QEMZI: Our future expansion is in line with the strategy of Abu Dhabi 2030, where the industrial sector plays a bigger role in achieving that vision. Our aim is to contribute to the economy. Our aim is to create jobs within Abu Dhabi and we are not doing this by ourselves. There is synergy today between all the stakeholders to that vision and, being part of it under the umbrella of the Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development, we have a very clear understanding of where we are going. We are not working in silos. No more silos. Communication is there, doors are open, and we are an open book with each other. We try to find where there is a problem and as a whole team we go and solve it. Once we solve it, that will be used as a test case approach and we can solve other problems with it.
We’ve managed to do so. I remember, 4 years ago or 3 years ago, an application for locating land would take you 365 days, one year. Gradually we discounted that number of days. In 2012, we reached 50 days. Today, we can say we have reached 20 days. We did not do this by ourselves. We managed to do this with other stakeholders, with our partners, and other government entities, because our aim is to see how we can really give the support to the investor. No complications, no barriers, that's our job. So that tells us we are going in the right direction. First of all, we have to look at what we have. If this needs some correction or it needs some modification, we do it. We don't just stick to one thing, no. We have to keep evolving, we have to keep being creative towards giving the best service to our investor and we have managed over the last three years to learn so much by doing so. There isn’t something called an answer “No”. There is always an option, and that's what our managers give to our investor when he approaches us, even for land. It’s not just here’s one piece of land and stick with it, no. He's given options to see what fits his requirements. We’re giving him the choice to choose it. So by reaching this level we're not finishing here. No, actually there are so many things we can still do.
So what I see for ZonesCorp down the road, what we have achieved today is only the beginning. Where we are going is not only to be the largest purposed zone for the industrial sector. We're aiming to be a benchmark within the region as the preferred choice for the industrial sector, for any investor coming to the UAE to look at the preferred choice to be ZonesCorp, for services, transparency, ease of doing business, and the most important thing, the sustainability of having an investment and the growth that he will manage to have when he comes to ZonesCorp and Abu Dhabi.