ACCESSING FUJAIRAH

UAE 2018 | FUJAIRAH | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Sharief Habib Al Awadhi, Director General of Fujairah Free Zone Authority (FFZA), on growing business and the zone's benefits.

Sharief Habib Al Awadhi
BIOGRAPHY
Sharief Habib Al Awadhi is a dynamic, entrepreneurial management strategist with over 25 years of experience in highly competitive markets. He is a recognized business leader with extensive experience in promoting business investment in the UAE and the Emirate of Fujairah. As Director General of Fujairah Free Zone Authority, he is responsible for the development of investment opportunities to bolster the national economy through increasing commerce and industry activities. He is a member of the Development Committee of Fujairah Oil Industry Zone and a board member of Fujairah Foundation for Regions Development, Fujairah National Insurance Company, and Fujairah Cement Company.

How have imports and exports evolved in the Fujairah Free Zone (FFZ) over the past two years, and how do you expect them to progress?

As the number of companies at FFZ grows, so too does the level of activity we are experiencing. We have managed to attract around 200 SMEs in processing, trading, and services to FFZ, and 20-30% of these companies will be active immediately. Secondly, as these companies grow, they become more sustainable and gain better access to the market along with better knowledge of it. The third factor is that the interaction between companies at FFZ will also grow over time, and these synergies further enhance trade. From our side, we have acquired the knowledge and learned over the years how to better market companies at FFZ. When we run business promotions, both inside and outside the UAE, we focus on the companies that are already here. We highlight their strengths as well as the service, convenience, logistics, and accessibility provided by the FFZ and our partners, such as customs, ports, and freight forwarders. All of us, as a team, help promote and increase FFZ's business.

What are the advantages of coming to FFZ compared to the UAE's other free zones?

FFZA and all our colleagues in the other free zones try to market the UAE as a whole. I would also highlight the positive environment and support from the UAE's federal and local governments. There are three factors that differentiate FFZ. The first point is that some regions are saturated and some are growing. This will impact the costing, facilitation, accessibility, and expediting of work. At FFZ, we are able to be more attentive to smaller companies coming in compared to a new company going into a zone that already has some 20,000-50,000 members, which impacts the availability of time, services, and cost. The last factor is that FFZ has managed to develop its own identity and market niche. For example, there are free zones focused on the registration of companies and having representation and access to a market in trading, servicing, or real estate. Here in Fujairah, we have developed a great market in the oil sector. FFZ also stands out in terms of its logistics, warehousing, processing, manufacturing, and added-value capacity. This gives us the confidence and capacity to help clients that want to set up a project here. FFZ is flexible and accessible, and we are targeting the market according to our capabilities. Also, we have one of the most important multipurpose ports in the region.

Which countries are showing the most interest in FFZ?

There is no doubt the Indian Subcontinent has always been the main supplier to this region. Today, the Subcontinent provides management, labor, skilled workers, and investors to the UAE, and most Indian businesspeople have a network of operations across a number of countries. The second region is Asia, the third is European businesses, and the interest in FFZ from Africa is also growing. Africa is a good market for us because it has a lot of resources that require processing as well as access to other markets. There is more scope to come from Africa, as the UAE provides those markets with superior logistics services. In the future, we expect more demand from Eastern Europe. Of course, the CIS market is up and down. Asian businesses know this is a good platform for re-exporting, as the UAE has developed to meet the requirements from each of these different regions. FFZ has reached a point where we can be more selective and enhance businesses. We try to match the UAE's innovation policies with certain sectors, such as food, pharmaceuticals, and aerospace.