Jan. 12, 2015

Abdulla BelHoul

UAE, Dubai

Abdulla BelHoul

CEO, Dubai Industrial City (DI)


Abdulla BelHoul is the CEO of Dubai Industrial City. In this role, he is mandated to establish Dubai Industrial City as the most competitive industrial destination in the UAE. Prior to his current position, BelHoul was the Executive Director of Building Project Management at Tamdeen, the project management subsidiary of TECOM Investments. During his tenure at Tamdeen he was responsible for a number of high-profile projects including the Nucleotide Laboratory Complex, Dubai Studio City Commercial offices, and DuBioTech Headquarters Building. Earlier, as the Senior MEP Manager Asset Development at Dubai Properties, BelHoul was tasked with managing technical requirements for major master plans such as Business Bay, Culture Village, and the Dubai Land Residential Complex. BelHoul has a Bachelor’s degree in Engineering Management and a Higher Diploma in Mechanical Engineering-Science from the Higher Colleges of Technology, UAE.

The ultimate goal of Dubai Industrial City (DI) is to foster the growth of manufacturing in Dubai, as well as of its economy. What has been your strategy in this regard?

The past few years have been successful for us, where we saw a growth rate of 33% in 2013. The growth has been mainly driven by economic recovery, as well as government measures to support the industrial sector and smart cities. During 2013, we set up four times more warehousing facilities than the year before. We forecast continued growth for the next few years. We will be investing in new infrastructure projects to ensure effective supply and demand dynamics, and focusing on the growth of seven key industrial clusters within DI.

Taking into account governmental commitment for the Islamic economy, what are you doing to foster this development?

In 2014, we have launched a new dedicated Halal Cluster as a part of Dubai's plan to become the global capital of the Islamic economy. We identified that the halal market for personal consumption products is huge. According to recent reports, Muslim consumers spend over $1 trillion on food and over $26 billion on cosmetics and personal care. This is expected to increase by 50% in the coming five years, to $1.6 trillion and $39 billion, respectively. The MENA region with its high-density Muslim population is very attractive. The food market alone is worth $85 billion in the GCC, and $237 billion in the other MENA regions. The UAE is the 14th largest market in the world with $20 billion. Our Halal Cluster is spread across close to 6.7 million square feet, and caters exclusively to halal FMCG and food products and operates as a logistics hub. With our newly established Halal Cluster, DI becomes a dedicated platform for companies and investors with halal operations in the UAE. Our vision is to provide a highly competitive platform for growth in the manufacturing and logistics sector in the UAE, and to act as a true enabler of Dubai's ambition to become the global capital of the Islamic economy. Our Halal Cluster consists of fully separated industrial block adjacent to fast transportation infrastructure, state-of-the-art labor villages and retail communities and built and ready-to-use warehouses and showrooms.

What are the peculiarities of DI when compared to other free zones in the Emirate?

First of all, DI is a non-free zone catering to industrial tenants in manufacturing and logistics within the GCC market. Free and non-free zones are often confused. In a free zone, a foreign investor is usually given 100% ownership, and it is mainly occupied by exporting industries. The companies that wish to reside in the DI are treated as an Emirati company. This is intended to help them set up manufacturing facilities to cater to the regional market given the free trade agreement (FTA) signed by the UAE with other GCC states, which gives investors the opportunity to export their products as local products, and benefit from a 5% exportation cost deduction since they will be exempted from customs according to these trade agreements. Additional benefits include no taxes on personal and corporate income, full repatriation of capital as per federal law, and duty-free imports of machinery, equipment and raw materials for production. We also provide single window facilitation with various government entities.