A warehouse alley at the free zone

A warehouse alley at the free zone

Free trade zone gains influence

Ras Al Khaimah is gathering strength as an industrial powerhouse and central to that transformation is the free trade zone which is energetically seeking investments

May 2016

The UAE’s free trade zones have proved to be a magnet for overseas investors thanks to the tax incentives and convenient regulatory frameworks they offer. And while Abu Dhabi and Dubai continue to share the spotlight as leading industrial hubs, the picturesque emirate of Ras Al Khaimah in the northern part of the country is making its own waves in free zone business. The Ras Al Khaimah Free Trade Zone (RAK FTZ) has made remarkable strides and is increasingly being seen as a powerhouse.

It is now one of the premier investment platforms for emerging entrepreneurs and experienced investors. The free zone has attracted more than 8,600 companies in just over a decade and presents itself as a diverse community. Stakeholders are drawn from more than a hundred countries across the globe and engaged in some 50 industrial fields. 

The details and statistics are flattering and encouraging.  There was an 8 per cent increase in business licence registration in 2015 at a time when the region was going through the pain of low oil incomes and broad repercussions from that. Such an impressive performance would not be possible without RAK FTZ’s wide-ranging incentives in terms of tax exemptions, access to major logistic hubs, tailor-made facilities and award-winning business support services, says Ramy Jallad, chief executive of the hub.

“What makes RAK FTZ an investor magnet goes beyond the usual free zone advantages. If you are going to ask me, our cost-effectiveness is one of our unique selling points,” he said. 

Jallad: anticipating tenants’ needs

Jallad: anticipating tenants’ needs

“An investor can set up a free zone company in any of our neighbours, but they choose RAK FTZ because it is where they can rent world-class office facilities and fully-equipped warehouses for prices up to 25 to 50 per cent lower than in the regular market. Aside from that, we help industrial companies save on transportation costs by allowing the construction of on-site labour accommodations.”



Ras Al Khaimah’s location is no mean consideration. It is considered strategic. Potential investors have not missed the point that being at the crossroads of fast-emerging markets, there is just four hours in flying time to 31 per cent of the world’s population. Also to be reckoned is the export edge from five major maritime channels including Saqr Port, one of the largest container ports in the 
Middle East. 

The commitment to innovation is a major plus point, the enclave’s operators point out. This was recognised by prestigious award-giving bodies such as fDi Magazine and MEA Markets magazine.

The free zone also maintains a steady eye on improving products and services to stay competitive and raise tenant satisfaction. “We make sure we will be able to cater to the needs of businessmen who come to base their companies with us,” said Jallad.

In 2015 alone, the free zone constructed 100 new warehouses in its Technology Park and a district cooling plant as well as the Boulevard Business Centre in Downtown Dubai. It signed an MoU with RAK Municipality to cut the waiting time for approval certificates and other documents. Observes Jallad: “It is important to us that clients can save both money and time with us.” A customer service team has been trained to attend to clients who could be caught up in bureaucratic snarls if left on their own.



Next on the wish list is to build a higher education infrastructure. The free zone’s focus over the next two years is bringing in high-quality international education providers to position the emirate as a centre of academic excellence in the Middle East. The institutions will be housed in the RAK Academic Zone. 

“The free zone’s top management team is deliberating the next steps that ought to be taken in order to continuously provide a welcoming growth environment to investors from all corners of the globe,” said Jallad.

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