Shurooq strengthens ties with Dutch business community
The Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq) has concluded Sharjah-Netherlands Roundtable. Held on the 29th of April, the roundtable was organised in collaboration with the Netherlands Business Council Dubai with the aim of promoting Sharjah as a leading investment destination in the region and the world.
The Sharjah-Netherlands roundtable is the most recent in a series of initiatives undertaken by Shurooq in line with its strategy and ongoing efforts to highlight the Emirate’s investment potential and solidify its position as a regional business hub.
The event was attended by HE Robert de Leeuw, Consul General, Kingdom of the Netherlands in Dubai, Mr. Giovanni Angiolini, Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Netherlands Business Council, HE Marwan bin Jassim Al Sarkal, CEO of Shurooq; HE Hussain Al Mahmoudi, Director General of Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, HE Khalid Jasim Al Midfa, Director General, Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority (SCTDA), HE Khaled Huraimel, CEO of Bee’ah, as well as a number of government representatives from both Sharjah and the Netherlands, members of the Netherlands Business Council Dubai and the Dutch business community in the UAE.
The roundtable featured presentations by representatives from Shurooq, the Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority, the Hamriyah Free Zone Authority, the integrated environment and waste management company. Bee’ah, and Sharjah Healthcare City. The presentations focussed on the four key sectors identified by Shurooq as major areas of potential growth in Sharjah, namely travel and tourism, environment, healthcare, and transport and logistics.
Commenting on the event HE Marwan bin Jassim Al Sarkal, CEO of Shurooq said, “Under the directives and follow up of its Chairperson Sheikha Bodour bint Sultan Al Qasimi, Shurooq is constantly striving, in collaboration with all stakeholders in Sharjah, to build wide business and investment network with various countries, out of our belief in the necessity to provide all forms of facilities and support to further boost our partnerships with international business community.” Al Sarkal added, “The roundtable comes in response to the vast investment opportunities available for Dutch firms in the emirate of Sharjah thanks to its strong economy, openness to the world, and the state of the art infrastructure in the UAE and Sharjah, in addition to the leading international position of Dutch companies in such sectors as foodstuff, logistics, energy and water in addition to energy saving and pharmaceutical industries and the desire of these firms to expand into the Middle East and Asia.”
He added, “Ties between Sharjah and the Netherlands are well established, as is clearly evident from the strong presence of leading Dutch companies in the Emirate, such as Martinair Cargo, Tebodin Netherlands B.V, and Dutch Tech Group. This is further supported by healthy bilateral trade exchange between the two sides. Our aim with this roundtable is to further build on this solid foundation and strengthen the ties between our countries.”
HE Hussain Al Mahmoudi, Director General of Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry emphasized the similarities between the two countries, stating, “The UAE and the Netherlands have both had to develop their countries in innovative and imaginative ways to cope with the challenges of our natural environments. In the Netherlands, the challenge is an over-abundance of water, whilst here we have had to deal with the opposite problem. But I think the end outcome is the same – societies that are proud of their hard work to reach where they are today and that are excellently positioned to further deepen their existing relationship. Trade between the UAE and the Netherlands stood at EUR3.2bn in 2012 according to Statistics Netherlands and than 40% of Dutch exports to the Gulf come here to the UAE. Today UAE companies are contributing to economic development in the Netherlands – such as Taqa with its gas storage project and DP World at the Port of Rotterdam. And Dutch companies are contributing to economic development here, including my old company Shell and many more. In fact estimates are that there are 200 Dutch companies based in the UAE, with companies like Unilever, Philips, AkzoNoebel, Van Oord, Boskalis, Vopak, ING and ABN Amro all well established here.”
Mr. Giovanni Angiolini, Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Netherlands Business Council thanked Shurooq and the Sharjah Chamber of Commerce for their hospitality and the excellent organisation of the day’s event and expressed his appreciation for the opportunity that the roundtable afforded the Netherlands’ business community to gain deeper insight into Sharjah. “The roundtable was a great opportunity to meet and explore the many business opportunities that exist in Sharjah, especially in terms of the creation of infrastructure which a challenging sector that offers immense potential. Because of these opportunities, the Netherlands Business Council has made an active decision to attract increased numbers of Dutch business to Sharjah to capitalise on these opportunities and today’s event was an excellent platform through which to implement this strategy,” he remarked.
