The Rise of Free Zones in the UAE
Transformed from a desert into an oasis, the UAE has proved to be an exemplary Arab nation of economic prosperity and development. Looking at the UAE today, one would find it difficult to grasp the pace at which the country is moving forward. Besides loyalty, hard-work and a futuristic vision, Free Zones have played a significant role in getting the country to where it is today.
The history of Free Zones goes way back, prior to the formation of the UAE. Even then, the UAE was a strategic trading nation with dhows berthed at its creek to unload cargo and then set out toward several destinations. The first Free Zone officially established in the UAE was Jebel Ali Free Zone (JAFZA) in 1985. As the economy was limited to few sectors, foreign investment became a necessity to diversify the economy. Since the population of the UAE was not large enough for external corporates to engage in business, no duties were levied on imports and re-exports and full ownership of the premises was offered.
Primarily, starting a business within a Free Zone in the UAE exempts you from the duties usually imposed on foreign trading. There is no restriction on transference of profits to another country and one is not required to have a local partner to start their business.
By early 2000s, Free Zones had already spread across the UAE, with every emirate accounting for at least one Free Zone. At that time, the trend towards more specialized Free Zones started to crystallize. The sweeping success Free Zones witnessed inspired business people of different sectors to launch their own business within a Free Zone that exclusively included activities in their specific field. The specialization of the Free Zone industry is an incentive for entrepreneurs, as access to a hub of specialized knowledge is intrinsically provided. Most importantly, a sector-focused Free Zone paves the way for a utopia of creativity and innovation.
UAE Free Zones have grown to be an indispensable part of UAE’s economy. With the dawn of yet another Free Zone in the UAE. Sharjah Media City (Shams) will see a plethora of fresh and innovative projects find their footing in the region.