EXPORT-ISE

UAE, Sharjah 2017 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Abdelaziz Mohamed Shattaf, Director of Sharjah Exports Development Center (SEDC), on regional focuses for export growth, export regulations and incentives, and job creation.

Abdelaziz Mohamed Shattaf
BIOGRAPHY
Abdelaziz Mohamed Shattaf is the Director SEDC, an initiative by Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI). He is also the Assistant Director General for Members Services Sector at SCCI. He holds a bachelor’s in marketing and master’s in international business and quality management, both from University of Wollongong in Australia. Shattaf has spent the past four years of his career with SCCI laying the foundations for SEDC. Previously, he had served as the head of the economic promotions at SCCI for four years, developing extensive experience in industrial and economic development and promotion.

How has the level of exports evolved since 2016?

Sharjah exporters have seen a 5% increase in their exports since last year in figures released by the Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI). This shows that the market demand for Sharjah's products remains robust, and we are confident that there is potential for continued growth over the next two years. Lubricants are the largest export products, followed by products in the food and beverage category. In third are electrical and mechanical products, with switchgears the fourth-largest export products. Currently, Sharjah has around 2,500 manufacturers, of which 2,000 operate in free zones. The value of the products exported from Sharjah is around AED60 billion (USD16.3 billion).

How do you assess your trade mission to Uganda and Kenya in collaboration with SCCI in late 2016?

East Africa is a lucrative and potential market for UAE- and Sharjah-based products, especially for food and beverages, plastics, iron, and steel. These products are in high demand in East Africa, especially in Uganda and Kenya, and our registered companies in that region have seen 15% growth in exports over the past three years. Today, the trade mission is in its third year, and the number of companies grows every year. East Africa, and Africa in general, is a huge market with a lot of potential, so we will be focusing on that continent for the next five years. Our biggest partner in the GCC is Saudi Arabia, and we are also looking to export and invest more in Saudi Arabia, as well as other GCC countries. Beyond Africa and the Gulf, we are also looking at CIS countries. That market also has a lot of potential and opportunities for our products. The UAE has signed an agreement with the CIS that will facilitate UAE products reaching those countries. There was already an MoU with Kazakhstan, and now the whole CIS region is open to UAE exports and products.

What incentives do you have in place or will you introduce to promote more exports going forward?

For companies participating in trade missions and exhibitions abroad, we pay between 15-20% of their travel and participation expenses. We want as many SMEs as possible to participate in trade missions, fairs, and exhibitions to take advantage of the opportunities that are out there, so we will continue to support them with such incentives. For our members, payment methods and regularity are issues. So we try to provide them with alternatives like credit insurance, which is a new product that will be launched by Sharjah Exports to mitigate this risk and problem. This product will help our exporters secure their payments in a timely and guaranteed manner.

How would you describe the current export policies and regulations in Sharjah for exporters?

We are well rated in terms of ease of doing business. On the export side, the UAE government is fully supportive of exports from all of the Emirates. The UAE in general is a place that makes doing business easy, with a lot of shipping lines connecting our ports. In order to have a strong export culture, one needs to have great ports, facilities, and other such infrastructure, in which the UAE and Sharjah have invested heavily. We have industrial areas that are well connected with other ports and facilities, making it easier and cheaper to export goods from the UAE.

What role does the SEDC play in terms of job generation and training?

Sharjah Exports supports specialized and technical workshops and training programs, and emphasizes the importance of human capital and skilled labor in the industrial supply chain and export industries. We work with local manufacturers to help train people in the use of machinery and new technologies used by the manufacturers, and sometimes we engage with an original equipment manufacturer like General Motors to ensure more components are produced here in Sharjah.