Choosing the best location is one of the most crucial decisions that an entrepreneur will need to make when looking to establish a startup. While it may seem difficult to come to a decision, nations such as the United Arab Emirates have taken great strides to make this process easier for business owners. In addition to its free economy, quality of living, and economic strength, the country possesses a vast network of free zones that welcome companies of all kinds to operate within their borders. In these areas, business owners can enjoy benefits such as a reduced number of trade regulations designed to generate new enterprises and encourage foreigners to establish their firms in the UAE.
Nowhere in the country is this more evident than in Dubai, which has more than 20 of the UAE’s 45 total free zones. While some of them welcome startups and businesses in any field, others focus their work on more specific industries. However, all of them offer countless benefits that can help a budding business flourish in both regional and international markets.
Here are seven Dubai-based free zones that every business owner should know about:
Dubai Silicon Oasis
Operating under the direct guidance of the government of Dubai, the Dubai Silicon Oasis Free Zone focuses solely on businesses in the technology sector. With resident companies in industries ranging from oil and gas to microelectronics, this tech park and free trade area has grown into a hub of innovation. Dubai Silicon Oasis is situated directly along the Emirate Road, which is located in the midst of international airports and bustling business centers. This enables local businesses to enjoy easy access to some of the most prolific markets in the world. Another unique feature of Dubai Silicon Oasis is its in-zone accommodations, which include schools, shopping areas, and more than 500 villas.
Jebel Ali Free Zone
The late emir of Dubai and vice president of the UAE, Sheikh Rashid Bin Saeed Al Maktoum created the Jebel Ali Free Zone in 1985 with only 19 companies. Also known as Jafza, this zone has since become a diverse network of more than 6,000 businesses. Supporting around 135,000 jobs, the Jebel Ali Free Zone is responsible for conducting a staggering 20 percent of foreign investment operations in the UAE. What has made this zone so attractive to both local and international entrepreneurs is its relaxed regulations. Unlike in some free zones, foreign business owners operating out of the Jebel Ali Free Zone are not required to work with local sponsors, and companies do not need to pay taxes.
Dubai Internet City
Dubai Internet City is the largest community of technology companies not only in the UAE, but in the entire Middle East. More specifically, the city aims to fulfill the professional needs of those in the information and communication technology sectors. Entities ranging from startups to Fortune 500 companies have flocked to Dubai Internet City for its unique perks, which include full ownership for foreign business owners and cutting-edge office space. In addition, the city has the world’s most expansive Internet Protocol Telephony system. For these reasons, Dubai Internet City is situated at the forefront of all free zones in the emirates, offering one-of-a-kind access to diverse markets that cater to more than 1.5 billion individuals.
Dubai Airport Free Zone
Since its inception in 1996, the Dubai Airport Freezone Authority (DAFZA) has become a major player in the region’s trade and service industries. As its name suggests, this zone is situated inside of an airport, which places it in the ideal position to serve companies that offer valuable low-volume products such as jewelry, cosmetics, and electronics. Within the Free Zone, companies are able to easily obtain the trade licenses that they will need to work in Dubai. This enables new businesses to establish themselves and existing firms to open new branches. With no restrictions on currency and total exemption on trade, personal, and corporate taxes, DAFZA helps its affiliate companies to flourish.
International Humanitarian City
Created under the leadership of the government of Dubai, International Humanitarian City (IHC) uses the model of a Free Zone as a means of supporting the work of charitable organizations. A number of prominent entities such as World Vision International and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations have turned to this zone to better reach communities that have endured crises or that are experiencing impoverished conditions. As the first Free Zone dedicated to humanitarian work, IHC has pioneered the concept of combining the efforts of non-profits with that of commercial suppliers. Additionally, IHC facilitates countless opportunities for networking and talent acquisition.
Dubai Media City
Due to its location at the center of the Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African regions, Dubai Media City has become the core of all media activity in the area. The zone welcomes companies that specialize in all types of media, whether it is music, journalism, or advertising. Since 2001, Dubai Media City has grown to include 2,000 firms with more than 20,000 employees. In addition to its traditional Free Zone advantages, the city provides other important services such as access to government assistance and venue management. This unique environment makes it easy for participating companies to explore their creative abilities and make an impact on the global media industry.
Dubai Knowledge Village
Another one of Dubai’s one-of-a-kind free zones is its famous Knowledge Village. Established in 2003, is has since helped to bring both the UAE and the Middle East to the forefront of education and human resource administration. Located on a campus that spans a kilometer, Dubai Knowledge Village is designed to complement the work of the emirates’ Technology and Media Free Zones. The primary goal of this entity is to develop local talent by supporting the work of academic institutions and research facilities, thereby helping the UAE become one of the world’s most prominent economies.