Sharjah 2015 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to HE Marwan bin Jassim Al Sarkal, CEO of Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq), on targeted development strategies, areas of future growth, and market intelligence.

HE Marwan bin Jassim Al Sarkal
HE Marwan bin Jassim Al Sarkal, CEO of Shurooq, has been integral to the success of the authority since its inception in 2009. He is also a keen proponent of giving opportunities to talented Emiratis. Alongside his role at the helm of Shurooq, Al Sarkal is a Board Member of the Sharjah Sports Club, a patron of Design Days Dubai, Chairman of the German Emirati Joint Council for Industry & Commerce (AHK), and a former Board Member of Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority. He is also a member of the Sharjah Tourism Advisory Committee and serves on the Board of Governors of Skyline University College. He is widely considered a key figure in Sharjah’s growth ambitions.

Shurooq has targeted four sectors that need investment: tourism, environment, transport and logistics, and healthcare. Can you tell us more about the opportunities that exist in these sectors?

The first area of growth is the transportation and logistics sector, which comprises almost 6% of GDP, and we need to increase that. Looking at the expected growth rate and what the expected market size increase is, there is a huge gap in what is available and what can be done. For tourism, our aim is to increase the current contribution of 10% to GDP. Sharjah requires almost 3,000 additional beds to cope with increasing tourist numbers, so we need more hotels and more resorts. We also want to attract more passenger carriers to come to Sharjah, and we want more restaurants. Shurooq supports investors by providing them land with support for their facilities, and even getting them to the right operators to fill those hotels in the future. We are actively trying to diversify the tourism sector to cater to all kinds of tourists, be it cultural tourists, beach tourists, or ecotourists. We are developing ecotourism in Kalba, beach tourism in Khorfakkan, and cultural tourism in the city of Sharjah. Healthcare is also a big topic in terms of investment and development in the entire Arab world. The services are not as advanced as in Europe or Asia, so governments are trying to attract investors that are willing to establish their own hospitals and institutes. Most governments in the GCC have created zones, and Sharjah also created the Sharjah Healthcare City, a freezone offering ample opportunities to investors. One area that we are targeting in particular is healthcare services for the elderly, where there is a huge gap between supply and demand for services. The fourth sector we focus on is the environment. We are trying to promote companies that can provide us with energy efficient products that would reduce our carbon footprint and emissions. It is a huge market that accounts for nearly $41million, and it experiences a 15% YoY growth. Sharjah was the first city in the region to go into recycling. Bee'ah has played a major role in this sector, and we are trying to attract investors to work closely with them.

How specifically does Shurooq facilitate investment in Sharjah?

We create market intelligence, conduct studies, and provide investors with market data rather than just telling them to come and invest in Sharjah. We promote Sharjah through international roadshows, and deal directly with Chambers of Commerce in different countries around the world. Furthermore, we have seminars with foreign business councils in the Emirate. However, Shurooq's role is more than just providing market intelligence. We actually work hand in hand with investors in providing land for projects and easing the process within the government departments. We don't give financial support to our investors because we believe those investors are coming ready to invest. However, we do enter into joint ventures with investors and work with local entities to facilitate the process for investors.