Ras Al Khamiah: Since it started in 2000, the Ras Al Khaimah Free Trade Zone (RAKFTZ) has banked on small and medium enterprises (SME) and it continues to grow between 10 and 15 per cent year on year.
"There has been a lot of interest from SMEs to service the larger companies involved in infrastructure projects and the likes. We've already registered around 1,500 companies this year and expect to reach our target of 2,250 by end year," said Maryam Al Murshedi Al Shehhi, deputy director-general, RAKFTZ.
The zone, including a Business, Industrial and Technology Park registered 1,900 companies last year, a growth of 10 per cent and 11 per cent in revenue.
RAKFTZ contributes a significant portion to the emirate's government services providing comprising around 15 per cent of GDP.
Shaikh Faisal Bin Saqr Al Qasimi, Chairman of the Ras Al Khaimah Finance Department, Chairman of the Ras Al Khaimah Free Zone Authority, attributes the success to the zone's individuality.
"We are very cost effective, give more services to our clients and serve them globally," he added.
RAKFTZ currently has business centres in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, and liaison offices in India, Miami, Germany and Turkey.
New York, Shanghai, Egypt, New Delhi and France are soon to follow, said Oussama Al Omari, CEO and director-general, RAKFTZ.
"Companies from 130 countries have set up in our zone, but a lot come from where we have offices it helps," he says.
Africa, meanwhile, is more of a consumer market, he reckons, and therefore RAKFTZ is looking at setting up a logistics centre there to assist its clientele.
"We will expand our network of offices abroad. China, Brazil and South Korea are also interesting places right now," Shaikh Faisal added.
All zones are 100 per cent occupied with 4,000 companies in operation, he said. Plans for the five-year expansion plan are on track, including the Business Park, educational, aviation and renewable energy zones.
"We are more than a mere free trade zone but an investment and promotion agency and want to attract solar and nuclear research companies and have the permit to develop the site around RAK International Airport to create an aviation park with maintenance companies and the likes," said Al Omari.
Each of the emirates has created a free zone of some sort or another, but Shaikh Faisal does not fear competition and said the UAE will may even need more.
"We want to be different, every free zone is unique and serves its purpose. None of the zones are downsizing."