Dubai’s premier trade and industrial hub is now one of the world’s fastest growing free zones, enjoying remarkable growth of more than 300%. From humble beginnings in 1985 with just 19 firms, the Jebel Ali Free Zone is now home to more than 6000. This includes more than 150 companies from the Fortune Global 500.

This expansion is due, in part, to its prime location at the crossroads of the world’s largest markets, which allows access to more than two billion consumers in the Middle East, Europe, Africa and South Asia. Jafza is strategically positioned to take advantage of key sea, land and air transport routes to these areas.

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Strategic access

The free zone is next to the world’s eighth largest port and the region’s extensive highway network, while Dubai International Airport is easily accessible. So close is this major airport that sea-to-air transshipments can take as little as six hours, the current standard for the industry. When Jebel Ali International Airport is fully operational in 2017, the free zone will be the only logistics hub in the world to be located within the same customs-bound complex as a major airport and port. Sea-to-air transshipment times will likely be cut dramatically.

The free zone also benefits from its home in Dubai, the Middle East’s commercial and business capital. The emirate has developed world-class transportation, telecoms and utilities infrastructure that global businesses expect. Jafza has state-of-the-art facilities and value-added services that attract the world’s finest companies. In 1996, it was rewarded for its high-quality management system when it became the first free zone in the world to be awarded ISO 9001:2000 certification.

Attracting investment

These standards have ensured the free zone is now the region’s most important redistribution hub. It also accounts for more than half of Dubai’s total non-oil exports and attracts a significant proportion of FDI into the United Arab Emirates. Latest figures from Dubai’s Ministry of Economy and Planning reveal that 90 randomly chosen companies alone generated Dh3.3bn ($899m) in 2005/06.

Jebel Ali Free Zone is the brainchild of the Dubai government, which planned to develop the leading industrial, warehousing and distribution hub in the Middle East. It is now the flagship operation of Economic Zones World, the holding company that manages parent Dubai World’s economic zone interests. In its 22 years, Jafza has expanded its facilities that comprises plots, light industrial units, office buildings, residential and recreational facilities substantially, to accommodate huge growth in the number of its companies.

Grand plans

Plans for a new conference and exhibition complex are also in the offing. The Dh2bn technology-driven Jebel Ali Free Zone Convention Centre Complex is set to be a model of ergonomics and efficiency. Businesses within Jafza will be perfectly positioned to take advantage of 118,000 square feet of leasable area or foster ties in a relaxed yet professional environment.

Ambitious development continues with the Jafza South Expansion, situated between the Jebel Ali Port and the upcoming Jebel Ali International Airport. It is a link between various transport channels that will be able to cater for huge volumes of cargo.

Currently the South Zone starts with two new intelligently designed office buildings on Sheikh Zayed Road, Jafza View 18 & 19. These 30-floor towers of prime commercial space have open plan or partitioned offices, conference rooms, a business centre, retail shops and even a food court.

These new additions are set to ensure Jafza remains at the forefront of the economic zones sector. Incentives such as trade licences, 100% foreign ownership and zero corporate tax for 50 years are also on offer to attract global investors that demand a comprehensive business environment. With its world-class multimodal logistics infrastructure and cost advantages, doing business at the free zone is both easy and rewarding.

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