TBY talks to HE Khalifa Al Zaffin, Executive Chairman of Dubai Aviation City Corporation (DACC) & Dubai South, on being a catalyst for business, the free zone's priorities, and supplying the right infrastructure.

HE Khalifa Al Zaffin
HE Khalifa Al Zaffin is the Executive Chairman at Dubai Aviation City Corporation (DACC). In addition to his role at DACC, he is also the Executive Chairman of Dubai Aviation Engineering Projects. Prior to his two decades in aviation, Al Zaffin was a Senior Project Engineer at Dubai Aluminum Company Ltd. (DUBAL). Currently, he serves as a board member of the Executive Council for Infrastructure Affairs, Dubai World Trade Center, Cleveland Bridge and DEYAAR. He is a graduate of Arizona State University and holds a bachelor’s of science degree in chemical engineering.

How is Dubai South diversifying the base of industrial companies around the free zone?

Our role is to be a platform and catalyst for business, so we endeavor to do as much as we can for our client businesses. For example, for the aviation sector we invested in a VIP terminal for all of the fixed-base operators because it is quite a big undertaking for them to build one independently, and now they have a common terminal to ease operations and add value to their operations. These entities now have their own maintenance, repair, and operations facilities as well as warehousing, paint shops, and more; it is a platform for every business. This has helped generate a downstream industry in this particular sector. One of our current focuses is to look at the human side of our operations beyond our administrative role. In our residential district, we are focusing on creating happy cities for people to live and work in this area. We have, in effect, become a developer, creating the infrastructure to ensure a high quality of life. We are not the only developer, and we are still a platform for business. Having a fully developed infrastructure allows us to moderate the cost of rents. The next step will be to bring in cost-effective schools and hospitals because we want to be competitive.

Can you tell us about the zone's priorities and how that impacts the kind of people and developers it attracts?

We would like to have a happy city. There are a few things that affect happiness; for example, people are not happy to sit in traffic after a long day at work. Secondly, we focus on cost and make it cost effective for people to live here in terms of the environment and access to education and health services. Having all of these facilities readily available should make living here more enjoyable. We also integrate many safety measures into our building plans; for example, we ensure that busy roads are away from living areas to ensure that children do not play close to traffic. Focusing on small things is one of the many things we do to ensure that our residents are happy.

How does Dubai South ensure the airport is supplied with the right infrastructure?

Dubai South, as an airport city, is designed to cater to the logistics needs of the airport. We are growing our logistics capacity, which will help smooth the movement of cargo and airfreight, and at the moment we are experiencing double-digit growth. Under general aviation, we also have double-digit growth. The number of free zone operations and our suite of services are growing very quickly, and we are now also incorporating the growth and development of the residential aspect into our strategies. We are enablers for what the airport requires in terms of services and what the airport could reciprocate in terms of business.

What are your key initiatives for the rest of 2017?

Our plans are dependent on the evolution of the aviation sector. For example, we have to have facilities ready for flydubai by end-2017. The airport is also being expanded from a capacity of 5 million to 27 million passengers, which will dictate the pace of our infrastructure development. It is really growing, and we have a new operator. Dubai South will be hosting many heads of state and dignitaries, who will be travelling here for the Expo. We have educational institutions that we will also help develop, such as the Emirates flight academy as well as other aviation-specific education facilities. Our housing will be ready by early 2019, and we have sold over 1,000 units already. Every year, Dubai South invests between USD1.4-1.6 billion in addition to private investors.