UAE woos investors, schools and manufacturers with specialist business start-up package

Top international schools and universities are setting up bases in the UAE, and Ras Al Khaimah in particular. Marianne Curphey looks into the pioneering partnerships being set up in one of the largest economic free zones in the Gulf region.

RAKEZ meeting room
The United Arab Emirates has long been a popular destination for investors and manufacturers, but now a new generation of schools and universities are also choosing to make their base there. These academic institutions hope to capitalise on demand from ex-pats, investors and business founders who are looking for a quality education for their children, based on a UK or global curriculum.The UAE is already popular because of its economic stability, steady growth, accessibility and tax-free regime. Now Ras Al Khaimah Economic Zone (RAKEZ), which is situated in the heart of Ras Al Khaimah in the UAE, is building a series of academic, manufacturing and business zones in a bid to attract more foreign investment.
UAE is globally competitive
Established by the government of Ras Al Khaimah, RAKEZ aims to support start-ups, entrepreneurs, SMEs and industrialists. The area is looking to win new investment by providing a range of licences and facilities as well help with visas and employment advice. It has a comprehensive programme to encourage and support female entrepreneurs and start-up founders. It is also establishing an Academic Zone and encouraging pioneering partnerships between leading universities and businesses in order to nurture the next generation of young talent.

RAKEZ is a growing region within the UAE

The RAKEZ Academic Zone has attracted six schools and nine universities, which are:
  • K-12 Schools: GEMS Westminster School; The WellSpring School; St Mary’s High School; Delhi Private School; Amity International School, and Bangladesh English Private School
  • Universities: University of Stirling; University of Bolton; University of West London; Birla Institute of Technology; Swiss Business School; Bath Spa University; EPFL Middle East; Sarhad University of Science and Information Technology, and Munnar Catering College
The Academic Zone is designed to integrate industry and education in a way that benefits both businesses and the young graduates they need. Recent initiatives have included a key event for the universities to meet with industry leadership, and for the schools to meet the universities’ leadership and explore ways of collaboration, says Ramy Jallad, Group Chief Executive Officer of the Ras Al Khaimah Economic Zone (RAKEZ).The Academic Zone has set up a new programme for talented students taking academic courses at the international universities operating within the zone, he says. This involves giving them the opportunity to learn new skills. So far, over 14,500 companies have access to these highly-qualified interns to recruit and mentor.“This is a great way for the companies to meet potential future employees, get fresh and creative ideas and gain new technology knowledge,” says Mr Jallad. “The interns come from various fields of study such as Business Administration, Accounting & Finance, Management, Law, Investment Analysis, IT, Liberal Arts, Construction Management, Healthcare Management, Engineering, Psychology, among many more.”
Ramy Jallad, Group-CEO,RAKEZ
Ramy Jallad, Group Chief Executive Officer of the Ras Al Khaimah Economic Zone (RAKEZ)
Mr Jallad is in charge of developing and driving the strategic growth in the region and encouraging investors from all around the world to set up their headquarters in RAKEZ.

RAKEZ: What help is there for growing companies and start-ups?

Ras Al Khaimah is a fast-growing emerging market and home to one of the largest economic free zones in the Gulf region, despite not being an oil economy. It currently houses over 14,000 multinational companies from more than 100 countries and has companies operating in more than 50 industries.

RAKEZ offers entrepreneurs, start-ups, SMEs and manufacturers a wide-range of business solutions, including free zone and non-free zone licences, and customisable facilities.
The customised facilities at RAKEZ
In order to appeal to foreign investors and manufacturers, it has developed six specialised zones that are tailored to specific needs of investors: a Business Zone for commercial and service companies; Al Ghail, Al Hamra and Al Hulailah Industrial Zones for manufacturers and industrialists; a Media Zone for the creative firms; and an Academic Zone for educational providers.“We’re going out into the world as one unified Ras Al Khaimah team to attract investors and present a strong case for the emirate as a perfect ecosystem for doing business, investments and leisure,” Mr Jallad says. RAKEZ has recently launched the UAE’s first business set-up package dedicated to women, which has already seen an uptake of more than 100 businesswomen.

RAKEZ provides a strategic location

Mr Jallad points to the strategic location of RAKEZ, which has good transport and shipping links to Asia, Europe and Africa. The region has been consistently rated ‘A’ by Fitch and Standard & Poor’s rating agencies for the past decade and has a strong appeal to European and British companies.He says the region is keen to support the growth of international brands, and the business set-up packages on offer to companies and start-ups are designed to make the process as easy as possible. It is also a cost-effective place in which to start or grow a business.

“Being located in Ras Al Khaimah, businesses take advantage of the emirate’s strategic location that is supported by major logistical hubs, making importing and exporting easier and faster,” he says. “We support this with three key benefits: cost effectiveness, ease of doing business and customisation.“We offer businesses with solutions that bring great value for their investments and provide them with quick and easy processes. We also customise according to their needs and individual requirements. Customers want a seamless journey according to their actual needs, not what you think those needs might be.”

Over the years, RAKEZ’s industrial zones have been serving as a base for global brands, such as Hesburger, one of the largest food chains in Northern Europe; Guardian Glass, an American glass products manufacturer; Ahmad Tea, a leading English tea brand; and Spatial Composites, a cabin crew training simulator manufacturer.

Cost-effective business development

Among the new wave of companies taking advantage of the facilities are pharmaceutical companies, aviation businesses, and IT and fintech.RAKEZ provides help with company formulation, licences to operate, work permits, visas, and investment. It also helps with building premises and infrastructure if necessary.“As a landlord we provide different types of facilities that are customised for any company to start up at minimal cost,” he said. “We can offer anything from a small desk or shared office, to exclusive offices, warehousing for trade and manufacturers, and provide land that can be leased out so companies can build their own facilities.”
Main benefits of doing business in RAKEZ
The business hub is an “entire ecosystems for investors”, with everything they need at their fingertips and an emphasis on keeping costs down.“In this economic climate everyone looking for more cost-effective solutions,” he says. “We have business platforms that can be scaled up when they are needed but we have designed our packages so people don’t pay for services they don’t need.”So far, RAKEZ has 14,600 clients who benefit from transport links – the hubs are within easy travelling distance of Dubai – as well as commercial incentives such as extended payment terms, and residents’permits at competitive rates.“We sit down with every investor and look at their plans to see that we customise our offering to them and provide them a package that is workable and sustainable,” Mr Jallad says. “All our facilities and services are scalable, and we can help with finance, third party services for accounting and financial statements.”The new female entrepreneur package has been extremely popular, he said, with a particular emphasis on getting start-ups off the ground.“Women on our programme get subsided rates and incentives to start their own business,” he explains. “They can pick and choose what items they need in order to keep the costs down. We work with banks, recruitment and IT services providers to help them outsource the services they need to run their business.”This way, they don’t incur large costs at the start up stage, but instead only use what they need to help them grow, thus and keep the cost down.The United Arab Emirates as a whole ranks overall 16th in the Doing Business 2020 report from the World Bank. The analysis looks at business regulation and the protection of property rights to assess how business-friendly each country is across 190 economies — from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe. Those economies that score well on Doing Business tend to benefit from higher levels of entrepreneurial activity and lower levels of corruption.

Learn more about opportunities in RAKEZ.  

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