The lucrative opportunities for investment between Sharjah and Australia were the main item on the agenda at a “Sharjah – Australia Roundtable” organised by Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq), in association with the Australian Business Council in Dubai (ABCD), the Australian Trade Commission and Australia Unlimited, which took place yesterday at the Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI).
The roundtable was Shurooq’s latest initiative in its extensive programme designed to highlight Sharjah’s rewarding investment climate, with Shurooq representatives visiting four continents in the past few months as part of its on-going promotional strategy for the emirate.
The most recent activity in Shurooq’s global investment promotion agenda saw His Excellency Gerard Seeber, Australia Consul General in Dubai and Senior Trade Commissioner MENA region and His Excellency Marwan bin Jassim Al Sarkal, CEO of Shurooq, sitting down with Penny Couchman, Chairperson of ABCD and several Australian businesspersons, including spokespersons from Antipodean enterprises operating in the UAE. The day-long event involved the representatives discussing the emirate’s array of fertile sectors for investment, including tourism, environment, health and transport.
In addition to highlighting the variety of investment opportunities available in Sharjah to its Australian counterparts, the Shurooq representatives used the business roundtable to discuss the best ways of nurturing Australian enterprises considering commencing operations in the emirate. Australian business success stories were highlighted, as was Sharjah’s impressive rate of economic growth it has attained over recent years.
A main focal point of the meeting was the existing strong relationship that UAE enjoys with Australia and the fact that both countries’ economies are diverse something that was highlighted as pulling them closer together through their shared experiences from having similar business landscapes. The attendees agreed that this quality facilitated the ease of smaller Australian concerns – particularly those working in the service sector – to set up their operations in the emirate.
“The Middle East is particularly significant for Australia, with Australia exporting AUD 4 billion dollars of foodstuff to the region each year, the same figure that it exports to China. The UAE is considered Australia’s most important trading partner in the region and is its 10th largest country for FDI. Total Australian investments in the UAE have reached AUD 17 billion (AED 45.8 billion), with the UAE’s energy sector and seaports proving particularly strong pulls. The level of investments made by Australia has led to 360 Australian companies operated in the UAE and a community of 24,000 residents, most of them operating in the service sector. The ties are not just limited to purely commercial concerns either – around 35,000 UAE tourists visit Australia each year, with 300,000 Australian tourists going the other way,” said His Excellency Gerard Seeber, Australia Consul General in Dubai and Senior Trade Commissioner MENA region.
His Excellency Marwan bin Jassim Al Sarkal, CEO of Shurooq, said: “The UAE enjoys particularly strong commercial relations with Australia and is the country’s leading trading partner in the Middle East, with our ties enhanced by our mutual drive for diversification in our respective economies. The UAE ranks 15th by total international trade exchange with Australia, which reached AUD 9.3 billion (AED 34.1 billion) in 2014-2015 and these impressive figures are part of a rising trend. In the fiscal year 2014-2015, Australia’s exports to the UAE – predominantly vehicles, meat and alimentary products – increased by 20.3%, reaching AUD 3.96 billion (AED 14.5 billion). In turn, the UAE’s Balance of Trade with Australia for the same period was worth AUD 5.34 billion (AED 19.6 billion), comprising mostly oil products.”
“Sharjah’s growth rate has increased significantly during the past few years, which has helped create an array of excellent investment opportunities in the business environment, especially in the industrial, tourism, healthcare, environment development, transport and logistics sectors. Consequently, Sharjah’s economy has established itself as one of the most promising and attractive ones in the region and a fertile environment for Australian businesses,” added Al Sarkal.
Specifically focusing on Sharjah, Al Sarkal highlighted a number of Antipodean success stories in the emirate, including Kelley Construction Inc; Victoria International School Sharjah; Kas Australia and Ryan Horne. He also said that were a number of new Australian businesses keen to establish operations in the emirate for the first time.
“We have recently received interest from several Australian entrepreneurs who are looking at Sharjah to establish their operations – you can rest assured that Shurooq will be doing everything they require to establish and nurture their businesses so that they will achieve strong and sustainable growth. Sharjah’s success with diversification has been a significant factor that has contributed to its balanced Gross Domestic Product. This carefully devised and thought out strategy has protected our economy from the fluctuations of the global economy and at the same time, provided investors with a wealth of new opportunities. Today, we can offer an outstanding array of possibilities, with high quality projects and developments providing attractive opportunities to Australian investors – opportunities that bring impressive returns on investment,” said Al Sarkal.
The roundtable meeting’s schedule included a discussion panel in which available investment opportunities in Sharjah were discussed in greater detail. The panel discussion was conducted by Penny Couchman, Chairperson of ABCD and saw the participation of Mohammed Juma Al Musharrakh, Deputy Director of Sharjah FDI at Shurooq; Dr. Abdul Aziz Al Muhairi, Director of Sharjah Health Authority; Ahmed Al Suwaidi, Head of Commercial Investment Section at the Sharjah Economic Development Department; Lalu Samuel, Chairman and Managing Director at Kingston Holdings; Khalid Walid Issa, Head of Sales at Bee’ah and Annette Wilson, Principal, Australian International School, Sharjah. Each participant gave an overview of their respective sphere of interests and highlighted how Sharjah was facilitating an optimum investment climate for their concerns. Lalu Samuel in particular highlighted the success story of Kingston Holdings.
“Sharjah has an array of diversified promising projects in many sectors, which offer Australian investors great opportunities. My expectations are that economic and trade relations between Sharjah and Australia will witness more growth, which can only further the strong friendly relations between us. Our mission at the Australian Business Council Dubai is to connect individuals and organisations who are providing opportunities with those who are seeking to make investments. Our council has 850 members, 60 percent of which represent large corporations, with the remainder being small to medium enterprises and free zone companies. It means that we have incredible scope to put people in touch with those who can facilitate rewarding and lucrative business partnerships,” said Penny Couchman, Chairperson of ABCD.