Subscribe
SIGN UP   |   LOG IN

WHAT A YEAR

Sharjah 2016 | DIPLOMACY | YEAR IN REVIEW

Sharjah's industry-based economy has kept it well shielded from the effects of low oil prices, with a growing tourism sector another strong investment pull.

Sharjah, one of seven Emirates in the UAE, is the picture of economic health. Representing nearly one-third of the country's manufacturing sector, the Emirate has carved out a lucrative niche for itself as both an industrial and cultural hub. In terms of the breakdown, Standard & Poor's highlights that the real estate and business services sector constitutes 22% of GDP, manufacturing 17%, wholesale and retail trade 12%, and mining, quarrying, and energy 12%. Tied up so closely with its surrounding Emirates, however, means it is exposed, even if indirectly, to price fluctuations in the oil market. Not all external factors are negative, however, with large upcoming events such as Expo 2020 in Dubai, and the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, offering up possibilities for the service, retail, and real estate sectors.

To keep the engine ticking, Sharjah's government upped spending by 2% in its 2016 budget, bringing overall expenditures to roughly AED20.3 billion (USD5.5 billion). The 2016 budget will again allocate 46% of expenditures toward economic development programs aimed at spurring sustainable growth.
As the old saying goes, Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither was Sharjah's industrial complex. According to the Sharjah Economic Development Department, industrial facilities averaged annual growth rates of 8% over the last 10 years, thanks in some part to the Emirate's strategic location near the Strait of Hormuz. Going forward, the Industrial Affairs Department believes that the industrial sector will represent as much as 25% of GDP by 2025. Much of the industrial activity in Sharjah is based in the Hamriyah Free Zone (HFZ) and the Sharjah Airport International Free Zone (SAIF Zone). Both offer top-quality infrastructure and generous investment incentives. In 2016, SAIF Zone welcomed a host of new operations, including two new specialized factories being built by British firm Advanced Armour Engineering, a tin can factory being built by Delta Food Industries and Anand Tin Containers, and an assembly plant for rotary pumps constructed by the American firm Stanadyne, to name but a few. Looking again into the future, eyes are now on Al Saja'a Industrial Oasis, which Sharjah Asset Management (SAM) began working on in late 2015. The new industrial park is expected to create up to 20,000 jobs, according to the Sharjah Investment and Development Authority. In mid 2016, the second stage of construction was launched, making 114 plots, ranging from 14,000 sqft to 112,000 sqft, available for bidding. The Sharjah Investment Center (SIC), a mixed-use industrial area developed as a joint venture between UAE and Saudi investors, is also set to open its doors. At 32 million sqft, the SIC is an ambitious AED2 billion investment in Sharjah's manufacturing base, with 80% of plots prepared in the first two phases already sold, providing an indication of the popularity of Sharjah as an industrial hub.

By far the most exciting facet of this Emirate's economy, however, is its tourism sector. Sharjah styles itself as a true Islamic experience, having maintained many of its cultural assets despite explosive growth over recent decades. Shurooq, Sharjah's investment authority, predicts that the sector could grow in value to nearly AED2 billion by 2020, up from AED1.44 billion in 2015 and a predicted AED1.5 billion for 2016. To cope with the demand, Shurooq predicts that 5,800 more rooms will be needed by 2020. Sharjah Tourism Vision 2021 is the guiding literature on future growth, and it targets 10 million visitors by that year, when the UAE marks its 50th anniversary. In 1H2016, hotel occupancy rates hit 62%, with 878,006 guests spending nearly 2 million nights in Sharjah. This is partly thanks to efforts by the Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority (SCTDA), including the “Sharjah My Family Destination" campaign, which introduced family-friendly tourism offerings and packages, as well as the promotion of hotels and leisure destinations. SCTDA is also keen to broaden the Emirate's MICE tourism offering, with education, healthcare, and diplomacy identified as target areas. Sport is also firmly on the roadmap, with golf, shooting, and cricket, which was introduced to the Emirate back in the 1970s, especially popular in the Emirate. As of 2016, Sharjah also holds the Guinness World Record for hosting the most one-day cricket internationals, at 224, ahead of Australia on 167.

Modern-day Sharjah would be almost unrecognizable to its inhabitants half a century ago, having undergone a profound transformation under the leadership of HH Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah. In 2016, the Emirate is a regional finance and manufacturing powerhouse, a center of Islamic history and learning, and an important regional partner.


 

Want to read the full interview?

Purchase

this article now for GBP9.99

or
Subscribe Today

to access this article and all
our other premium content

Already have an account with us?

Forgot User ID / Password

or connect with

LinkedIn