Thursday 29, September 2016

Sharjah – MENA Herald: Healthcare and logistics were two of the key sectors under the spotlight at the Sharjah Foreign Direct Investment Forum (Sharjah FDI Forum 2016), which opened yesterday at the Al Jawaher Reception and Convention Centre in Sharjah.
Held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, the first day of the two-day forum saw the hosting of a panel discussion that examined how the emirate’s business friendly environment and willingness to be flexible were key elements in the expansion of business in the healthcare and logistics fields.
The first to take to the stage during the morning session was Thumbay Moideen, Founder and President of Thumbay Group. He explained how a chance meeting with a member of the Sharjah Royal Family had led to him setting up what has now become one of the region’s largest healthcare organisations.
“I was transiting through Sharjah on my way to Tanzania when I struck up a conversation with a member of the Sharjah Royal Family. I explained my business background in Bangalore, India and he asked me what I considered would be a good business to start in Sharjah. I told him that in my home town a hospital had been built that was now at the centre of the local economy. Within weeks I had received an invitation from the Sharjah Royal Court to come to Sharjah and start a healthcare business,” he said.
Moideen continued by revealing how the institution he started has now grown into an organisation that spans the region, with offices in seven countries and facilities that provide healthcare for thousands of customers. He highlighted how there were 15 Thumbay academic hospitals in the UAE alone and cited how the educational aspect of his healthcare business was a result of the willingness of the authorities to change the rules in order to facilitate business growth.
“At the time, expatriates were not allowed to get into the education field here, but the authorities passed a special decree that enabled me to start medical colleges that now attract as students from 70 countries. Gulf Medical College is now fully accredited with the UAE Ministry of Education,” he said.
Following Moideen’s presentation, four Logistic sector professionals took to the stage to discuss harnessing the investment potential of the UAE’s transportation and logistics sector to meet expanding trade demand.
“We have witnessed remarkable growth in the logistics sector in the UAE – in 2018 this will be the third largest cargo market in the world. This success can be attributed to the country’s strategic location for east and west and its position as a portal into the Africa market. Location cannot be copied by the opposition,” said Thorsten Braun, General Manager, Middle East, Iran and Pakistan, Lufthansa Cargo AG.
“The UAE is successful because it has continued to reinvent itself and because it has established a trading culture. It is a trade hub for the entire region – the Middle East and Africa. It also has a willingness to do business which is extremely important. The logistics industry has grown in the UAE because of the country’s willingness and capacity to trade,” commented Flemming Dalgaard, CEO, Gulftainer Group.
Highlighting the role of free zones in the growth of the region’s logistics sector was H.E. Saud Salem Al Mazrouei, Director, Hamriyah Free Zone and Sharjah Airport International Free Zone. He explained how Sharjah was taking advantage of the current economic situation to expand its facilities.
“There are now 7,600 companies operating out of Sharjah Airport International Free Zone, which was the emirate’s first. The zones are a big component of the logistics sector thanks to 100 per cent ownership, no taxes and the ability to get a trade licence in two hours. The cost of construction at the moment is low, so we are taking advantage of this to develop our ports and infrastructure. Once the market improves construction costs will go up, so we want to expand now so that we will be ready for when the market recovers,” he said.
Finally, Geoff Walsh, Country Manager UAE, DHL Express, gave his view on the current status of the logistics industry in the region, highlighting the free zones, Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and connectivity as being the drivers of its success.
“People doing business at the moment don’t want to tie up their costs in static stock so require express services for shipping. They want ‘just in time solutions.’ SMEs are vital for the sector – they constitute 60 per cent of the UAE’s GDP and there are 45,000 in Sharjah alone. Ease of transport is another extremely important consideration. There are four international airports in the UAE within 150km of each other, so there is great connectivity. We do need to invest more in free zones as they make doing business that much easier. There is always a risk in investing, but as the UAE has proved through its perseverance, investment pays off,” he said.
Sharjah FDI Forum 2016 concludes today (Thursday) with its programme of panel discussions, presentations and key note addresses focusing on foreign direct investment in the UAE in general and Sharjah specifically. The second edition of the annual event has attracted hundreds of corporate business leaders, public sector representatives and government officials from across the region and the world.