The UAE is known for its stability, ease of connectivity, great infrastructure, smart government, 100-per cent foreign ownership of companies and tax-free income, and luxury for less. But there’s so much more. Image Credit: Stock Photo

The UAE is one of the few countries that runs on smart economy, has a low crime rate, a high safety index, no personal taxes and 100 per cent foreign ownership in major industries. It is known for its political stability, ease of connectivity, great infrastructure, and luxury for less. But much more awaits the investor or innovator, or the adventurer in you.

Here’s our list:


The UAE continues to lead the Middle East and Arab region in the World Bank’s East of Doing Business ranking 2020.

The quality of the UAE’s infrastructure is one of the world's best. From transport to power and telecommunications, as well green energy, the UAE has invested in the right enablers.

First-time visitors to the UAE are blown away by the sight of flowers blooming on roadsides — yes, and this is a desert country. The UAE also has one of the most advanced land, sea and air transport networks, with an unmatched internet service, having consistently kept the No. 1 spot in the world in terms of mobile network speed. "Smart government" initiatives allow for greater ease of doing business, a metric consistently led by the UAE in the Middle East.


Abu Dhabi skyline
Abu Dhabi skyline. Image Credit: Shutterstock

The UAE's economic strength and stability come from a number of factors: a solid legal and security framework, strong financial reserves, and large sovereign wealth funds.

The country also has one of the lowest crime rates in the world. Every citizen, resident and tourist feels this. UAE is ranked one of the world’s safest countries in a global database, higher than Switzerland and Japan.


An Emirates aircraft
In aviation, the UAE offers direct flights to more than 250 cities. It also has shipping routes to more than 400 cities.

The UAE is a hub for innovators and entrepreneurs from all over. Most multinational companies have their regional base in the country, so also does the UN’s humanitarian operations.

In aviation, there are direct flights with more than 250 cities; the UAE offers shipping routes to more than 400 cities. The country is also the centre for global meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions, and the recently-concluded Dubai Expo 2020, the world's biggest trade fair. It is ample proof of its ability to be a gatherer of nations.


UAE innovations
From top left: Bader bin Mubarak, chief executive of Fish Farm, holds a salmon at his facility in Dubai; a vertical farming (pesticide-free and year-round harvest) in Al Quoz, Dubai; a worker at a stem cell therapy lab in Abu Dhabi; and a massive solar farm in the UAE. Image Credit: AFP / Gulf News File photos

Its global hub status means there’s a wealth of resources — in the form of knowledge, skills, technology and finance — available within this ecosystem. Every productive endeavour in trade, manufacturing, media, aviation, healthcare, agriculture has an ecosystem in the UAE — whether as an operations, research or export platform.

From vertical farming (pesticide-free and year-round harvest) and stem cell therapy to advanced materials used in aviation, green power, vaccines and transport, the UAE has become the centre stage of innovation.

The UAE, which hosts the UN’s International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena), has sovereign wealth funds that are also leading proponents of green power all over the country, and in the world.


There’s no income tax on individuals. The UAE boasts of more than 40 "free zone" areas that cover different industries, from finance to industries, vehicles, aviation, commodities — and, yes, even fresh flowers. The free zones allow tax exemptions and 100% ownership for foreign investors. Customs rules are clear and simple, with tariffs between 0 and 5%.

Dubai skyline
Data showed that 61 per cent of total projects were greenfield, followed by 27 per cent new forms of investments. Image Credit: WAM

The UAE welcomes investors of all nationalities to establish fully-owned (100-per cent owned) companies. This change came about following the enactment of the Commercial Companies Law in 2020, according to which a foreign company wishing to open a branch and practise its activities in the UAE does not require the presence of a UAE national agent.

Foreign investors can invest in trade, industry, agriculture, services, education, health and construction — along with several other sectors across the UAE. There are more than 2,000 licensed economic activities.


OPN  UAE tolerance 1-1581762762759
The country has a Ministry of Tolerance which actively promotes this universal value.

