Free Zone Leaders are Bullish on Future of Free Zones in the U.A.E.


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The coronavirus pandemic has upended the way business is conducted for the foreseeable future. In a Business Council webinar held on 23 September 2020, executives of three prominent U.A.E. free zones – DMCC, JAFZA, and Masdar – discussed the impact of the pandemic on business in their free zones, the measures they have taken to support companies and continue to grow their clientele, and the implications of the historic Abraham Accord for business in the U.A.E. Please click here to view a recording of the videoconference.

Ahmed Bin Sulayem, Executive Chairman & CEO at DMCC, began the session by noting that, despite the pandemic, DMCC welcomed 805 new companies into the free zone during the first half of the year. He stressed that supporting their business community is DMCC’s top priority, which is why DMCC extended and enhanced their Business Support Package. Additionally, Mr. bin Sulayem noted that DMCC is one of the key success stories of the government of Dubai, and that they provide up to 10% of Dubai’s GDP.

Next, Mohamed Al Ramahi, CEO of Masdar, spoke about the success of Masdar attracting new businesses to Masdar City, which is home to a rapidly growing clean-tech cluster, business free zone, and residential neighborhood with restaurants, shops, and public green spaces. Mr. Al Ramahi stressed that Masdar has been able to attract over 100 companies since the beginning of the year thanks to the “swift and decisive action from our government and Masdar City’s offerings.” Masdar is currently host to major institutions such as the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation, the U.A.E. Space Agency, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), and the Mohamed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence.

From there, Ebtesam Al Kaabi, who serves as Head of Sales at JAFZA, highlighted JAFZA’s commitment to ensuring the safety of the companies based in the free zone. JAFZA has helped support over 135,000 jobs within the free zone through incentives for both existing and new companies. Safeguarding business continuity was key during the pandemic and JAFZA was able to keep goods flowing through the port and free zone.

Following their remarks, Mr. Danny Sebright, President of the U.S.-U.A.E. Business Council, moderated a question and answer session during which the panelists elaborated on the new and existing ties between the U.A.E. and Israel. Mr. bin Sulayem detailed the recent collaboration agreement between DMCC’s Dubai Diamond Exchange and the Israel Diamond Exchange. Moreover, Mr. Al Ramahi noted that Israel has been present in Masdar City for years given Masdar City playing host to IRENA, and he spoke about the potential for collaboration in renewable energy and technology more broadly. Meanwhile, Ms. Al Kaabi warmly welcomed Israeli companies to establish operations in JAFZA.

Also, during the question and answer session, panelists spoke about the U.A.E.’s economic recovery, the U.A.E.’s introduction of a VAT, and the future of work after the pandemic.

The videoconference was attended by over 150 senior executives from leading American and Emirati companies as well as by U.S. and U.A.E. government officials.

This webinar comes as part of the U.S.-U.A.E. Business Council’s “Back to Business” series. For more information about this series and an exciting slate of upcoming events, please contact the U.S.-U.A.E. Business Council’s head of communications Mary Zuccarello at