Stephanie Ricci contributed to this story.
There are several factors that make the United Arab Emirates (UAE) a high growth market. Among these are its business-friendly environment, strategic location as a global trading hub, world-class infrastructure, and favorable government policies in promoting trade and investment. Having maintained resilience during the Covid-19 pandemic, the country is well positioned to capture a return to pre-pandemic growth levels across sectors, thus unlocking new opportunities for global investors.
Occupying a strategic location between Asia, Europe and Africa, the UAE ranks first among the countries most attractive to foreign direct investment (FDI) in the Middle East (ME) and Africa region.
Let’s take a closer look at Ras Al Khaimah or as some people call it, (“RAK”), the northernmost of the seven Emirates—a 45-minute drive away from Dubai— that is emerging as one of the fastest growing economic zones and leading location for foreign investment in the region. Enter RAKEZ—the Ras Al Khaimah Economic Zone, a major business and industrial hub which is home to over 15,000 companies in over 50 sectors located throughout three industrial zones, two business zones, and one academic zone.
“Ras Al Khaimah today presents investors with dynamic investment opportunities in transportation and logistics, hospitality and tourism, consumer, food & beverages, advanced manufacturing, aviation, automotive, mobility, education, healthcare, technology 5G, among others. We welcome and host companies from all over the world to set up shop and operate out of our business and industrial parks or even our coworking center,” said Ramy Jallad, Group CEO of RAKEZ.
Jallad holds a degree in Mechanical Engineering from West Michigan University. With over 25 years of experience in developing commercial and industrial zones, business parks, airports, and real estate developments, he plays a significant role in attracting foreign investors from all over the world.
“We’ve created an ecosystem that allows companies to hit the business ground running, and get the best available logistics, whether it’s e-commerce, logistics or shipping and transport, and produce their products and distribute all over the world the fastest, most efficient and cost-effective way,” Jallad said.
The government-established authority runs similarly to a private corporation while assisting businesses comply with the UAE rules and regulations by providing them with licenses, customizable facilities, and support services such as visa facilitation.
The region has been successfully expanding its FDI portfolio, notably in the high-tech, artificial intelligence, and lifestyle manufacturing areas, said Jallad.
FDI in the UAE has seen a 116% growth in the past decade, climbing from $9.6 billion in 2012 to $20.7 billion in 2021, reported the Ministry of Economy.
The UAE also recently announced a $820 million investment into space initiatives to help diversify its oil-dependent economy and encourage partnerships between international and local enterprises.
For example, in RAK, the acid battery recycling company Royal Gulf Industries recently announced a $17 million investment to build the UAE’s first environment-friendly automotive battery recycling center.
Jallad recently led an investment mission to Canada where he met with Canadian business leaders and prospective investors representing a cross-section of Canada’s largest corporations, management investment firms, and industry associations. The objective being to promote RAK as a leading investment destination and to drive more North American businesses and partners to help in the realization of the RAK Industrial Strategy 2030 across a range of key industries.
The investment mission to Canada is one example of how RAKEZ undertakes targeted investor promotion and attraction, and lead generation initiatives to underpin the government of Ras Al Khaimah’s agenda to attract capital and investment while ensuring a competitive business environment.
“We are seeing untapped potential for Canadian businesses in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) market,” said Jallad.
RAK is an attractive base for Canadian companies wanting to access the EMEA and GCC markets. The benefits to maximize profits consist of 100% foreign ownership in free zone areas, attractive corporate and personal tax rate of 0% (lowest in the world); 100% repatriation of capital & profits; affordable and top talent, and up to 50% lower business operating costs than the regional average, among others.
According to him, the Covid-19 pandemic may have played a role in turning the region into a magnet for global business. “People learned the hard way when they had all of their eggs in one basket, it could really hurt them,” he said. “Because you had logistics problems, you had shutdown problems. The UAE managed Covid very well. [Infection rates] were always very down. Everybody got vaccinated. Business still thrived, so everybody wanted to be in the UAE to ride that wave.”
So, what about the global shortage of talent? According to the CEO, attracting and retaining talent is not a concern for RAKEZ.
“The talent in the UAE has always been readily available,” he said. “We get people from all walks of life, all different cultures coming, wanting to work.”
“There’s no shortage when it comes to the companies that set up here, but also the fact they can bring their own talent from their home countries or secure the local talent,” he continued.