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Sharjah – UK partnership eyes novel British investments into the emirate

Opportunities for British investors to invest in Sharjah was the theme of a major business forum held in London, UK, on Friday April 8th 2016. Organised by the Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq), under the theme ‘Sharjah Day in London, UK,’ the business forum at the Four Seasons Hotel at the capital’s prestigious Park Lane address was held to introduce British investors and businesspersons to the prospective investment landscapes in Sharjah, with a specific focus on sectors which witnessed a sustainable growth year-on-year.

The forum also focused on endorsing Sharjah as a central investment destination for global economies, with diversified sectors that create new business prospects for British investors as well.

Headed by Sheikha Bodour bint Sultan Al Qasimi, Chairperson of Shurooq, the authority hosted a day of speeches, presentations, panel discussions tailored to the British audience. Representing the UAE’s presence in the host nation, H.E. Abdul Rahman Ghanem Almutaiwee, UAE Ambassador to the UK, H.E. Sheikh Mohammed bin Maktoum Al Maktoum, Plenipotentiary Minister at the UAE Embassy in the UK, with a following address given by Lord Clement-Jones, Managing Partner of British DLA Piper, a major legal firm that has considerable interests in the UAE, Hamid Dhia Jafar, Chairman of the Board of the Crescent Group, Dr. Afnan Al Shuaiby, Secretary General and Chief Executive, Arab-British Chamber of Commerce, and multiple UAE-based British business leaders and experts.

“The relationship with Sharjah is the oldest relationship that the UK has in the UAE,” said Sheikha Bodour bint Sultan Al Qasimi during her keynote address at the forum. She also highlighted: “British companies have set up substantial businesses since the 1800s in Sharjah and they have since been part of our journey of development. We support free trade, we have a highly educated workforce, flexible legislation, and most importantly, we have a firm willingness and a clear vision to develop and grow.”

Shurooq’s new London office

During her keynote address, Sheikha Bodour announced the opening of Shurooq’s new office in London to facilitate new investment in Sharjah, with the dedicated operation being established to capitalize on the array of opportunities that the emirate has to offer for investors from the UK.

Shurooq’s new office will form a key plank of Sharjah’s aim to increase UAE-UK economic cooperation, with the relationship between the two entities already strongly established, thanks in part to the high level of reciprocal tourism that has strengthened ties and opened eyes to new opportunities.

On this occasion, she explained: “In recent years, our trade has grown to be in the billions of dirhams. We believe it will keep growing. However, we measure our success as trade partners not only by the financial return on investment, but also by the impact we have on each other in terms of creating employment opportunities, creating innovation platforms, and creating lasting social impact.”

Sheikha Bodour concluded: “Our leadership’s strategy is clear and Sharjah’s economic progress must be balanced with respect to our cultural heritage and with social progress. The result is a stable and diversified economy.”

Participating at the forum were some of the biggest names in Sharjah’s government and private sectors: H.E. Khalid bin Butti Al Hajri, Director General, Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Ahmed Al Suwaidi, Head of the Commercial Investment Section, Sharjah Economic Development Department, as well as panelists which included Khaled Al Huraimel, Group CEO of Bee’ah, Hussein Al Mahmoudi, CEO of AUS Enterprises; Dr. Abdul Aziz Al Muhairi, Director of Sharjah Health Authority and Sharjah Healthcare City, Sheikh Saud Bin Mohammad Al Qasimi, Deputy Head of Industrial Investment at the Sharjah Economic Development Department, Lalu Samuel, Chairman of Kingston Holding, James Moffatt, CEO of Lamprell plc, and multiple assisting departments from Shurooq such as the Investment Promotions team, PR and Communications team as well as the Corporate communications team.

H.E. Abdul Rahman Ghanem Almutaiwee commended the large turnout of more than 200 British investors to the forum, which symbolized the historic and unique business relationship and partnership which the UAE has developed with the UK. The Lord Clement-Jones spoke about Sharjah’s business-friendly environment and its unique attractions that have established the emirate as a preferred regional investment destination for British investors, while Dr. Afnan Al Shuaiby highlighted the positive role which business policies and practical legislations adopted by Sharjah and the UAE play in order to attract foreign investments from the UK onto the Arab world.

Sharing the podium was H.E. Marwan Bin Jassim Al Sarkal, CEO of Shurooq, who gave an aspirational presentation that told a story about Sharjah and UAE’s historic partnership with the UK.

He explained: “Sharjah’s historic geography has been recognised as one of the most strategic and central engines for the U.K.’s economic growth.  It was home to notable British companies success stories that have established their businesses there, and expanded their businesses all across the MENA region. The U.K. played a major role in developing Sharjah’s historic economy and growth long before the formation of the United Arab Emirates.”

