As Sharjah continues its extensive drive to build a wider global base of economic allies and investors, government entities, expanding enterprises and private businesses from Japan and Sharjah met recently to discuss latest investment opportunities in the rapidly diversifying economic milieu of Sharjah and the UAE.
For the first time an international business meeting was brought to a site of immense historical importance in the region – the Mleiha Archaeological Centre – a flagship project of Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq). The roundtable was hosted by Invest in Sharjah in collaboration with Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) to explore new commercial avenues. The meeting highlighted the past successes between UAE and Japan, which includes $25 billion (Dh91.8 billion) worth of business last year, representing 32 per cent of Japan’s entire trade with Middle Eastern countries.
Building on the success of the first Sharjah-Japan Business Roundtable, which was held in April 2014, this second roundtable served as a key networking platform, which brought the two parties together to shed light on the progressive business developments and investment achievements between Sharjah and Japan, in addition to share insights on how Japanese investors can diversify their business in the emirate.
Among the representatives taking part from Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI), Sharjah Economic Development Department (SEDD), Sharjah, Shams – Sharjah Media Free Zone, the Research Technology & Innovation Park under American University of Sharjah Enterprise , Bee’ah – Sharjah Environment Company, Sharjah Electricity and Water Authority and Sharjah Healthcare City all showcased their potential as working partners.
H.E. Marwan bin Jassim Al Sarkal, CEO of Shurooq, welcomed the Japanese delegation: “Japan is a key trading partner of the United Arab Emirates and accounts for a significant share of bilateral trade over the years. The ties between Japan and the UAE in general and Sharjah in particular have seen tremendous vertical and horizontal growth over recent years. As Sharjah continues to increase its focus on worldwide investors, Japan will undoubtedly become even more involved in our drive towards an innovative economy.”
He added: “The projects and initiatives we are developing in terms of tourism, technology, the environment and healthcare are not only a landmark in the services we provide to the residents of Sharjah, the doors they open for overseas investors are enormous. Sharjah has become a destination rather than a location in terms of global trade and our potential has become a reality – one which I am sure Japanese businesses can fully appreciate and use to their advantage.”
Emphasising the importance of having a regional base in the UAE, Masami Ando, Managing Director at JETRO (Dubai) & MENA remarked: “In January 2017, the UAE’s and Japan’s ministers of economy signed an MoU to boost Japanese businesses to set up in the UAE. Following from this agreement, JETRO Dubai has opened a Small and Medium Enterprise Platform to provide specialised advisory support to Japanese SMEs. There are over 300 Japanese companies operating in the UAE, with most of them concentrated in the emirates of Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Our recent strategy has been to expand our reach into the northern emirates, and we believe that this roundtable is a fantastic opportunity for Japanese companies to better understand the business environment here in Sharjah and explore new investment opportunities.”
This was followed by valuable insights from Akima Umezawa, Consul General of Japan in Dubai. Highlighting the leading role Sharjah has been playing in enabling different businesses, especially SMEs to grow here in the UAE, he noted: “Last month at the Sharjah Entrepreneurship Festival, MENA Research Partners claimed the value of SMEs is likely to skyrocket over the next five years in the GCC states, especially in the UAE. So, the future success of SMEs in the UAE has been promised based on concrete grounds.”
“Sharjah is special in the UAE as it commits itself fully to multiculturalism – a great quality that enables foreign investments to swiftly run their businesses. This is a reflection of the vision and determination of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council Ruler of Sharjah, who said, ‘multiculturalism and the harmonious exchange of ideas are the solid foundations of a successful future ’,” he added.
In his opening remarks, HE Khalid bin Butti Al Hajri, Director General, Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI), said: “In recent years, Sharjah and Japan have witnessed a rapidly growing and mutually beneficial trade relationship in a wide array of sectors – from technology to manufacturing and finance. The SCCI is keen to contribute increasingly to growing this relationship. The visa on arrival for Emirati nationals to Japan is one of the many examples of the growing trust and goodwill between the two countries. We are here to offer business incentives, country-specific consultation and keen insights to Japanese businesses willing to expand their businesses in the Arab region with Sharjah as their base.”
With more than 50 registered Japanese companies currently operating in Sharjah, dealing with products and services as varied as manufacturing and renewable energy to food and retail, the spectrum of sectors is increasing in line with the dollar value of investment.
The Japanese members of the roundtable included trade delegates, entrepreneurs and officials from globally recognised companies such as Nittosha Co. Ltd., Shokkyo Co. Ltd., Adaptex Co. Ltd., Crystal Process Co. Ltd., Yoshino Denka Kogyo Inc., Ishida-Kosho Co. Ltd., have witnessed a surge of interest in a variety of UAE industries, for example security and defence, science and technology, education, medicine and space exploration.
Presenting the unique opportunities and incentives, which make Sharjah one of the most attractive investment destinations in the region, the roundtable hosted a panel session titled “Investment Opportunities in Sharjah” which saw the participation of Mohammad Jumaa Al Musharrkh, Director of Invest in Sharjah; Ahmad Al Suwaidi, Head of Commercial Investment Section of the Sharjah Economic Development Department (SEDD); and Shihab Alhammadi, Authority Director of Sharjah Media City (Shams). The panel discussion was also moderated by JETRO MD Masami Ando.
Sharing insights on Sharjah’s diversified and emerging sectors during the panel session, Mohammad Jumaa Al Musharrkh, Director of Invest in Sharjah said: “Sharjah’s business environment has never been so attractive and easy to navigate, particularly with our overseas partners who now appreciate that was once an attractive proposition is now a highly lucrative reality and an opportunity not to be missed across the entire Middle East.”
He continued: “As well as this region, with access to more than more than a third of the world’s entire population, Sharjah is a true gateway to consumers for the global businesses who are making the most of such outstanding possibilities.”
The other panelists reiterated by saying that these bodies not only scout for new and relevant business opportunities for foreign investors, they also protect the rights of the investors, including intellectual property. Their focus is to continue assisting investors with value added services like financial networking, IT and HR for these to thrive and grow, which gives them the competitive edge to grow and excel quickly.
“Investors come in looking for business opportunities, and a significant number decide to eventually settle here not only because we provide them a competitive edge by reducing operating costs by over 35 per cent compared to other emirates, but because our approach to business is family oriented. It is one of the most effective ways to retain investors and grow fruitful, long-term relationships,” said Al Suwaidi.
The roundtable, which concluded with a question and answer session and a presentation by a few of the participating Japanese companies, is the latest in a series of missions by Shurooq and Invest in Sharjah focused on introducing the emirate’s most appealing business developments to a wider overseas audience.
The UAE is also the second-largest crude oil exporter to Japan, accounting for 22 per cent of the country’s total crude oil imports and with the UAE ranked third among importers of Japanese vehicles in 2015, the partnership is stronger than ever.