Reasons Why Small Businesses to Move to the UAE

If you have a small business, then you know that trying to go international is a tricky proposition. Let’s face it, it’s the stuff of much larger organizations. Or so you think. In fact, a number of small businesses are taking a look at the opportunities to expand into the UAE.

For one thing, the country is located at a strategic crossroad between east and west. Also, the leadership is pro-western and pro-business. In addition, it is becoming an important financial center. So much so that many are calling it the Silicon Valley of the Middle East.

The name is not without reason. The emirs who run the UAE are extremely pragmatic and their policies are pro-business. Take for example Ras Al Khaimah. The tiny emirate in the countries north has enacted a number of investment promotions in recent years.

Ras Al Khaimah has been ranked as one of the Top 10 Small- and Mid-Sized Global Cities of the Future by FDI Intelligence. In 2015 it ranked as the ninth for human capital and lifestyle, and friendliness, seventh for economic potential, and fifth for connectivity. The economy has also experienced growth of 8% since 2012.

Much of the credit is due to the emirate’s leader – Sheikh Saud bin Saqr al Qasimi. Since his accession to the throne in 2010, he has continued to build on his father’s accomplishments and turn his tiny emirate into an economic powerhouse in the region. This can be seen by the Sheikh’s pivot away from the undue influence regional super powers and the embrace of foreign investment.

Another reason to move to the UAE is the opportunity for business owners to control their businesses by retaining full control. As you probably know a number of countries limit foreign ownership. This is achieved by registering to do business in specially created Free Trade Zone (FTZ).

This is a big plus. As you won’t need an Emirati citizen to act as your sponsor. While this is a popular option, it is not for everyone. In some cases, having a local shareholder may be an advantage. This is especially true if you are planning to service the local market. Another this to know is that your commercial license is tied to the type and location of your business. So it is important to review this with your legal team before finalizing your registration.

If you decide that setting up in a FTZ is the right move, then you will also have to choose the type of company to register. Choices include Free Zone Company (FZC), Free Zone Establishment (FZE), and even branch offices. Both companies are Limited Liability Companies. The difference is the number of shareholders as an FZC has five shareholders, and the FZE has only one.

All in all, company establishment in the UAE is a fairly efficient process, though it does pay to have legal and accounting support to make sure that everything is set up correctly. This means reaching out to a lawyer with an intimate understanding of UAE law – including the specifics of each emirate.

Whilst setting up a company in the UAE is efficient, running one is by no means easy. competition is fierce and customers are just as savvy here as they are elsewhere. Maybe more so as many are world travelers as well. In the end, the decision to move the UAE is the opportunity to move your great product or service closer to you customer base.

You see, nearly half of the world’s population lives within a six-hour flight of the UAE. This means that you can easily connect and ship with your customers. The countries leaders understand this as well and they have worked to upgrade the nation’s airport. In fact, Dubai International Airport is the third busiest airport in the world.

Dubai International Airport

photo credit: Roevin / Flickr

Beyond that, the country has also become an important finical hub rivaling New York, London, and Hong Kong. While there have been challenges, regulators have worked hard to improve the governance and transparency of the capital markets in the country. Banks have also worked hard to innovate and a number of fintech startups have opened offices in the country.

As you can see, the UAE is a pro-western, pro-business oasis that is well connected to the rest of the world. So if you want to take advantage of business friendly investment promotions and move closer to your customers then it might make sense for you to consider moving your small business there.


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