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The UAE visa and business reforms will open new opportunities for entrepreneurs, investors, IT specialists, job-seekers and tourists that will ultimately benefit the economy and the country, according to an industry veteran.
Hatem ElSafty, chief executive of Business Link, said visa reforms introduced in the region led by the UAE and Saudi Arabia has not only increased economic activity butit will also attract talent and generate employment and business opportunities.
"The UAE has brought about some reforms within existing visas, as well as introduced new types of visas entirely. This update seems to be a step in the right direction as it'll open up new doors of opportunity for the UAE and for entrepreneurs, job-seekers, tourists, and more. From a business point of view, the business entry visa will surely be beneficial since it'll allow investors to visit and conduct market research prior to establishing their business in the UAE," ElSafty told Khaleej Times during an interview on Sunday.
Fastest growing GCC economies
For Saudi Arabia, he said the SAGIA/MISA recently rolled out updates to their regulations for trading businesses - making the entire process much easier to undertake. As my company operates in the UAE and KSA, I understand the sort of issues investors would experience with regard to setting up a trading business in KSA. However, I'm thrilled to share that with these updates, things will get much more convenient.
"Of course, it goes without saying that any positive update in the basic functioning of a nation allows its economy to prosper. But when the nations in question are the UAE and KSA - two economic superpowers in the GCC, the prosperity is immeasurable," he said.
He said Saudi Arabia's economy has already been declared the fastest-growing economy in the world. With the growth of real GDP expected to reach a staggering 7.5 per cent this year, it’s already left many competitive economies far behind. The steady and rapid growth is said to be the fastest experienced by Saudi Arabia since 2011 - and their economy sits right atop the 20 largest economies of the world.
"As for UAE, experts predict a confident growth in its economy as well. Expected to reach 5.2 per cent in 2022, and around 4.2 per cent in 2023 - the growth of the economy can be duly credited to the effective initiative put forth by the UAE government," he said.
He said Expo 2020 has played a major role in supporting the country’s economy, with estimates of reaching $33.4 billion by 2031.
"Dubai has attracted foreign investment and seen exponential growth in the construction and infrastructure sectors, specifically, resulting in positive economic development," he said.
Similarly, he said Saudi Arabia has focused its attention on the upcoming array of projects under Vision 2030 and the futuristic city of Neom.
"All of these are expected to take Saudi Arabia's economy to new heights. The IMF has predicted Saudi Arabia will be the fastest-growing economy in the year 2022, at a 7.6 per cent growth rate," he said.
Business inquiries increase
ElSafty said investors across the globe have shown interest in the UAE after reforms process initiated this year.
"Yes, there has been a massive increase in business setup inquiries in recent months. In third quarter, we witnessed a massive number of inquiries from all over the world. Investors and entrepreneurs have been looking forward to newer projects that can be invested in as well as reforms that will prove to be beneficial for them, which they are now seeing increasingly," he said.
"As we know, Dubai saw a massive increase in the issuance of business licences, specifically 45,653 in the first half of 2022 alone — this was said to be a 25 per cent increase since the first half of 2021. I’m positive that the 2022’s Q4 will bring an encouraging number along with itself too," he said.
"With the stable and growing economy that UAE has, I'm sure this is only the start! Business Link is ready to assist a new set of entrepreneurs and take on establishing newer businesses!"
Saudi opportunities rise
ElSafty said Saudi government is keen to diversify economic resources and introduce visa reforms to attract foreign investment in key sectors.
"It comes as no surprise that the economy of Saudi Arabia is witnessing steady growth. Much of it can be credited to Vision 2030 and the projects within such as Neom, the Red Sea Project, ROSHN and more. Looking to slowly move away from its dependency on oil by investing in the growth of other sectors with great potential, Saudi Arabia is actively working toward diversifying the economy," he said. He said the government of Saudi Arabia is opening up increasingly to information technology, healthcare, tourism, real estate and other such sectors that will aid in increasing the state of the economy. Along with this, the aim is to position Saudi Arabia as a leading hub in all sectors," he said.
Earlier this year, Saudi Arabia revealed an investment worth $6.4 billion, that would be put forward to develop future tech. To keep up with the revolutionising times, the government also set aside approximately $1.4 billion to be used to support entrepreneurship as well as digital content.
"Surely, with investment in these sectors, foreign entrepreneurs will be showing interest in having a business setup in KSA - resulting in a further prosperous economy."
Business Link's growth strategy
ElSafty also shared growth strategy of his company and said the region's growth prospects are bright after the visa and business reforms.
"At Business Link, our main focus has always been to provide targeted packages to be able to cater to entrepreneurs looking to invest in a niche market. This has helped us maintain a clientele we are immensely proud of and has positioned us as a leading business setup consultancy in the UAE."
"Along with packages, our consultants are dedicated towards investing time and effort to better their knowledge and stay up-to-date with developing laws and regulations, as well as working on themselves through feedback. They are the backbone of our business and I'm grateful for the way they maintain themselves," he said.
"Speaking of our core markets, we've always been people's top choices for trading businesses, as well as in healthcare, IT, contracting and consultation among others, but we are slowly seeing an increase in many other sectors as well. These include cryptocurrency and eCommerce businesses," he said.
New growth markets
ElSafty said crypto is an emerging business to look out for. Currently, $27 billion are already invested in crypto in the UAE and the figure is expected to double by the end of the year.
"At Business Link, we have already started looking into different methods of payments, which can be done through cryptocurrency.
"In terms of investors, we have also seen a rise in foreign investments from Chinese and European investors, specifically Russian investors," he said.
He said most investors are looking to invest in e-commerce and IT businesses.
"A few are also seeking to invest in general trading licences too, mostly for import purposes. Additionally, local investors are investing in building construction businesses," he said.
Quick business licence
ElSafty said obtaining a business licence in the UAE is very easy and cost effective and one can get the licence as quickly as in three days.
"On average, it could take anywhere from three days to four weeks to get your business license. However, the exact time will depend on the activity you choose to trade in. As certain sectors like education can take longer because of external approvals from the KHDA, unlike a travel and tourism business licence which can be acquired in 3-4 working days," he said.
Business sectors in demand
In reply to a question about the sectors receiving more inquiries in the UAE, ElSafty said investors have shown interest in almost every sectors of the economy.
"Among our many inquiries, most of them are around building contracting (construction), travel and tourism, general trading (food), and e-commerce activities. In recent times, we have seen a rise in the number of inquiries in real estate and construction because of the increasing activity in those particular industries," he said.
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