The success of Jafza inspired other emirates to set up their own free zones. Oussama El Omari, the chief executive of Ras Al Khaimah Free Trade Zone (RAK FTZ) talks about its history and the businesses it tries to attract.
How long has the free zone been operating?
RAK FTZ is in its 11th year of operation.
Why was it started?
The early goal of the RAK FTZ was to accelerate the commercial development of Ras Al Khaimah by stimulating the growth of the local economy for the benefit of the people of RAK. The objectives laid down by Sheikh Faisal [bin Saqr Al Qasimi, the chairman of the free zone] were as follows: to encourage investment by reducing red tape and legal restrictions; provide excellent customer-focused solutions; deliver simple and effective systems and procedures; and attract, retain and develop a highly qualified multicultural Emirati workforce capable of supporting the organisation's goals and operations.
RAK free zone is not limited to one area. Why?
Instead of restricting itself - and consequently its clients - to a single location, the free zone established itself across Ras Al Khaimah at various specialised sites. The aim of these diverse parks was to provide separate and ideal environments that could encourage different types of investors and industries.
How has it changed over time?
In 11 short years, RAK Free Trade Zone has gone from a visionary idea to a three-dimensional, vibrant reality with international reach … It captured the imagination of Lady Margaret Thatcher, past prime minister of the United Kingdom and an international leader known for her support of business innovation, who came as the guest of honour for the inauguration of the RAK FTZ in 2000. Since then, RAK FTZ has been approached by organisations from different countries in Europe and Africa to use the business model of the free zone in their own countries.
How many companies operate in it?
RAK FTZ has more than 5,000 companies operating within the different parks.
What is the main industry?
RAK FTZ focuses on small and medium-sized enterprises.
What kind of businesses and industries are you trying to attract?
Over the next decade, RAK FTZ will focus on three broad areas: enhancing Ras Al Khaimah's infrastructure, diversifying and expanding the foreign investment base and providing more career opportunities and jobs.