The Ras Al Khaimah Economic Zone HQ

The Ras Al Khaimah Economic Zone HQ

RAKEZ set to scale new heights

The authority regulating RAK’s free zones is aiming to make the emirate a leading global investment destination and is readying to roll out new plans including a new specialised zone, reports PUMMY KAUL

September 2017

Even as Abu Dhabi and Dubai continue to share the spotlight as leading industrial hubs, the picturesque emirate of Ras Al Khaimah (RAK) in the northern part of the UAE is making its own waves in free zone business. 

The emirates’ free zones – Ras Al Khaimah Free Trade Zone (RAK FTZ) and RAK Investment Authority (RAKIA) – have made remarkable strides and are increasingly being seen as a powerhouses that have helped to reinforce RAK’s position as a modern trade hub.

Now, the ambitions are set to soar higher with the consolidation of the two under one umbrella: the Ras Al Khaimah Economic Zone (RAKEZ).

“I have high expectations, honestly, on how big we are going to be in the next couple of years. Rakez’s vision is to become the leading global investment destination, and who knows? In two to three years, if not already there, perhaps we would be halfway through achieving this goal,” Ramy Jallad, Group CEO of RAKEZ, RAK FTZ and RAKIA told the Gulf Industry in an exclusive interview.

RAKEZ will oversee, regulate and consolidate the services and facilities of one of the region’s largest economic zones housing more than 13,000 companies coming from different parts of the globe. Of these, over 600 are manufacturing companies while around 30 companies are operating in the logistics sector.

Jallad: strengthening RAK’s reputation as an ideal investment destination

Jallad: strengthening RAK’s reputation as an ideal investment destination

“By combining RAK FTZ and RAKIA’s facilities, zones and services, we have created a powerhouse economic zone that provides a wider range of cost-competitive business solutions. Plus, we’re also now among the few investment hubs that offer free zone and non-free zone company formation,” he added.

“RAK FTZ has always been the preferred hub for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and entrepreneurs. In fact, 80 per cent of its companies are from these sectors. On the other hand, RAKIA has been the chosen destination for large industrialists, with more than 500 prominent manufacturers in its zones. Having these two working as one now, the future that awaits us becomes even brighter,” Jallad said.

Listing launching of RAKEZ among its biggest milestones for 2016 to 2017, he said: “RAKEZ was not built overnight. It was a year of preparation that involved several challenges along the way.“

Attaining a high level of customer satisfaction is also among its biggest achievements, he said. In a survey conducted by the Sheikh Saqr Programme for Government Excellence (SSPGE) in 2016, it has attained a remarkable client satisfaction rate, and at the same time, its key accounts team also received a high score on the services it provides based on an internal survey.

In 2016, it also won a couple of awards from prestigious award giving bodies including recognitions from fDI Magazine’s Global Free Zones of the Year, the inaugural Burj CEO awards as the Best Global Free Zone and the First Emirates & Europe Economic Forum as the Most Innovative Free Zone.

Currently, busy focusing on spreading the word about the new entity, Jallad, however, said that there are a lot of developments in the pipeline. “Among our biggest projects is creating another specialised zone. At present, we are in the master planning stage and we will reveal more about it soon. Also, in our ongoing effort to bring ease to our customers, we are developing our offices in Dubai and Abu Dhabi to become full service centres. We are also looking into building additional labour accommodations in our Industrial Zones. We are also doing some improvements work in our Media Zone building and also in Al Ghail Industrial Zone,” he said.

Rakez: ease of business

RAKEZ: ease of business

In the past, both RAK FTZ and RAKIA have embarked on major infrastructure developments. In 2015, specifically, RAK FTZ launched several new infrastructure projects such as Dh25 million ($6.80 million) District Cooling Plant. It also opened a new local office in Downtown Dubai to be more accessible to its clients as well as opened 100 new warehouses in Al Hamra Industrial Zone. The Dh125 million project was aimed at providing a solution to the rising demand of businesses for warehousing facilities, where activities like shipping, storage and redistribution can be managed. In 2017, it added another 72 warehouses in the same zone as more investors want to make use of its optimal warehousing solutions, he said.

In the past 12 months, RAKEZ has focused on enhancing the infrastructure of its industrial zones. “We began by levelling the Phase 2 of the formerly known Technology Park, now called Al Hamra Industrial Zone, which was previously hilly and undeveloped. Then, we upgraded our non-free zone warehouses’ power capacity from 28.4 kVA to 62.5 kVA. We also improved the electrical infrastructure at our Al Hulaila Industrial Zone,” Jallad said.

Among its tenants coming from over 100 countries, Indian investors contribute the highest to the investment hub, making up for 22.7 per cent of RAKEZ’s business community. That’s about more than 3,100 Indian companies flourishing in various sectors. Investors from the UK are also well represented in RAKEZ at 7.4 per cent or over 1,000 companies while Emirati investors are at 5.5 per cent or over 750. Pakistanis, French, Germans and Jordans are also among its major investors.

Overall, there are around 7,300 RAKEZ companies that are operating in the commercial sector which includes some of the big names like Ashok Leyland, Dabur, Ahmad Tea RAK Ceramics and Everest.

RAKEZ boasts of catering to over 50 sectors by having specialised zones for different industries where it has formed clusters of companies that draw productive advantage from their mutual proximity. These are: Business Zone for office clients; Academic Zone for academic providers; and the newly-launched Media Zone for creative companies.

Most importantly, it has three industrial zones that are strategically situated near major logistical hubs: Al Hulaila Industrial Zone, Al Hamra Industrial Zone and Al Ghail Industrial Zone. “Within each zone, we have created a synergistic environment where like-minded businesses can benefit from B2B collaboration for the growth of their respective businesses,” Jallad said.

According to him, among its leading industrial clusters, at present, is the armoured vehicle cluster comprising of 15 companies from the industry. “RAKEZ is actually growing its international reputation as a hub for this industry, as well. The armoured vehicles cluster, like the other clusters we have, benefits from the synergetic effect of cooperation and effective competition,” he said.

These businesses attract new companies to RAKEZ in related industries. Examples include manufacturers of armoured fire-fighting equipment, safety glass, protective garments and vests, security devices and equipment, and other related industries. This cluster in the specialist field of armoured vehicle manufacture includes Streit Group, the largest armoured car manufacturer in the world; and International Armored Group, which has one of the most modern armoured vehicle conversion workshops in the Middle East. Other companies in this specialist cluster are TAG Middle East and Ultimate Armour Works.

“I believe, all of our business and industrial clusters in RAKEZ will receive great attention over the next years but right now, we are really working towards building a solid media cluster in our Media Zone, which currently hosts more than 100 creative companies in various segments of media,” Jallad added.

All these efforts, he said, are being made to entice more investors to RAK’s shores. “In fact, the birth of RAKEZ is in line with this goal, which is to strengthen Ras Al Khaimah’s reputation as an ideal investment destination for businesses looking to tap the fast-emerging markets in the Middle East, North Africa, Europe as well as South and Central Asia,” he said.

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