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Most people have a notion what a country-of-origin label stands for. Swiss-made generally implies high-precision products, Made in Germany is a synonym for top-notch technology, and goods Made in Japan are reliable. But what would Made in UAE stand for?

Although there are few associations with Made in UAE, there is a variety of such goods. RAK Ceramics is the world’s largest tile maker with annual sales of more than $1 billion (Dh3.6 billion)and a distribution network that spans over 160 countries. Ras Al Khaimah also has houses three large cement companies — Union Cement, Gulf Cement Company and RAK Cement — which  together make the emirate the largest cement producer in the world. Emirates Global Aluminium is among the world’s top five aluminium smelters, producing 2.4 million tonnes a year. Gulf Pharmaceutical Industries, or Julphar, is the largest in the Middle East.

Expansion plans

But these are just the behemoths. According to data from the UAE Ministry of Economy, manufacturing contributed 14 per cent to the country’s GDP in 2014 and accounted for 53 per cent of the country’s non-oil exports. Plans are to push that number to 20 per cent by 2021 and 25 per cent by 2025. This expansion will be backed by government efforts to implement a industrialisation strategy.

“The growth trajectory of the UAE’s manufacturing road map is noteworthy, making it the second-largest contributor to the UAE’s economy,” Brad Hariharan, Regional Director of Expotrade Middle East, organiser of regional industry conferences, said in a statement ahead of the recent GCC Manufacturing Excellence & Technology Summit.

“The government is seeking to transform the driving engines of economic growth, laying emphasis on the manufacturing sector. Over the past six months alone, the country has seen significant investment from some of the top global brands across industries for setting up manufacturing facilities within the country.”

Some already carry the Made in UAE label abroad, such as Al Nassma, a manufacturer and retailer of premium camel milk chocolates, and Camelicious, producer of dairy products made from camel milk. Martin Van Almsick, General Manager, Al Nassma, tells GN Focus his chocolate brand has not only made 

it into most duty-free shops in the Middle East, but also established distribution deals with premium retailers worldwide.

In the maritime sector, Ajman-based Gulf Craft counts among the world’s top ten superyacht builders. Erwin Bamps, CEO, is all for the introduction of an official Made-in-UAE label. “There is room for such a trademark,” he said at the Monaco Yacht Show in September.

A national label of origin, which requires standardisation, would lend credibility to the country’s manufacturers and strengthen the manufacturing sector as a whole, Bamps explained.

Al Ain-based Strata, producer of aeronautic components for Airbus, Boeing and ATR, even has as its slogan Made with Pride in the UAE.

Home-grown brands

The UAE has no dearth of manufacturing companies with strong brand names. Take Damas, a jewellery maker founded in Dubai as early as in 1907. Or Al Khaznah, an Abu Dhabi-based tannery that produces an exclusive range of innovative, biodegradable camel leather. In the vehicle industry, defence vehicle manufacturer Nimr Automotives has made a name for itself in North Africa’s harsh desert environments. 

More recently, Tesla-style start-ups have popped up in the automotive sector. Zarooq Motors, the first car manufacturer with facilities in the UAE and Emirati management, produces the high-performance SandRacer sports car. It has been joined by W Motors, the UAE’s first supercar manufacturer.

The UAE also has a fair share of technology manufacturing, including Falcon Technologies International, which produces high-end data storage products , and KhalifaSat, the first satellite produced here without external partners. And believe it or not, the country already has its own smartphone brand, Four, launched last year by Emirati entrepreneur Faisal Al Bannai, who is also CEO of Axiom Telecom and of cybersecurity firm DarkMatter. “This region is a hub for technological development,” Al Bannai said. 

The avenues are open for UAE brands to make or expand their footprint in the global markets.