Speaking in during his opening address HE Robert de Leeuw, Consul General, Kingdom of the Netherlands in Dubai, said, “It was a very interesting meeting that met the needs of potential investors from the Netherlands on a number of levels. One of the difficulties that investors most often face in this region and the UAE specifically is understanding exactly what the difference are between the respective emirates and what the procedures are that they have to follow to do business in each. It was very encouraging to see business people, and especially entrepreneurs, from the Netherlands make use of this opportunity to ask specific questions and have those questions answered by the highly knowledgeable speakers that were here today and I am sure that today’s proceedings will result in a number of new ventures in Sharjah in the near future.”
In a presentation focused on Sharjah’s growing tourism sector, Al Sarkal stated, “Sharjah’s popularity as a tourism and leisure destination continues to grow and Shurooq is committed to supporting this growth in line with the directives of His Highness Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah. The diverse portfolio of tourism related projects that the Authority has initiated, ranging from the Al Jabal Resort – The Chedi Khorfakkan, Sir Bu Nair Island, the Heart of Sharjah, Al Bait Hotel, Al Majaz Waterfront, Flag Island, the Kalba Eco-tourism project, Al Montazah Park, and Al Hisn Island – Dibba Al Hisn, all offer foreign investors a range of opportunities to benefit from and we are eager to explore these opportunities with our counterparts in the Dutch business community.”
After a brief overview of the travel and tourism sector, HE Khalid Jasim Al Midfa, Director General, Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority (SCTDA), outlined the immense potential that the emirate of Sharjah has in this sector, stating that latest projections show that the emirate’s travel and leisure sector is likely to grow from Dhs1.24bn this year to Dhs1.49bn by 2016.
Aisha Akram, from Hamriyah Free Zone Authority, focussed on Sharjah’s logistics sector stating, “Sharjah is unrivalled in terms of location in this region – it has direct access to three ports and both the Arabian Gulf and the Indian Ocean and boasts excellent air, land, and sea transport and cargo capabilities. Sharjah is also the UAE’s industrial powerhouse, being home to almost a third of all industrial activities in the country, powered by durability of the SME sector, which consists of about 45,000 strong and effective companies. When you combine this with its large consumer base and available work force it is clear that it offers foreign investors and businesses an ideal base for their operations in the Gulf region.”
Commenting on the investment opportunities in the environment sector, HE Khaled Huraimel, CEO of Bee’ah remarked, “There is already a highly successful collaboration in place between Bee’ah and the government of the Netherlands, in which the Dutch government is providing consultancy to Bee’ah on ways to reduce waste production through NL Agency – a Dutch national Territorial Coordinator under the Covenant of Mayors. This collaboration saw the implementation of a Dhs2.58bn deal with the Dutch government to develop facilities on build, operate and transfer basis to help Sharjah become a zero-waste emirate by 2015. The Netherlands is renowned worldwide for their expertise in sustainable practices and we look forward to expanding on this relationship.”
Concluding the presentations, Hamad Almaazmi of Sharjah Healthcare City (SHCC), outlined the many of opportunities available to Dutch investors in Sharjah’s burgeoning healthcare sector, “Projected growth in healthcare in the emirate of Sharjah’ is estimated at 9.3% from its current Dhs4.59bn to Dhs6.55bn in the year 2016, which means that there are a great many opportunities for investors looking to become part of this phenomenal expansion.”
The UAE is the Netherlands’ largest export market in the Gulf and the third largest in the Middle East, and trade between the two nations continues to grow. By the end of 2013, an estimated 5000 Dutch nationals were believed to be living in UAE according to estimates by the Consulate General of The Kingdom of Netherlands. Large Dutch companies like Royal Shell, ABN Amro, Unilever and Philips Electronics all have presence in the UAE as well. Main Dutch imports to the UAE are machinery, electronic and technical equipment, foodstuffs, pharmaceutical products, steel and plastic products.
Established in 1997 by the Dutch Consulate and a group of prominent Dutch businessmen, the Netherlands Business Council, commonly known as NBC, aims to provide a platform for its members to network, encourage and promote business links with other likeminded business men, business councils in the GCC region and the Netherlands. The NBC undertakes a wide range of activities with the objective to enhance business prospects and expose the Dutch business community.
Shurooq was established in 2009 with the aim of achieving social, cultural, environmental and economic development on the basis of Sharjah’s distinct Arab and Islamic identity, and to encourage investment by adopting the best international standards in providing quality services that help attract investors from the region and the world. Shurooq’s key mission is to provide facilities and incentives to help overcome obstacles facing investment activities in the emirate, evaluate tourism-related infrastructure projects, and lay down the necessary plans to complete such projects. In recognition of its overall accomplishments, Shurooq was been named The Banking Awards 2013 – FDI Agency of the Year in the MENA region in The European’s Global Banking and Finance Awards.
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Yousef Al Taweel