Aqaba Special Economic Zone boasts a strategic location, advanced transportation facilities and a competitive investment climate, all of which should help it continue to attract investors.
Q: What is the outlook for FDI this year?
A: We are aware that the region’s circumstances have not always been too favourable, but overall Aqaba has done remarkably well. We have met all of our targets in terms of investment commitments, development agreements, and also in terms of construction projects that have been carried out in Aqaba. The same can be said of the number of tourists coming to the region, cargo moving through the ports, charter flights arriving at international airports and new jobs being created. All of the numbers have been remarkably good and we are delighted. As for this year and going forward, a lot of these commitments are already commissioned or completed, and investments are under way or in the design and planning phase. The challenge is to ensure that all agreements and contracts signed during this year, as well as all projects, will continue.
Q: Could you elaborate on what you consider to be Aqaba’s competitive advantages?
First, Jordan is a country that enjoys security, stability and political openness, and it is also very welcoming to investors. The country’s laws are quite liberal and it is also a land of moderation. Our track record has been excellent in this regard. We are obviously a gateway to the wider region. Investors who look at the region find Jordan to be an advanced and transparent place to do business. If you benchmark us against most international standards we come out well. We have, for some years, been positioning ourselves in the global economy and we have signed several agreements, such as the free trade agreement with the US and several bilateral accords with our trading partners. Aqaba is strategically located as a logistical and multi-modal transportation hub in the region. We provide a competitive investment climate in terms of tax incentives and favourable customs duties.
Q: What trends can you point to in Aqaba’s development?
A: We are witnessing increased interest in logistical services and facilities. We are finding more and more investors interested in the Iraqi market, which would like to come and establish their logistical centres in Aqaba. Recently, we have witnesses a lot of interest from people who want to set up warehousing and storage facilities aimed at the Iraqi market. There has also been interest recently in Aqaba as an educational centre. We have managed to sign two agreements so far. One is with the University of Jordan to establish another campus in Aqaba. This is a new university called Aqaba Technology University. There are more specialised universities, one in cinematic arts, plus others in the pipeline.
We need to ensure that we offer a first-rate logistical hub. This means that the private sector is also involved in building warehousing facilities and providing distribution networks. There have been several investments in our Aqaba Logistical Village to provide these services. We have a strategic location in the Gulf of Aqaba and we are at a crossroads to the wider region. Aqaba has played a key role in the Iraqi market, during the embargo years and following the recent war. The security situation has not been favourable since the fall of the Iraqi regime so that has had a somewhat negative effect on the flow of goods passing through Aqaba to the Iraqi market. Now, with more stability and security, we think that Aqaba will have a privileged position with regard to cargo shipments of goods to that market.
Q: What do you see as the major challenges for the future?
A: The most important challenge is to ensure that our ports are expanded, upgraded and operational at an international level. We have established the Aqaba Development Corporation and we are setting up public private partnerships around all port facilities, such as the container terminal. There is a well-advanced development plan for the expansion and upgrading of this terminal. This is applicable to other facilities, such as the oil terminal, industrial and general cargo facilities and roads. We need to make sure that these facilities have sufficient capacity to meet the requirements of Jordan and the wider region we serve. It is also important to be efficient in terms of delivery time, rates and costs.