IN THE ZONE

Dubai 2016 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Ibrahim Mohamed Aljanahi, Deputy CEO and Chief Commercial Officer of Jebel Ali Free Zone Authority (Jafza), on priorities, growth strategies, and investment plans.

Ibrahim Mohamed Aljanahi
BIOGRAPHY
Ibrahim Mohamed Aljanahi is Deputy CEO and Chief Commercial Officer of Jafza. He is also the Chairman of the Djibouti Free Zone, a joint project between Economic Zones World and the government of Djibouti. Aljanahi is responsible for providing strategic direction to the company’s commercial operations in Jafza and the region. Aljanahi joined the Free Zone in 2002 as the regional manager for Europe and moved rapidly through various management roles. He is an industry veteran with more than 25 years of management experience in diverse sectors and areas. Prior to joining Jafza, he held various senior positions in administration, finance, and HR at the UAE Central Bank.

What role does Jafza play in the development of Dubai?

Jafza was created through the vision of the late Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, who wanted to position Dubai as a leading global trade and business hub. The free zone was created in 1985 to promote trade and support container throughput at the Jebel Ali Port. Jafza was mandated to attract multinationals to the free zone and I am proud to say we have successfully achieved that mandate. We attracted global brands into the free zone and helped Dubai establish itself as the region's trade and commerce hub. Jafza is currently home to more than 7,000 of the world's finest companies, which include 100 Global Fortune 500 enterprises, and has been one of the main drivers of Dubai's burgeoning economy over the years. The zone contributes 21% of Dubai's GDP on a YoY basis and employs more than 144,000 people in the country.

To what main factors do you attribute Jafza's remarkable growth over the years?

The main factors were: our capability to understand and respond promptly to customer and market demands; a single-minded commitment to serve customers and enable them to achieve their goals in the region; integrated systems including a one-stop shop for all services in the free zone that make their operations seamless and efficient; and excellent multi-modal connectivity by sea, land, and air due to our location between the region's biggest container port, Jebel Ali Port, and the Al Maktoum International Airport, which is just 35 minutes' drive from the free zone. Furthermore, our outstanding physical and economic infrastructure have always met the requirements of multinationals, which use Jafza facilities to serve the region and beyond thanks to our strategic location midway between Asia, Europe, and Africa, the fastest-growing producing and consumer markets.

How do you support your customers in achieving their growth aspirations?

As a business enabler we enhance our value proposition to customers. Jafza's initiatives can be grouped under two categories. One is designed to support customers' operational efficiencies and the other supports them in growing their businesses. The first category includes investments on upgrading physical infrastructure and facilities and IT. For example, Jafza launched its mobile application to enable customers to access services from their mobile devices at any time, making business transactions with the free zone easier than ever before. The initiative has further strengthened its existing online infrastructure. The second category includes our drive to maintain dialog with our customers through strategic forums that focus on exploring ways to enhance growth opportunities in different sectors. As part of this initiative, we now invite them to accompany our officials on the industry-specific road shows we conduct in potential markets across the world and the trade exhibitions we participate in globally.

What is Jafza's priority focus at present and for the coming years?

Our growth strategy is driven by three key words; connect, network, and operate. We aim to provide our customers with first-class logistics infrastructure using the best multimodal connectivity to enable them to reach any part of the world quickly. The Al Maktoum International Airport is designed to handle 12 million tons of cargo annually and we have 17,000km of excellent roads. Meanwhile, we continue to create networks that encourage business growth, such as an online business matching portal and industry-specific events to generate new opportunities. Jafza's top priority at present is to consolidate our strengths and enhance capability as the region's trade, commerce, and logistics hub to meet the anticipated growth in demand for world-class facilities and services.

Which countries and industries will be investing in Jafza in the coming years?

In the next five years we expect significant growth to come from Asia, Europe, and the Americas. Since most of the countries in the region are focused on social and economic infrastructure, sectors such as construction, machinery and equipment, FMCG, healthcare, transportation, and logistics are expected to attract investors.