Ahmed Obaid Al Qaseer: Sharjah has become a premier destination for businesses and a capital of industry in the region.

Mohamed Juma Al Musharrkh: In the post-COVID world, investments in technology are outpacing all other sectors.

  • More than 60,000  SMEs and startups based in Sharjah
  • Six specialised free zones, 33 industrial zones, and a strategic geographic location
  • Against the backdrop of a devastating pandemic that swept the world, Sharjah continued to grow
  • Attracted FDI worth US$ 220 million in 2020
  • 60 percent growth in FDI projects in Q3 and Q4 of 2020
  • FDI helped with the creation of 1,117 new jobs in 2020
  • Travel and tourism sectors investments to reach US$ 20.3 billion by 2027
  • Investment opportunities in aquaculture and seaweed farming facilities
  • Investment opportunities in Waste Recycling and Waste-to-Energy systems
  • Specialised vocational academies and future upskilling and innovation labs are investment opportunities in the Human Capital & Innovation sector
  • US$ 1.5 billion already invested annually in education and research in Sharjah with sector showing immense growth potential
  • Sharjah is home to more than 35 percent of the UAE’s manufacturing industries, which gives it an edge in manufacturing spare parts and components for industries and automation of industrial hardware through emerging technologies such as IoT, Robotics, and drones. 

The Sharjah FDI Office (Invest in Sharjah)’s recently published FDI Future Trends & Sector Potential  report has identified seven high-potential sectors that are powering qualitative and sustainable strategic investments into the emirate and strengthening the emirate’s competitiveness on the global economic and investment landscape.

The report was developed in collaboration with numerous government departments and private sector entities in the emirate and in partnership with PwC Middle East. Supported by real time performance statistics, the report details that despite sharp declines in investment inflows experienced globally since the Covid-19 pandemic outbreak, Sharjah continues to be an attractive FDI destination in major sectors of Health & Wellbeing, Mobility & Logistics, Culture & Tourism, Agri-Food Technology, GreenTech, Human Capital & Innovation, and Advanced Manufacturing.

Sharjah’s and the UAE’s world-class infrastructure, stability amongst key factors that make them the region’s leading FDI hubs

Sharjah’s and the UAE’s business-friendly environment backed by modern legislation, future-ready infrastructure, a highly talented workforce and more than 60,000  SMEs and startups have been stated by the report as key factors that boost their FDI attractiveness. For Sharjah, in particular, the six specialised free zones and 33 industrial zones, strategic location and global connectivity via sea and air routes and ports on both Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Gulf have yet again proved the emirate’s appeal as a gateway to the GCC and the wider region with a GDP of US$ 1.6 trillion (AED 5.88 trillion).

The report highlights that the UAE is one of the world’s most open and investor-friendly economies which has attracted high volumes of foreign investments in the past few years, noting that Sharjah leverages UAE’s global reputation to build on its status as a go-to FDI destination in the region.

Success at the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic

Against the backdrop of a devastating pandemic that swept the world, Sharjah minimised its financial impact on its economy by successfully attracting FDI worth US$ 220 million (AED 808 milion), including a 60 percent growth in FDI projects in Q3 and Q4 compared to 2019, which led to the creation of 1,117 new jobs. This strong trajectory of growth during Covid-19 is a reflection of the high performance of the ICT sector which recorded 55.6 percent growth, followed by Food & Agriculture Industries at 49.7 percent, and Life Sciences sector, which grew by 47 percent, and finally, Logistics and Distribution, which registered a 46.2 percent growth.

Sector wise performance and future outlook

Health & Wellbeing
The UAE’s per capita health expenditure in 2019 was recorded as US$ 1,643 (AED 6,035), and the growth projection for the nation’s pharmaceutical sector is 7.3 percent annually to reach  US$ 4.7billion (AED17.26 billion) by 2024. All this means that Sharjah’s potential to benefit from FDI in these sectors is massive. 

Owing to a growing ageing demographic, an overall rise in population and medical advances, Sharjah’s health and wellbeing sector is primed to witness a boost in foreign investments. The UAE’s status as one of the top ten global healthcare destinations as per Medical Tourism Index, has an added positive impact.

Within this sector, the Invest in Sharjah report has highlighted maximum investment opportunities in three key sub-sectors: Pharmaceutical Manufacturing & Precision Medicine leveraging the emirate’s robust infrastructure in manufacturing tailored medical products; Specialised Healthcare Institutes including elderly care and rehab centres; and Wellness & Medical Tourism due to the emirate being recognised as a preferred low-cost destination for medical tourism in the region.

Mobility & Logistics
Strategically located at the cusp of East and West, and with a coastline each on the Arabian Gulf and Gulf of Oman, Sharjah has been a preferred gateway into the region for those looking for shorter access routes from the Far East and South Asia, Australia. and Africa. The emirate is ripe with FDI opportunities in the Mobility & Logistics sector, especially after receiving a legislative boost of 43 percent of its annual 2021 budget being earmarked for developing and improving its infrastructural facilities including roads.

