Huge growth ahead for UAE free zones

DUBAI - It is estimated that there are more than 4,000 companies in the various free zones across the UAE with an investment of more than Dh15 billion. The amount of trade emanating from these zones already amounts billions of dirhams, according to a report by Emirates Industrial Bank (EIB).

By Moushumi Das Chaudhury

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Published: Sun 29 Aug 2004, 10:21 AM

Last updated: Wed 1 Apr 2015, 11:54 PM

According to the report by Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Dubai (DCCI), the free zones in Dubai generated more than Dh90 billion and recorded 28.5 per cent growth in 2003. Recently, Abu Dhabi unveiled a massive plan to attract around Dh35 billion investments for its emerging free zones as part of its long term strategy to diversify its oil-reliant economy.

The free zones in UAE offer various incentives which includes, 100 per cent ownership to the foreign investors who can thereby retain full control over the management of their investments, operations and profits, guaranteed exemption of import/export duties, commercial levies and full repatriation of capital and profits. Moreover, the leases offered so far have been for 25 years, but some zones are now extending this to 50 years.

UAE has seen a spurt in free trade zones across the entire country since the first free zone was inaugurated in Jebel Ali in 1985. Currently, the UAE free zone is among the best in the world and has been at the centre stage of non-oil activity and diversification of the country's economy in the future.

According to Juan Torrents, president of the World Federation of Free Zones, (Femoza), Free Zones not only spur growth within themselves but lead to overall growth that includes ancillary industries, real estate, the hospitality sector and overall development of the city and the region.

In fact, Jebel Ali Free Zone has been the trigger for growth in and around Jebel Ali and Dubai.Ó

According to UAE yearbook 2004, Jebel Ali Free Zone (Jafz) has been the leader and role model for all other free zones in the country. There are more than 2,300 companies from some 100 countries and spread over 100 square kilometres of land in Dubai, adjacent to the main Abu Dhabi to Dubai motorway. The largest number of firms are engaged in distribution services apart from manufacturing /processing companies. It has become a key warehousing and industrial hub which provides access to major consumer market.

The success of Jebel Ali encouraged Dubai government to establish Dubai Airport Free Zone (DAFZ) in 1996. It is located within the boundary of Dubai International Airport and encourages companies, which deals with high value and low volume products and provides corporate/income tax exemption.

One more free zone, The Dubai Technology and Media Free Zone (DTMFZ) was established in 2000 by Dubai law and is an umbrella entity for the emirate's drive to become a regional centre for technology, e-commerce and media. The Dubai Internet is the world's first free zone for e-commerce and it offers renewable leases for 50 years.

EIB report also states that Sharjah and other Northern emirates have all set up free zones around their respective seaports. Sharjah's free zones, Hamriya and Saif are supported by seaport and airport respectively. Sharjah Airport Interational Free Zone (SAIF) has more than 400 companies and approximately 14 per cent of the companies are engaged in industrial manufacturing enterprises and others in trading and distribution.

Sharjahs Hamriya free zone has attracted around 250 new investors in the past six months, taking the total number of companies in the zone to 600. Hamriya Free Zone is one of the fastest growing free zones with its special geographical location and providing unique investment opportunity and business advantage in a free market environment.

Ajman Free zone with more than 730 companies have boosted the industrial activity in the emirate and serves the eastern and the western markets as well as ensures easy accessibility to two international airports and four seaports.

Fujairah Free Zone (FFZ) located near to the port of Fujairah have easy access to all Arabian Gulf ports, the Red Sea, Iran, India and main shipping lines arrive from northern Europe, the Mediterranean, the Far East and North America on a weekly basis.

Ras Al Khaimah Free Zone aims to provide world-class customer service at the most competitive rates in the UAE. By the end of last year, business volume of Dh 141 million were expected to be established there and investors have arrived from North America, Europe, China,India among others.

In the near future, UAE free zones are expected to grow as this is a outcome of the current investment terms in the domestic economy which require a majority national shareholder.

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