SHARJAH, (Pakistan Point News - 23rd Nov, 2020) Sharjah’s array of highly diversified investment sectors that are the focus of Austrian businesses and entrepreneurs took centre stage at a high-level virtual event titled ‘Sharjah-Austria Business Webinar’. It's organised recently by the Sharjah FDI Office (Invest in Sharjah), operating under the Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq).
Hosting a wide range of Austria-based businessmen and entrepreneurs, UAE-based Austrian businesses as well as senior officials from the UAE and Austria, the business webinar targeted key sectors in focus such as renewable energy, logistical services, smart cities solutions, and development of eco-friendly technology. Apart from these sectors which present some of the fastest-growing business opportunities for Austrian investors in Sharjah, the event also showcased other major areas of interest in the emirate such as education, advanced technology, and agriculture, among many others.
Prominent speakers at the business webinar included Ibrahim Al Musharrakh, Ambassador of UAE to Austria; Marwan bin Jassim Al Sarkal, Executive Chairman of Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq); Dr. Khalid Omar Al Midfa, Chairman of Sharjah Media City Free Zone; Waleed Abdel Rahman BuKhatir, Second Vice Chairman of Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry; Mohamed Juma Al Musharrkh, Chief Executive Officer of Sharjah FDI Office (Invest in Sharjah); Richard Bandera, Austrian Commerce Counsellor, Advantage Austria; and Larry Burke, Managing Director Sales & Marketing middle East, Unger Steel Middle East FZE. Werner Baumgartner, Chairman of the board, Austrian Business Council, moderated the webinar.
Welcoming the delegates to the webinar, Ibrahim Al Musharrakh; Ambassador of UAE to Austria, said: "The global economy was impacted due to current challenging times. A loss of 4.5% is forecasted to hit the global GDP by end of 2020. Even though a vast number of businesses are closing-down worldwide, the UAE has successfully maintained a stable economy with a forecasted growth in GDP of up 2.5% by 2022, thanks to our government’s support as well as mitigation and recovery plans. Other factors include higher oil prices and production capacity, improved business sentiment, and the anticipated boost from the Dubai Expo 2021."
He added: "Since the establishment of diplomatic relations between UAE and Austria in 1974, the UAE has become not only a political partner, but also Austria’s most significant trade and economic partner in the Gulf Region. More than 400 Austrian companies are currently operating in the UAE, which has become a strategic business centre that offers a favourable investment environment in the MENA region and West Asia. The UAE has also become the key logistics hub for Austria’s exports to the region."
There are also around 45 free zones in the UAE, all of which are characterized by an array of advantages like full tax exemption and 100% foreign ownership of the enterprise. Moreover, UAE’s new Foreign Direct Investment Law, which permits 100% foreign ownership in some sectors, has contributed to enhancing the investment environment and attracting foreign investments to the UAE.
Taking centre stage at the webinar, Marwan bin Jassim Al Sarkal, Executive Chairman, of Shurooq, said the economic interdependence between Austria and the UAE had been growing year on year, since the two nations had commenced diplomatic ties in 1974.
Al Sarkal elaborated: "Today, the UAE is the largest trading and business partner for Austria in the Gulf region. In Sharjah specifically, there is growing interest in Austrian high-tech solutions pertaining to innovations in the health sector and areas related to agri-tech, IoT, renewable energy, smart cities solutions, and sustainable construction. With digitisation powering the future of the global economy, there are real opportunities for foreign direct investment across sectors right here in Sharjah’s vibrant, diversified economy."
He pointed out that thousands of companies around the world were today leveraging the business-friendly environment and investment opportunities in emerging sectors available in Sharjah. "We have around 45,000 SMEs operating in various sectors like healthtech, foodtech and fintech operations, driving innovation-oriented growth, creating new jobs, and stimulating the UAE’s knowledge-based economy. Sharjah’s R&D capabilities are also growing at lightning speed, thanks to Sharjah Research, Technology and Innovation Park (SRTI Park), setting the stage for further growth of intellectual and human capital. All this shows that the future of business and investment is right here in Sharjah," he concluded.
