The free zone sector in the UAE is currently going through a period of transition in response to new innovations in the tech sector, said Jochen Knecht, CEO of Dubai-based IFZA, on the sidelines of the 9th Annual International Conference & Exhibition (AICE) that got under way in Dubai on Tuesday.
“Free zones in the UAE will go into a period of further specialisation, giving rise to more opportunities for the country to attract next-generation talents and businesses, especially in the artificial intelligence space,” said Knecht.
Pointing out that three out of the five urban centres defined in the 2040 Urban Master Plan are clustered around free zones, Knecht said “free zones will continue to play an important role in the UAE’s economy for the next 40 years”.
“While the UAE shares several advantages that other free zones have in the region such as strategic location, tax incentives and infrastructure, what sets the UAE’s free zones apart is our visionary leadership that is determined to advance the status of the nation among the top destinations in the world and its track record of turning vision into reality,” he said.
“From a single free zone 38 years ago to about 50 now across a number of industries, the UAE has shown proof of the success of the free zone model and continues to lead in the advancement of this sector,” Knecht added.
He also credited the country’s leadership for leading the way in ensuring trust within the wider free zone ecosystem of the emirates and the nation.
“The policymakers have been proactive in enacting regulations in line with best practices and standards set by other economies and international organisations such as the OECD, while also ensuring a healthy balance between regulations and freedom.”
Citing Dubai’s VARA – the world’s first independent regulator for virtual assets – as an example, he lauded the government for being at the forefront of emerging trends in business and economy and laying the groundwork for creating a fair and secure playing field for everyone.