UAE-UK trade relationship

Al Sarkal continued by outlining some of the major achievements which the UAE-UK relationship established in recent years, he added: “The U.K. is considered the UAE’s second largest trade and non-oil import and export partner, and the UAE-UK trade touching GBP 12 billion. Similarly the UAE has been UK’s strategic access for diversified funds investing more than GBP 5 billion in multiple projects. The results were that today, thanks to our successful and sustainable partnership, there are 7,557 UK companies active in the UAE and more than 35,000 jobs created by these companies.”

Al Sarkal also highlighted key sectors which are optimistic for British investors keen on expanding their services and businesses’ demographics: “Based on Sharjah’s increasing development in its sectors in order to capitalize on economic diversification for sustainable investments, we see travel and leisure, environment, transport and logistics and healthcare as the top sectors which British investors can pioneer their services in.”

He added: “Our tourism and leisure sector in Sharjah has one of the most promising market potential which is expected to reach GBP 29 million by 2016. This is all the due the rising demand for multiple tourism and leisure experiences currently at play in Sharjah. Additionally we have one of the most renowned ports and free zones in the UAE and the region, which continue to attract new businesses as well as contributed to the success stories of more than 55,000 SMEs. Today, Sharjah is home to more than 380 UK trading companies, more than 780 UK trading agencies and more than 8,000 UK trademarks.”

Al Sarkal also presented some of Sharjah’s top events and exhibitions which continuously boost tourism and new businesses into the emirate, and offer global business partners prospects of expansion for their investments and services into new markets. Sharjah’s flagship events highlighted were the Sharjah International Book Fair, Sharjah Biennial, the U.I.M. F1H20 World Championship and SteelFab.

The panel discussion, moderated by Oliver Cornock, Managing Editor at Oxford Business Group and titled as “UK Sharjah Successful Stories and Partnerships“, revealed a number of success stories by British companies in Sharjah and how they have made the most of the encouraging environment to achieve significant growth in a short period of time.

Each delegate highlighted significant features derived from tourism, environmental, healthcare, transport and logistics sectors, and the vast opportunities and practical legislations between Sharjah and the UK which enable investor’s confidence and safety over their investments. Moreover, delegates highlighted British business prospects and ventures that are a strategic niche for creating new demands in Sharjah and MENA region. The discussion panel also outlined existing policies which make business transactions and investments easy to process between British business owners and Sharjah.

Speaking on behalf of Sharjah’s leading transformation for environmental sustainability and pioneering waste management technologies, Khaled Al Huraimel, Group CEO of Bee’ah explained: “Bee’ah is always happy to engage and partner with likeminded organisations that share our goals of promoting and activating a greener approach to waste management and recycling. We would like to express our deep appreciation to Shurooq for organising “Sharjah Day in London” and for giving us the opportunity to showcase our pioneering investment opportunities to the British companies.”

“Sharjah Day in London, UK” continued with a networking session to enable the assembled stakeholders to get know each other and forge new contacts, with the concluding event being a series of meetings with representatives from British organisations interested in investing in Sharjah.

Shurooq’s London agenda

The roundtable forum followed the Shurooq delegation’s previous day’s visit to a number of institutions in the capital. First stop was the UK Trade and Investment Department, where the visitors received an introduction to the procedures the organisation incorporates to attract foreign investment to the country.

Next visit included the Imperial College campus and explored the vast possibilities, practices and medical centres which were featured at the college’s MedCity project. MedCity is a healthcare project in collaboration with the Mayor of London, to grow and develop works with the life sciences and healthcare sector across the greater south-east of England. This was then followed by a visit to “London and Partners”, the official promotional agency for London. Shurooq and multiple Sharjah entities explored trending methodologies and diverse strategies which the agency uses in order to promote the city of London by attracting events, exhibitions, education, congresses, students and visitors.

Next at the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Shurooq delegation learned more about the wide range of practical and professional business services the organisation provides its members and how it represents their interests. The penultimate port of call for the delegation on their whistle-stop tour was the Urban Innovation Centre for Future Cities Catapult, a government supported initiative to advance smart cities. The organisation works to accelerate urban ideas to market and help innovators turn ingenious ideas into working prototypes that can be tested in real urban settings.

Commenting on the key highlights of the visit was H.E. Khalid bin Butti Al Hajri, Director General, Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry and one of the delegates participating in the 2-day B2B forum, said: “Our visit to London explored some of the key business and investment stratagems in the UK, and to share our insights and business practices which are directly compatible with its foreign investments. This marked some of the most significant business and responsible investment opportunities which Sharjah has to offer for British investors and business leaders. The results of our visit genuinely positioned Sharjah as UK’s strategic and central gateway for diversified investments. We’re currently in the process of finalizing an exclusive trip in September this year (2016), welcoming 40 British investors and business leaders from the UK to Sharjah to receive hands-on opportunities for investments and economic growth.”

Image gallery: Sharjah Day in London

(Press Release)

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