Talking about opportunities at Sharjah Media City Free Zone, Dr. Khalid Omar Al Midfa said: "We are pleased to participate in the Sharjah-Austria Business Webinar; to discuss the business opportunities for Austrian companies in Sharjah. Besides being an attractive destination for entrepreneurs and establishing a position for itself as a leading Foreign Direct Investment hub; the Emirate is known to provide key investment prospects and innovative economic strategies attracting investors from across the globe."
He added: "Services provided at Sharjah Media City (Shams) are curated to create cost-effective solutions for SMEs, established companies and freelancers that can help them easily embark on their entrepreneurial journey. Our two core values, transparency, and accountability ensure that all our companies starting up from outside the UAE receive as much support and guidance as possible. We at Shams constantly strive to provide attractive benefits for investors, in order to advance the economy of Sharjah and play our part in the economic development of the region."
For his part, Waleed Abdel Rahman BuKhatir, Second Vice Chairman of the Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, affirmed that with UAE and Austria’s shared mutual visions and economic development policies, as well as their economic openness, this has helped strengthening and expanding its plans for more strategic future cooperation, and focus on key sectors such as digital economy, innovation, information technology and communications, in addition to renewable energy, logistics, and aviation, that are all enabled by both nations’ high-level PPP prospects."
BuKhatir noted that the growing relations between the Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Austria have witnessed many milestones over the past few years in the field of academic and professional training and qualification, as well as receiving a number of Austrian trade missions across various economic sectors.
Outlining Sharjah’s competitive edge in attracting investors from across the world, Mohamed Juma Al Musharrkh; CEO of Invest in Sharjah, said: "Sharjah offers a stable, secure, and resilient economy to invest in. Last year, Sharjah recorded AED 100 billion in GDP, growing 5.1% over the 2018 GDP. Sharjah’s investment sector grew by 4.1% in 2019, with our capital formation increasing to AED 30 billion. Our domestic production too went up by 4.3%."
He added: "Sharjah is among the few cities in the region to establish a set of free zones specialised in providing personalised services tailored to the needs of various sectors, and which cater to investors locally and globally. All this have boosted the emirate’s global appeal as one of the most diverse and flexible economies in the region."
"Invest in Sharjah has been a key factor in all this, offering sage advice to businesses on how to utilise their stimulus allocations from the government, helping businesses renew licenses and registrations remotely, facilitating government approvals, and more. Sharjah is ready and open for business. Talk to us. We are here to help you in your journey to prosperity," he concluded.
In his introductory speech at the webinar, Mr. Richard Bandera, The Austrian Commercial Counsellor briefed the panel and delegates on the excellent relations between Austria and the UAE. He outlined how the two countries have many similarities including size, number of inhabitants and a common vision for prosperity, security, tolerance and peace. The countries bilateral trade relations have remained strong, making the UAE the number one investment destination outside of Europe for Austria. The UAE and Sharjah’s role within it, in developing world class infrastructure and its role in attracting businesses across the world to invest in its shores, is a testament to ability in becoming a strategic regional leader.
On his part, Werner Baumgartner, Chairman of the Board, Austrian Business Council, said: "Sharjah is the industrial backbone of the UAE and has been home to Austrian companies for decades. But Sharjah also embraces culture, which unites the people of this Emirate and Austria. The Austrian Business Council is therefore very happy to support the continued growth of Sharjah."
Speaking about the Austrian experience in Sharjah, Larry Burke; Managing Director Sales & Marketing Middle East, Unger Steel Middle East FZE, said: "We chose to base our first manufacturing facility in this region in Sharjah because of its strategic location, the facilities available and the relative ease of doing business. We established our steel manufacturing unit in Hamriyah Free Zone in 2007 and have grown into one of the largest steel fabricating facilities in the region. The authorities have been extremely helpful and choosing to locate in Sharjah has been a very wise decision."
The UAE is Austria’s largest Austrian trading and business partner in the Gulf region. More than 400 Austrian companies are currently operating in the UAE. Sharjah hosts 119 of them, of which 68 are registered onshore and 51 offshore.