Mohamed Juma Al Musharrkh, CEO, Sharjah FDI Office (Invest in Sharjah), on establishing the emirate’s position as a regional and global gateway for investments:
Could you brief us on Invest in Sharjah, highlighting how it actively supports and encourages SME growth in the emirate?
As the investment promotion office of Sharjah, we are dedicated to the continued transformation and economic diversification of the emirate and committed to guiding foreign investors to the tremendous opportunity and potential that Sharjah offers. Our vision is to inspire businesses — building on the strong foundations of Sharjah’s sustainable growth and economic diversification, while identifying and facilitating investment opportunities across different sectors.
Invest in Sharjah’s deep market knowledge and intelligence has been guiding SMEs to the right investment opportunities in the emirate. They have benefited immensely from a one-point access to bespoke advice and end-to-end business facilitation services our team offers.
How does Sharjah as a destination for new businesses maintain an edge over other emirates in the UAE?
Sharjah’s vibrantly diversified economy based on the principles of Knowledge Economy means that businesses in almost every sector have the opportunity to tap into the commercial potential that the emirate offers in their areas of interest. Think non-traditional sectors such as Publishing, Media, and Innovation — we have entire free zones dedicated exclusively to each sector. These include Sharjah Research, Technology and Innovation Park (SRTI Park), Sharjah Media City Free Zone (Shams) and Sharjah Publishing City Free Zone, among others.
Invest in Sharjah has been playing a key role in promoting Sharjah’s attractiveness as a preferred investment destination, offering competitive advantages to regional and international investors. We have toured over 20 nations, participated in more than 50 leading business and investment promotions events, enabling leading economies like the US, China and India to take a closer look at Sharjah’s investment potential; and reinforced market confidence, which have contributed significantly to our economic growth.
Could you talk about the investment flows over the past few years in Sharjah?
In Q1 2019, Sharjah Economic Development Department (SEDD) issued 1,464 licences compared to 1,240 in the same quarter last year. $571 million capital was invested into Sharjah markets in Q2 2019. Healthy FDI inflows also boosted employment opportunities, creating 1,311 new jobs across dozens of projects within this period. What’s important to note is that the average capital invested per project has seen a significant increase, which reflected a brand new market confidence among foreign investors in Q1 of 2019.
Also, a 2018 SEDD report had revealed that Sharjah’s non-oil GDP reached about Dh89 billion from sectors like manufacturing, mining and construction, retail, tourism and SMEs, among several others, with all non-oil sectors accounting for approximately 92 per cent of Sharjah’s GDP, reflecting a unique growth in the emirate’s diversified economy.
Going forward, what initiatives have you taken to heighten the attractiveness of Sharjah as a lucrative investment zone?
Invest in Sharjah has assumed MENA’s regional directorship at the World Association of Investment Promotion Agencies (WAIPA) for a two-year term, until 2021, signaling a global mark of confidence in Sharjah’s economic role. This is also a recognition of Sharjah’s regional leadership in driving long-term qualitative investments into the UAE.
Invest in Sharjah has also been holding and participating in several international events to boost its position as a key FDI destination. At the upcoming Sharjah FDI Forum being held from November 11-12, a major initiative will be announced to further facilitate the emirate’s FDI potential.
We have been continuously studying emerging sectors such as education, research, and healthcare to explore ways to present investors unique insights on how to boost local human capital and offer them a kind of infrastructure that can support their long-term growth and development.
Sharjah is steadily developing its portfolio of culture and heritage based projects in tourism and hospitality, developing eco-friendly resorts, and boosting opportunities for investments in the environment and sustainability sectors. These are all reinforcing Sharjah’s lucrativeness as an investment zone.