Dubai Internet City is the hottest special economic zone (SEZ) in fDi’s first ranking of the Middle Eastern and North African SEZs of the Future. It is one of half a dozen or so new investment zones in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), each targeted at a specific economic activity.

A staggering 26 of the top 52 SEZs are in the UAE, and seven of Dubai’s SEZs are in the top 10 ranking.

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For the first time, as part of fDi’s Middle Eastern and North African Cities of the Future Awards 2006/07, SEZs in the regions were invited to return questionnaires and explain their expansion plans, infrastructure development and incentives. In all, 41 locations put themselves forward and another 39 were considered either on the basis of information given on their websites or other government websites, or in the 2005 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development report, Incentives and Free Zones in the MENA region.

At the end of September, judges scored 80 locations according to 15 criteria (listed right). Votes were cast by members of fDi’s editorial team and by independent guest judges (see judging panel below).

Industry analysis

The zones were divided into industry groups for comparison: the groups were airport, port, general/industrial, science/hi-tech, and specialist. Each zone was compared only against other zones in its group. The top zone in each group was awarded the maximum score of three points for each question.

So, for example, the airport free zone with the best development plans scored three points, the airport with the second best development plans scored two points and the third best scored one point; the port free zone with best development plans scored three points, the second two points and the third one point, and so on.

The zone with the highest number of points overall is the winner.

 

JUDGING CRITERIA

• Expansion plans

• Recent infrastructure development

• Presence of high-growth industries

• Number of businesses

• Growth in number of businesses operating in each zone over the past 12 months

• The strength of leading investors

• The size of the zone and area allocated for expansion

• Financial and other incentives

• Tax exemptions

• Import and export exemptions

• Corporate tax rates

• Private income tax rates

• Other taxes

• Amenities, such as restaurants and retail outlets, housing, childcare, leisure and health facilities

• Rental costs

 

THE JUDGING PANEL

 

Graham Mather Chairman, World Free Zone Convention

Juan Torrents President, World Federation of Free Zones

TOP 50 ZONES BY TYPE:

TOP 50 ZONES BY COUNTRY

TOP 50 ZONES BY SIZE (m2)