The judges identified free zones that stood out in particular areas. Below, we list the honourable mentions in fDi’s Global Free Zones of the Year 2022 and their impressive qualities. 

Amata City Chonburi Industrial Estate (Thailand) for food manufacturing

Alex Irwin-Hunt: “This zone has successfully attracted many foreign and domestic manufacturers of food and beverages, including McCormick, Lotte, Mead Johnson and Nestlé.”

Canary Islands Special Zone (Spain) for audiovisual focus

Alex Irwin-Hunt: “This zone has focused on developing an ecosystem of technology, media and telecoms (TMT) companies. It has welcomed companies including Buendía Estudios and Fortiche, the animation studio behind the popular Netflix series Arcane.”

ZPE Ceará (Brazil) for accelerating hydrogen adoption 

Preston Martin: “ZPE Ceará is focused on creating a green hydrogen hub, to incentivise and support firms in the production and distribution of hydrogen fuel. Its approach to the hydrogen business combines incubation for an emerging green industry with the reliability of creating clusters for horizontally and vertically integrated industries.”


Seth O’Farrell: “This free zone has focused on the development of a green hydrogen hub and has sought knowhow from the Port of Rotterdam. The zone has attracted large-scale investment pledges into green hydrogen production.” 

Coega Special Economic Zone (South Africa) for Ukraine war pivot

Alex Irwin-Hunt: “Investors located within the free zone upgraded their facilities to serve demand from customers trying to replace supplies of carbon black originally served by companies in Ukraine, Russia and Belarus.”

Dalian Free Trade Zone (China) for addressing supply chain issues and infrastructural support

Preston Martin: “Dalian deserves commendation for overhauling operations to help its tenants overcome the pandemic-era supply chain shocks. By working with companies to diversify international supply chains, supporting on-site agglomeration effects via clusters, and installing relief policies to lower costs, Dalian helped mitigate significant risks to tenant operations.”

Gabon Special Economic Zone (Gabon) for environmental practices

Seth O’Farrell: “The sustainability practices of the zone, such as its plans to develop solar farms, coupled with the fact that it is the first carbon neutral SEZ in Africa (so it says), marries together the industrialisation of Gabon with the fight against climate change.” 

Katunayake Export Processing Zone (Sri Lanka) for reinvestment strategy 

Alex Irwin-Hunt: “This zone has focused on attracting reinvestments from existing companies. Four out of the 33 large tenants in the zone have initiated expansion with pledged investment of $26.5m and almost 1000 employment opportunities.”

Klaipeda Free Economic Zone (Lithuania) for energy independence

Alex Irwin-Hunt: “This zone is pitching itself as a location that offers investing companies a resilient energy supply, thanks to its proximate liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal and electricity link to Sweden.” 

Kulim Hi-Tech Park (Malaysia) for semiconductors and wafer fabrication

Alex Irwin-Hunt: “This zone has focused on developing the semiconductor supply chain. AT&S decided to invest Ä1.7bn into its first south-east Asian production facility for substrates in the zone.” 

Łódź Special Economic Zone (Poland) for environmental, social and governance (ESG)  

Preston Martin: “Many of this year’s contestants, including ódź SEZ, have greatly improved in terms of investing in ESG. ódź SEZ deserves special recognition for going above and beyond by responding to the immediate, unpredictable social pressures in its community caused by the war in Ukraine. It leveraged its own capacity to help mitigate the crisis and to assist companies’ relocation, thereby achieving both a humanitarian and a business goal.”

Łódź Special Economic Zone (Poland) for 5G connectivity

Seth O’Farrell: “After piloting a 5G acceleration programme, the zone guides its investors through a one-stop shop where they receive technical support in areas such as training and logistics.”  

Łódź Special Economic Zone (Poland) for Brexit support 

Alex Irwin-Hunt: “This zone claims to be the only entity in Poland offering support to companies exporting to the British market that have faced difficulties after Brexit.” 

Masdar City Free Zone (UAE) for insect farming

Alex Irwin-Hunt: “This zone is focused on attracting research and development operations and has a project undertaken by Circa Biotech. The company is transforming organic waste into animal proteins, organic fertilisers and oils.” 

The West of England (UK) for post-Covid training  

Alex Irwin-Hunt: “The local Ways2Work initiative is helping to create jobs and training for those looking to get back into employment after the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.” 

This article first appeared in the October/November 2022 print edition of fDi Intelligence. View a digital edition of the magazine here.