Shurooq leads Sharjah drive to build on history of trade

Sheikha Bodour, chairperson of the Sharjah Investment and Development Authority, tells The National about Sharjah’s broader aims in promoting investment from the UK.
Sheikha Bodour, who chairs Shurooq, is keen on promoting British investments in the emirate. Delores Johnson / The National
Sheikha Bodour, who chairs Shurooq, is keen on promoting British investments in the emirate. Delores Johnson / The National

Trade ties between the United Kingdom and Sharjah go back centuries – but for Sheikha Bodour Al Qasimi, the business link is anything but history.

As chairperson of the Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq), Sheikha Bodour is steering a major drive to boost international investment to the emirate.

Shurooq held a “Sharjah Day” in London at the weekend, geared towards promoting the emirate to British companies, and it has opened a permanent office in the UK capital designed to boost foreign investment. A global campaign, entitled ‘Invest in Sharjah’, is set to launch in September.

Sheikha Bodour told the audience in London that the UK initiative “affirms a historic relation that is deeply rooted in our rich history”. She added: “We are no strangers to each other. The relationship with Sharjah is the oldest relationship that the UK has in the UAE. British companies have set up substantial businesses since the 1800s in Sharjah, and they have since been part of our journey of development.

“What UK companies are looking for, we believe we can offer … In recent years, our trade has grown to be in the billions of dirhams. We believe it will keep on growing.”

Here, Sheikha Bodour tells The National about Sharjah’s broader aims in promoting investment from the UK.

What kind of UK businesses is Shurooq targeting in its effort to encourage more to invest in Sharjah?

Sharjah has transformed itself in becoming Mena’s central destination for diversifying sectors and a hub for responsible investments. This is derived from its strategic goal and vision of establishing the most sustainable economy, which attracts an array of investors, business leaders and SMEs to expand their business in Sharjah.

After careful study, we see the core sectors that drive new businesses and pioneering technologies are health care, tourism and leisure travel, waste management, environmental sustainability and renewable energy, transport and logistics and education.

These sectors provide British investors new investment prospects in order to grow their businesses, expand their transactions in the region and sustain their competitive advantages. Also, the growth of these sectors is primarily attributed to the long-going investments which Shurooq and Sharjah underwent to ensure in providing our partners practical and easy-access facilities, and services that meet international standards.

Shurooq has opened an office in London – what is the purpose of this and what kind of initiatives will it undertake?

The opening of Shurooq’s new office in London is primarily part of our objective of expanding to a new frontier, and in a nation that is considered one of the biggest power-houses in the global economy. Additionally, our new office opening reflects on our recognition on the historical relation that is deeply rooted in a world-class leading diplomacy and partnership. Moreover, our office offers our business partners in the west a one-stop access to all the opportunities which lie ahead in Sharjah and the rest of the UAE.

What are the advantages of setting up shop in Sharjah for British companies, and how do these compare with what is on offer in other emirates such as Dubai or Abu Dhabi?

We don’t necessarily focus on comparing ourselves to other emirates, rather than building together towards one success. Our combined successes hold strategic opportunities for partnerships and joint-ventures, in order to learn from both our experiences and business practices and lead in selected industries in the region.

For the last few years, Sharjah’s economy has been sustainable and optimistic as stated by two of the leading credit-rating companies, S&P and Moody’s. Shurooq dedicated itself to create a portfolio with the most diversified sectors in business and tourism investments. Additionally, Sharjah is home to several major British players in the region, whose foundation for growth and success first began in the emirate.

This is all due to the historic growth and experience we’ve accomplished in meeting international standards with our services, and developing facilities that meet the demands of investors and trade leaders across the globe. Today, these services and facilities can all be found across our sea ports, tourism projects and multiple free zones across the entire emirate.

How many British companies are based in Sharjah today and what is the target going forward?

Currently there are 4,000 British companies in the UAE and more than 400 investors currently active in the emirate of Sharjah. Our objective behind promoting Sharjah as a central destination for investment reflects our confidence in the long-term investment prospects which Sharjah can provide to global business owners.

Many of the UAE-based and UK-based British companies who conduct their businesses throughout the emirates have had a historical presence in the UAE. Today, most of these companies use the UAE as an access to point to expand their business across the Mena region.

How important are free zones for attracting international businesses to set up in Sharjah?

Sharjah’s free-zone policies include enabling investors to enjoy 100 per cent ownership of their entity, zero tax and duties … hassle-free licensing and world-class infrastructure.

The free zones are also important because they open new prospects for SMEs to establish their businesses in Sharjah.

The Sharjah International Airport Free Zone continues to attract international factories and manufacturing companies who are looking to use Sharjah as an establishment to grow their business and grow their distribution across the Mena region.

business@thenational.ae

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Published: April 10, 2016 04:00 AM

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