The recent report has highlighted Smart Mobility Solutions including Hyperloop technologies, electric mobility and charging infrastructure; Freight Automation through the adoption of emerging technologies like AI, Robotics; and Cold Chain Facilities that extend the shelf-life of agricultural produce and other perishables, will have the best RoIs with the UAE’s growth projections crossing US$ 30 billion (AED 110 billion) by 2025.

Culture & Tourism
The report forecasts investments in Sharjah’s culture, media and tourism sectors to reach US$ 20.3 billion (AED 74.5 billion) by 2027, with the emirate transforming itself as a destination of choice for global travellers with multi-billion dollar development projects as well as government support. These projections also take into account the report’s findings on the number of hotel guests received by the emirate in 2019, which grew by 5 percent compared to the previous year. A total revenue of US$ 157 million (AED 573 million) was generated through hotel occupancies in 2019, and the sector’s post-Covid-19 recovery has also been fast paced. 

The report has also highlighted that the emirate’s stunning natural diversity has captured the imaginations of filmmakers and commercial producers from around the world. Sharjah’s biodiversity and rich local heritage have created unique investment opportunities in ecotourism and adventure tourism across the emirate’s regions and cities, the report further elucidates.

Additionally, world-class business and cultural events organised in the emirate throughout the year are key factors in attracting tourists, which provides great investment opportunities.

Agri-Food Technology
The IIS-PwC Middle East report noted that the UAE agricultural product market reached US$ 626 million (AED 2.3 billion) in 2019 with a 9.8 percent CAGR of revenue from agricultural products with Sharjah is expected to be a major contributor to the US$ 1.1 billion UAE agricultural market projected for 2024.

The report indicated that the eastern coast of Sharjah has a wealth of investment opportunities to establish aquaculture and seaweed farming facilities, in addition to Aeroponics, Aquaponics, Hydroponics, vertical urban farming, and plant genomics. The report also highlighted opportunities in food processing and packaging especially with the availability of free and industrial zones across the emirate, and the strategic location of Sharjah to facilitate exports to neighbouring and international markets.

The report has also revealed that Sharjah’s potential in Greentech investments is one of the highest in the region, with achievements like earning the title of the first ‘zero landfill city’ of the Middle East as well as a solar park and waste-to-energy plant by Bee’ah which powers nearly 67,000 households.

Accounting for 19 percent of the GCC’s solid waste generation, the UAE holds a myriad of investment opportunities in the clean energy sector. In addition, the growth forecast of the UAE’s Solar Energy Market between 2022 and 2025 is 15 percent.

According to the report,  investment opportunities in the sector include Waste Recycling and Waste-to-Energy systems; Clean Energy Generation and Storage to leverage alternative energy renewable sources including solar, hydrogen fuel, biofuels; and Smart Buildings and Green Construction.

Human Capital and Innovation
With an annual investment of US$ 1.5 billion (AED 5.5 billion) in education and research, Sharjah boasts  a talent-rich ecosystem of world-class universities and leading innovation centres. The Invest in Sharjah FDI trend report also states that opportunities abound for specialised vocational academies and future upskilling and innovation labs that work towards finding cost-effective solutions to complex global challenges.

With an annual growth forecast of 5 percent in UAE’s education sector until 2024, there are several investment opportunities emerging in Early Years Learning and Childcare specialties alongside the expansion of nurseries and K-12 offerings in Sharjah.

Advanced Manufacturing
In the field of advanced manufacturing, the report revealed that the UAE’s Additive Manufacturing sector is forecasted to reach US$ 599 million (AED 2.2 billion) by 2025.

Sharjah, which is home to more than 35 percent of the UAE’s manufacturing industries, also aims to maximise efficiency gains through manufacturing operations automation using advanced technologies such as IoT, Robotics, drones and others, in addition to developing 3D printing capabilities for the manufacture of spare parts and components for industries, enabling these projects to tap into the growing GCC market estimated at US$ 10.3 billion (AED 37.8 billion) by 2023.

Supporting creative entrepreneurial projects

His Excellency Ahmed Obaid Al Qaseer, Acting CEO of Sharjah Investment and Development Authority, said: “Today, Sharjah is home to many investment opportunities in various fields, especially in the new economy sectors, advanced industries, tourism, agriculture, innovation and others. With advanced infrastructure and agile legislation, the emirate has become a premier destination for businesses and a capital of industry in the region. We look forward to welcoming new companies to Sharjah that will undoubtedly benefit from the accelerating growth and ongoing support of creative projects in the emirate and the UAE.”

Mohamed Juma Al Musharrkh, CEO of Sharjah FDI Office (Invest in Sharjah), said: “In the post-COVID world, investments in technology are outpacing all other sectors. Sharjah’s unveiling of the first 3D printing house in the region signals its competitiveness in advanced manufacturing.”

He added: “Invest in Sharjah is keen on attracting and facilitating investments seeking growth in the emirate’s secure and stable environment. Leveraging the close relationship between our private and public sectors, we can facilitate investors’ access to incredible investment opportunities and provide all the support needed, starting from ideation to project launch.”

“Our team provides investors with reliable market information and analytics, in addition to sharing valuable input on each case based on their extensive experience in the field, which helps investors make sound and confident decisions. We also have the Sharjah Investors Services Center (SAEED), a one-stop shop for investors to set up their businesses and complete governmental transactions in Sharjah”, he concluded.