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Sharjah 2015 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Saud Salim Al Mazrouei, Director of the Hamriyah Free Zone Authority & Sharjah Airport International Free Zone Authority (SAIF), on new investment opportunities, the characteristics of the local economy, and getting international investors on board.

Saud Salim Al Mazrouei
BIOGRAPHY
Saud Salim Al Mazrouei is the Director of SAIF and the Hamriyah Free Zone. He has a background in business management and IT, and has a clear vision and competence that have boosted the growth of FDI in the UAE. His strategic approach in earning both free zones the status of global brands and favorable investment destinations has been appreciated. He is today rated as a business leader with promise and commitment possessing a great potential to be a partner in the process of the economic development of the UAE.

How are both the Hamriyah Free Zone and SAIF contributing to economic growth in Sharjah?

Both free zones are a very crucial component of the economy of Sharjah, and serve as its backbone. Today, over 13,000 companies have been established in both free zones, and over 1,000 industries ranging from small to medium to heavy industries have been set up. We have investors of 157 different nationalities, who are active in different economic sectors in our zones. The free zones were developed to encourage more FDI investment within Sharjah, since Sharjah was a leading industrial city with 33% of all the industry of the UAE. The free zones compliment that growth, and we are targeting unique sectors for growth within Sharjah specifically and within the UAE. When it comes to industries, we are very specialized, we look at integration and clustering and we look at how we can develop our services further to let our investors have a well-balanced, one-stop service business environment that enables their growth.

Which economic sectors are most important in the Hamriyah Free Zone?

The biggest sectors are oil and gas and maritime. Furthermore, the Hamriyah Free Zone is the largest steel zone in the UAE. We are also the second largest oil storage zone in the UAE, and we are expanding and looking at new customers to set up their businesses in that sector. We have many other sectors like building materials and food production, which we are looking to expand as we have recently created a new food and plastic packaging zone. This is a new project in Hamriyah that will cater to a specific clientele within the free zone; we are encouraging customers from around the world to participate. We are continuously looking at growing our number of clients in Hamriyah in different sectors and segmentations.

Are you experiencing an influx in investors as a result of that?

We are gaining ground in sectors such as the food and petrochemical sectors. We are also expanding the steel sector in the free zone, and we have the largest private shipbuilding facility, which is Damen Shipyard with around 350,000 sqm of land. We look at different sectors, and we also look at how we can compliment these industries together. Sometimes certain industries are not aware of other industries that are in the free zone, so we match them together, which creates synergy and builds more business between them. Today the free zone has an area of 22 million sqm and to cope with the rising future demand, a further expansion of 10 million sqm area has been planned.

Which sectors have you prioritized for foreign investment in the coming year?

Sharjah has always had a balanced economy; we have a certain margin of growth that we focus on. What we are trying to do now is look at how we can upgrade our services in the different fields in both free zones. We are looking at more software-enabled services—more third party enabled services to improve the efficiency for our clients when it comes to cargo and transportation and other facility management services. The free zone has very good growth and we are very optimistic about the next five years. We are looking at new sectors and new countries, such as the US, Canada, Portugal, and Brazil. We are also looking at Europe in a big way, because it is a big market for us. We have recently gone to Japan, which was very encouraging. We already have some Japanese firms, but our aim is to get more clients from Japan. We are looking at expanding into manufacturing because the Japanese are very good in this field and we want to encourage more industries to come here.