The Sharjah FDI Office (Invest in Sharjah), an affiliate of the Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq) organised a Sharjah – Europe Business Roundtable, at the Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry recently, to explore interests with 6 European business councils based in the UAE, and to introduce emerging prospects in a variety of sectors attractive to European investors.
The roundtable served to highlight sectors which have been playing increasingly important roles in enriching Sharjah’s FDI appeal, such as transportation and logistics, light manufacturing, travel and leisure, environment, technology and innovation, healthcare, education and research, start-ups and SMEs.
Prominent attendees included HE Marwan bin Jassim Al Sarkal, Executive Chairman of Shurooq; Taina Sateri, Trade Counsellor Delegation of the European Union to the UAE and Oliver Oehms, CEO of the German Emirati Joint Council for Industry and Commerce (AHK).
The event also saw the participation of HE Dr. Khalid Omar Al Midfa, Chairman of Sharjah Media Free Zone (Shams); HE Hussain Al Mahmoudi, CEO of Sharjah Research Technology and Innovation Park; HE Saud Salim Al Mazrouei, Director of the Hamriyah Free Zone Authority and Sharjah Airport International Free Zone (SAIF Zone); Salim Omar Salim, Director of Sharjah Publishing City Free Zone; Mohammed Juma Al Musharrkh, CEO of Sharjah FDI Office; and Ammar Alul, Managing Director of Schuco Middle East Windows & Façade Systems LLC, in a panel session where they shared local business expertise and shed light on the new and evolving opportunities in their respective sectors to the European delegation. The roundtable was moderated by Ali Kanani, Member of the Swiss Business Council.
Sharjah has been collaborating with the European business community across several sectors including trade, culture and tourism over several years. As of November 2019, the number of European companies registered in Sharjah include 423 from France; 396 from Germany; 148 from Belgium; 96 from Spain; 86 from Portugal; 92 from Switzerland; and 18 from The Netherlands.
These numbers continue to grow due to the Sharjah government’s pro-investor policies and strategic budget allocations, For instance, out of the approved 2019 budget of US$9 billion for Sharjah, 23 percent has been dedicated to the development and improvement of its infrastructure, and 41 percent has been committed towards the economic development sector.
HE Marwan bin Jassim Al Sarkal, Executive Chairman of Shurooq, noted the importance of the roundtable in offering European investors the opportunity to take a closer look at Sharjah’s rapidly diversifying economy and to showcase its major projects, such as the Sharjah Research, Technology and Innovation Park (SRTI Park), which is a centre for innovation and applied sciences research; the Sharjah University City, Sharjah Media City (Shams) and our other free zones such as the Sharjah Airport Free Zone and the Hamriyah Free Zone, with customised services.
Al Sarkal explained: “Our trade relations with Europe goes back 40 years. A key area where we seek to create partnerships are with Europe-based tech, R&D and education firms. The EU is a world leader in research and development, and has some of the highest-rated universities and research institutions. It also has one of the most robust systems of intellectual property protections.”
He continued: ”There are competitive advantages in partnering and investing in key projects such as the Sharjah Sustainable City, which is currently redefining sustainable living in Sharjah, as well as our three leading property projects under the “Sharjah Eagle Hills” which are Maryam Island, Kalba Waterfront and Palace Al Khan, all valued at AED 4.7 billion. These projects, along with other leading real estate projects such as Al Jada and Al Mamsha projects, all present huge opportunities for EU investors in Sharjah.”
Al Sarkal highlighted the role of the newly launched Sharjah Investor Services Centre (Saeed), a one-stop shop for setting up business in the emirate functioning out of Al Qasba. He added that Sharjah was at the cutting edge of being a leading platform supporting thousands of global businesses with new ideas, technologies, and prosperity, and thus a strategic, investor-friendly base for European firms to succeed in serving new markets.
Taina Sateri, Trade Counsellor Delegation of the European Union to the UAE, in her welcome note address, said: “It is exciting to hear about the many investment opportunities in Sharjah. The European Union (EU) is a very important trade partner of the UAE and Sharjah. Bilateral trade between UAE and EU grew to 50 billion euros in 2018. Exports from UAE to EU has also steadily grown, showing an increase of 35 percent last year, compared to 2017. We believe that there is room for improvement, and we hope to build on this momentum to increase bilateral trade with Sharjah.”
