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How the Ajman Free Zone Authority has supported investor communities, by creating a pro-business climate
It is 25 years since the Ajman Free Zone Authority first welcomed investors, beginning a phase of significant contribution to Ajman's rapid economic development.
The Authority has sought to complement, successfully, the emirate's key strategic approach to economic development – to create and maintain a liberal economic climate, specifically geared towards foreign business and investment, to encourage production, provide incentives for trade, develop international commerce, and above all promote industry activity.
At an event to celebrate its 25th year of operation, the Authority and its key partners detailed the bases for success to date, and the prospects of continued success.
Those speaking at the event, a High Tea Networking Reception held for the investor community in London, UK, in September 2013, included: Abdeslam El-Idrissi, director of trade services at the Arab-British Chamber of Commerce (A-BCC); Matthew Smith, director general of the Middle East Association (MEA); Nader Eldesouky, deputy general manager at the Ajman Free Zone Authority; and Rishi Somaiya, the Ajman Free Zone Authority's director of sales and marketing.
Building business links, across the Emirates and beyond the Emirates
El-Idrissi spoke of the ways in which the A-BCC is reaching out to UK-based commercial entities, to connect Arabic commerce to British business. Its services range from research to translation to networking events to training to visa services. It helps businesses learn how to approach and access key Arabic markets.
It also publishes trade, banking and finance directories, bulletins, economic focuses and newsletters. Its events portfolio, which include seminars, roundtables, conferences and exhibitions, adds real value to members and industry stakeholders.
From the MEA, Smith spoke of positive, proactive relations with the Ajman delegation. The key products of such successful business relationships, he said, were market knowledge and market access.
The MEA facilitates routes to knowledge and access by the provision of analysis online and through consultancy. Its members gain, also, through a range of exclusive deals with key corporate partners, such as British Airways – and through trade missions across the region. Increasingly, these trade missions have a particular emphasis on the value of trade zones to businesses seeking to profit in the region.
Representing the Ajman delegation to London, Nader Eldesouky and Rishi Somaiya offered a clear perspective of the ways in which the Ajman Free Zone works. There are 8,000 companies operating in Ajman Free Zone, of which 22 per cent are from the UK. The Authority enables 100 per cent foreign ownership for participant commercial concerns, 100 per cent repatriation of capital and profits, no taxation at individual and corporate level, and instant provision of visas for investors.
Business licences can be issued within 24 hours. By comparison, obtaining a licence in Dubai can take between six and eight weeks. This makes Ajman a model of success among the emirates and in the region, serving European, Asian and African economies and commercial entities with equal ease.
Key stakeholders, which have taken advantage of Ajman's exceptionally pro-business climate, include entities large and small, established and relatively new, such as Nippon and Panmarine Shipping Services.
Cost benefits and commercial gains
Ajman is undeniably attractive from the point of view of private sector engagement. Energy is subsidised and is, therefore, inexpensive in Ajman. Other important considerations are the freedom to pay according to market conditions, with a strong and vibrant labour force from low-income emerging markets.
Lease prices are around 40-45 per cent cheaper than Dubai. Its trading, professional services and industrial licensing regime is clearly defined. It has invested in the development of a clear legal framework.
Furthermore, Ajman has become popular for e-commerce entities, start-ups in need of a proactive space to test Middle Eastern markets – and the increased provision of structure ranging from 'smart' (ie shared and scalable) offices to fuller corporate sites and warehousing facilities.
Port facilities fall under the management of Hutchison Whampoa group of Hong Kong, ensuring efficient and cost-effective logistics.