Sharjah’s status as the UAE’s most important industrial center is supported by a governmental focus on facilitating a wide range of business activities through free zones, which provide companies with a preferential investment climate and a raft of benefits for their business operations
As China continues to reshape the landscape of global commerce, its companies are increasingly seeking new bases in order to access lucrative markets in the Middle East, Africa, Europe and beyond. With its geographically strategic location at the crossroads of three continents, Sharjah offers an ideal springboard. However, gaining a foothold in new markets can bring challenges, and the perception of lengthy and highly bureaucratic procedures to set up in the Middle East remains a serious barrier to potential investors.
Sharjah is addressing this through its specialized free zones, which offer Chinese investors highly attractive incentives to base themselves in the emirate. In addition to tax-free operation and an absence of red tape, companies are permitted 100 percent foreign ownership and 100 percent repatriation of capital and profits, as well as the benefits of state-of-the-art facilities, outstanding infrastructure and excellent trade links.
“We can provide clients with the kind of platform that they need. We have the right logistics and facilities to make sure they have the best standards when it comes to infrastructure, services and third-party services,” says Saud Salim Al Mazrouei, Director of Hamriyah Free Zone Authority (HFZA) and Sharjah Airport International Free Zone Authority (SAIF) – two complimentary free zones at a sea port and the emirate’s main airport.
Hamriyah Free Zone is the emirate’s largest and longest-established, and is now home to over 6,500 businesses from 163 countries, representing industries as diverse as food, packaging, oil and gas, cosmetics, textiles, timber and building materials. Investors can set up a business and receive a trade license in just one hour, while 15 on-site key business services – from banking and auditing firms and currency exchanges to conference rooms and staff accommodation – enable businesses to start operating immediately, benefiting from personal and corporate tax-free income with no import or export duties.
A strong focus on specialization in each of the emirate’s free zones has given rise to the formation of clusters, enabling synergies to be created between companies situated in the zones. “Each customer is different, and the client often wants to know whether there are any other services that will complement their own business,” Al Mazrouei says.
With almost one-third of China’s exports to the Arab world going through the UAE, Sharjah’s free zones today offer a unique opportunity for localization for Chinese manufacturers, service providers and wholesalers.