The UAE is an open society, with a population made up of rich cultural and religious diversity. The country has a Ministry of Tolerance which actively promotes this value. Recently, the UAE has officially cut the workweek from five days to 4-1/2 days, and weekends moved from Friday-Saturday to Saturday-Sunday, in sync with the rest of the world. The move is set to better align the country with global markets.

The move will ensure smooth financial, trade and economic transactions with countries that follow a Saturday-Sunday weekend, and facilitate stronger international business links for thousands of UAE-based companies. It will boost not only trading opportunities but also add to the flexible, secure, and enjoyable lifestyle the UAE offers to its citizens and residents.


Forbes and Crunchbase have drawn up a “watch list” of 50 start-ups in the UAE to track. It’s just the tip of the iceberg. The list includes ekar (founded in 2016), Washmen (2015) and Eureeca (2013). Founders of these UAE startups are from everywhere.

Vilhelm Hedberg, the co-founder and CEO of ekar, the region's fastest-growing car share app, was born in Caracas, Venezuela, to Norwegian parents. He founded ekar in 2016, the Middle East’s first pay-as-you-go hourly car rental service. In 2016, ekar was selected by the RTA as the provider for 100-vehicle car-share project, and byother key clients, including Emirates Airlines and Etihad Airways.

Masdar City and ekar announce strategic partnership to bring first Tesla car-share operation to the Middle East
Masdar City and ekar announce strategic partnership to bring first Tesla car-share operation to the Middle East Image Credit: Supplied

Jad Halaoui and Rami Shaar founded Washmen in 2015 with a mission to be the “best laundry in the world”.

Christoper Thomas and Sam Quawasmi founded Eureeca in 2013 as an accessible digital crowd-funding platform. It seeks to connect growth-oriented private businesses with investors — ranging from angel investors to strategic institutional investors — globally.

The UAE welcomes talents to make their ideas a reality. This future-driven outlook will secure the UAE’s position as one of the strongest global economies in the coming decades.


Unicorns are companies valued at $1 billion or more. Here’s a UAE unicorn story: In 2005, was just one of the start-ups in Dubai before it became the largest e-commerce retailer in the Arab world. In 2014, it rolled out the “White Friday” sales event to coincide with Black Friday in the US.

On March 28, 2017, Amazon acquired for $580 million. Shortly thereafter, became the first UAE’s global “unicorn”.

Uber Careem 2
Uber Careem 2 Image Credit: Gulf News

Another example is Careem. Founded in 2012, Careem is a ride-hailing platform similar to Uber. From the UAE, Careem expanded to over 100 cities across 14 countries. It has created more than one million employment opportunities in the region. In 2020, Uber acquired Careem for $3.1 billion. Though it became a wholly-owned subsidiary, Uber has decided to preserve Careem as a brand. It’s a triple Unicorn.


Stock Abu Dhabi skyline city UAE
Pigeons fly across from the Abu Dhabi corniche Image Credit: AFP

The UAE is a magnet for a great mix of nationalities. Employees are the backbone of businesses. The Emirates draws people from all continents — I once counted 11 nationalities in the Gulf News reporting team. The UAE has a well-developed system to ensure workers are treated fairly, via the Wages Protection System which protects the salary of workers, the mid-day break rule (no outdoor work from 12.30pm to 3pm during summer months); labour procedures were updated recently to be in tune with the times, and provide greater clarity.


For expat workers, the UAE offers a selection of great neighbourhoods. There are decent, low-rent communities such as Al Quoz in Dubai with easy access to family-oriented recreation as well as affluent ones like The Palm Jumeirah.

And neighbourhood parks are everywhere, while community centres and malls are aplenty. For outdoor activities, people are spoilt for choice. Access to beautiful white-sand beaches is within a 15-minute to 1-hour drive from most residential areas. Great restaurants of all cuisines are available.

Image Credit:

Looking for some delicious local catch? A visit to The Dubai Waterfront, a modern-day fish market, should be your first stop. It’s an experience in itself. The UAE just concluded hosting the 6-month Dubai Expo 2020. It lived up to its promise of "connecting minds and creating the future". It was proof of the UAE's ability to bring along nations, companies and innovators from all over the globe under one roof.