The UAE secured 20 greenfield FDI projects in manufacturing in 2018, outstretching its neighbouring Middle East countries, according to greenfield investor monitor fDi Markets. Saudi Arabia and Oman respectively attracted 11 and seven manufacturing projects, while Bahrain, Israel, Qatar and Iran combined recorded just 50% of the UAE’s intake.

Despite attracting less greenfield projects than the UAE in 2018, Saudi Arabia had 148% higher announced capital expenditure, standing at $13.41bn, according to fDi Markets. The vast majority of the announced inbound investment came from a $9bn mega-project between French oil and gas giant Total and Saudi Aramco, Saudi Arabia’s state-owned oil and gas company and the world’s most profitable company.


Within the UAE, Dubai received the most investment announcements, with 14. The Jebel Ali free zone - just outside Dubai - was the most popular free zone, with five projects established or announced there.

US companies were the most active investors in the UAE manufacturing sector, announcing six projects, followed by Indian companies, which announced four investments. Other source countries tracked by fDi Markets all invested in one manufacturing project apiece, including companies from Germany, Switzerland and Finland. 

The leading manufacturing sectors were industrial equipment, chemicals, metals and plastics, with three manufacturing operation projects recorded in each. 

The UAE’s 2018 performance represents the continuation of a long standing trend, having attracted 130 greenfield FDI projects in manufacturing between 2012 and 2018, 25 more than Saudi Arabia’s total and more than triple that of Oman’s.

The UAE is on track to remain the Middle East’s top destination for foreign manufacturing investments in 2019, having attracted 11 greenfield projects between January and September, followed by Saudi Arabia and Oman.