DMCC pushed bullion trades into the full spectrum of digital and blockchain through a series of initiatives. Fitting indeed for a free zone built on the premise of doing more with gold. Image Credit: Dubai Media Office

With weeks remaining till the end of 2022, I, alongside my colleagues at DMCC, were reflecting on some of our accomplishments as a free zone while focusing on how our processes, business offering, and overall community can be enhanced to add value.

Not just for existing customers, but for those, like many others, who have turned to Dubai as their new home, extension, or foundation for their business. It was on this note we realised that as of December 9, our free zone had attracted a record-breaking 2,877 companies since January 1, 2022, building on our record-breaking first quarter, which welcomed 665 firms and the record-breaking first half with 1,469, a 19 per cent increase over the same period last year.

Not only is this a monstrous undertaking for our administrative team, who deserve recognition for onboarding approximately 12.5 companies every working day for an entire year. It is also a testament to our community's strength as a trusted place to conduct business. However, it is the convergence of factors that have made 2022 such a success for DMCC, starting with the wider social environment.

Undoubtedly, the destination and brand of Dubai, as developed by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, has been the proverbial red carpet for all businesses. In a city renowned for its high standard of living, safety, accessibility, and luxury, the destination of Dubai sells itself and never ceases to communicate its most outstanding attractions and experiences.

As I write, H.H. Sheikh Ahmed bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Chairman of Dubai Media Council, has just announced the ‘Dubai Destinations’ winter campaign, which highlights the very best of what the city has to offer ranging from adventure, entertainment, food, art, culture, sports and fitness. And supporting the extraordinary statistic that Dubai has been tagged on Instagram more than 111 million times and has the most winter-related 'things to do' Google searches in the world.

Certainly, the UAE's handling of the pandemic has been widely recognised as a success. And one of the main reasons for its robust return to business and tourism as usual, including welcoming 1.24 million Indian tourists in the first nine months of 2022.

Built to Dubai's vision

As a destination in its own right, DMCC's ambition is to consistently replicate Dubai’s vision on a smaller scale, specifically by making JLT as attractive as possible, not just in terms of business, but for the 60,000 residents who utilise its numerous shops, restaurants, hotels and gyms. One of the reasons we launched our ‘neighbourhood full of soul’ campaign, highlighting the districts growth and status as a mixed-use community.

Additional developments include the launch of the DMCC Lounge, a concept inside the Almas Tower that allows patrons to experience several of the high-grade teas and coffees imported through our community.

Certainly, our consistent ability to provide a robust growth environment while maintaining international best-practice in terms of regulation has also helped to garner several awards, including being recognised as the ‘Global Free Zone of the Year’ for an eighth consecutive time, while related businesses such as the Dubai Diamond Exchange reached $19.8 billion in trade in H1-2022.

It is perhaps, this level of business consistency that supported the complete preleasing of Uptown Tower’s office space ahead of completion.

Another factor that has encouraged DMCC’s growth is its commitment to progress and innovation. As a free zone born from a gold sukuk, the launch of our 24-carat coins earlier this year felt like a fitting development for a community that owes its start to the precious metal. And whose products on the DGCX now include Sharia Gold, India Gold Quanto, Daily Gold and Physical Gold Futures & Spot Gold Contracts.

Additional innovations in 2022 include a five-year pact with India-based FinMet, which will support the launch of other gold products, facilities for bullion traders to raise short-term funds with new gold contracts, and the Dubai Financial Market’s approval from the Securities and Commodities Authority (SCA) to allow bourse-licensed brokerage firms to become DFM derivatives members and to provide their services in the market for the very first time.

DMCC also digitised gold trading through the tokenisation of Comtech gold bullion backed by its Tradeflow platform, providing ease of trade, additional security, transparency and real-asset allocation. Similarly, DMCC’s partnership with Asia’s leading digital gold platform, SafeGold, also provided digitised access to gold investment, enabling a new ecosystem to flourish with the MENA region’s $20 billion gold market.

More to be done with gold

Aside from DMCC Tradeflow’s record volumes, the platform has collateralised both coffee and diamonds, providing customers with direct access to trade finance, while its position as a registry platform for the federal gold trade will continue to support Dubai’s position as a global hub for precious metals.

Within DMCC Crypto Centre, members now have access to Brinc’s $150 million accelerator fund, supporting companies' long-term growth in the Web3 and blockchain sectors. In supporting a more transparent, decentralised future, DMCC also signed an MoU with the South Korean city of Busan to collaborate for the benefit of the global blockchain industry and the adoption of blockchain and Web3 technologies.

At the very core of DMCC's DNA is its ability to listen to the market and provide the environment or services people want, particularly those that allow forward-thinking businesses to grow. Thanks to this philosophy, some of the highlights of 2022 include the Gemmological Institute of America announcing the establishment of a 41,000 square feet laboratory over two floors in Uptown Tower as part of a nine-year deal while creating 500 skilled new jobs.

While DMCC’s commitment to a sustainable future took another step forward through its suite of projects in line with the Dubai Clean Energy and Net Zero Carbon Strategy 2050.

Make known to the world

Another core theme of DMCC’s ongoing growth has been its ability to collaborate, and 2022 was no exception. In just the past 12 months alone, DMCC conducted roadshows in Brazil, the US, France, Poland, Monaco, and India, while signing numerous MoUs with organisations including the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce and Fresh Water Norway.

Additional highlights include DMCC hosting 250 Israeli business leaders just last month, a bilateral relationship that has offered significant value to trade. This include $188 million in rough diamonds from Israel to the UAE in 2021, a figure which will undoubtedly grow following the free trade deal signed in June.

As a result of this sort of outreach, DMCC has doubled the number of Chinese companies incorporated over the past five years, with approximately 12 per cent of all Chinese companies in the UAE being found in DMCC. Its outbound focus on developing new products and areas to trade with includes the establishment of Latin America's first free zone under English Common law, based in Cartagena, Colombia, creating a new virtual and physical trading corridor between the Americas and the UAE.

A pioneering spirit

Combined, I am deeply proud of the efforts made by the entire DMCC team and its ability to remain agile under pressure while conscientious in a rapidly changing world. While there is a part of me that would like to see our total number of new companies reach and exceed 3,000 before December 31, I am satisfied that as a team we have successfully supported the continued growth of Dubai, and its position as a truly global centre for trade.

It is by coincidence that only a few days ago, the record-breaking US parachute jumper Joseph Kittinger, the first man to jump from earth’s stratosphere in 1960, exceeding speeds of over 600 miles per hour from an altitude of 102,800 feet, died at the age of 94. While never garnering the celebrity of the astronauts that followed, Kittinger's bravery and commitment to further our world paved the way for America's first manned spaceflights, which ultimately changed the course of human history.

It is my ambition and hope that DMCC can continue to pave the way for future generations with the same pioneering spirit, and to become the foundation on which those with true grit and integrity can succeed.