She added: “The EU has strong links with the UAE with 27 member states having embassies here and more than 20 national business councils represented in the country. Our economies are transforming even as the world around us is changing faster than ever. We cannot afford to fight that transformation. Innovation is the key to expansion. When governments facilitate innovation, there is rapid development which results in improved services that translate to growth in trade.”
She continued: “We have seen that 80 percent of companies that invested in innovation have seen their profits increase by 35 percent. There is no lack of talent or ideas in the business community. What is required is for the governments to provide them the tools to work on their ideas to bring them to fruition and also ensure free and transparent policies. We see this happening in the UAE with the new FDI policy The EU is firmly committed to increasing trade with the UAE, and we are happy to participate in this very important event.”
Oliver Oehms, CEO, AHK, said: “Investments in the Gulf Region have been improving of late and the UAE has become very competitive. We are very impressed with the level of professionalism and commitment of the Sharjah Government, which is very wisely investing in potential sectors of interest for investors. We will definitely intensify our efforts to become the bridge between German investors and the UAE.”
In the panel session on ‘Investment Opportunities in Sharjah’, the panel members HE Dr. Khalid Omar Al Midfa, Chairman of Sharjah Media Free Zone; HE Hussain Al Mahmoudi, CEO of Sharjah Research Technology and Innovation Park; HE Saud Salim Al Mazrouei, Director of the Hamriyah Free Zone Authority and Sharjah Airport International Free Zone; Salim Omar Salim, Director of Sharjah Publishing City Free Zone; Mohamed Juma Al Musharrkh, CEO of Invest in Sharjah; and Ammar Alul, Managing Director of Schuco Middle East Windows & Façade Systems LLC, detailed the various investment opportunities in the various free zones in the emirate.
Al Midfa spoke about the opportunities in the education sector and the entertainment industry, while Al Mahmoudi said more than a free zone, SRTI park was a platform for creating and designing new ventures with the aim of increasing value, with knowledge and innovation as the basis. Al Mazrouei said that one of the reasons for the success of the free zones was that they listened to their clients and upgraded their services in tune with their requirements. Omar Salim said SPCFZ provided services to the publishing industry right from book design to marketing of the final product. Ammar Alul spoke about his experience of the ease of growing the company over the course of 17 years in Sharjah.
On his part, Mohamed Juma Al Musharrkh, CEO of Invest in Sharjah, outlined Sharjah’s key competitive advantages and benefits that continue to provide quality service to investors worldwide.
“This roundtable aims to demonstrate Sharjah’s ability to support the growth of diversified and long-term foreign direct investments. Such platforms enable global business communities to understand how they can benefit from the latest developments in Sharjah and the UAE”, he said adding that “Sharjah’s strategic location, pro-investor legislations and services, and robust infrastructure are all key enablers of the thousands of overseas businesses who have a regional base here.”
He added: “The latest statistics reveal a 40 percent growth in Sharjah’s FDIs. A study conducted by Conway Advisory, a consulting firm focused exclusively on FDI, showed that the largest share of FDIs into the Middle East was from the EU. Our rapidly diversifying economy ensures that opportunities to explore and invest in will continue to grow in the future.”
He further noted: “I must mention here Invest in Sharjah’s new role as MENA’s regional director of the World Association of Investment Promotion Agencies (WAIPA) for a two-year term. It is a mark of the global confidence in Sharjah’s economic role, and amply illustrates the trust placed in our great emirate under the inspiring leadership of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah.”
‘Invest in Sharjah’ is committed to highlight Sharjah’s business-friendly environment and attractive investment opportunities in all local and international forums. Since its inception by Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq) during the Sharjah FDI Forum in September 2016, the Office brings together local and international investors, guiding them to the tremendous opportunities and potential that Sharjah offers. The Office’s efforts contribute to cement the emirate's position as a leading investment destination regionally and globally.