Ras Al Khaimah: A stable ‘A’ rating from Fitch and Standard & Poor’s, low debt, political and social stability, a high ranking on the World Bank’s ease of business, and strong macroeconomic fundamentals are the ingredients Ras Al Khaimah hopes will attract investors.
His Highness Shaikh Saud Bin Saqr Al Qassimi, Ruler of Ras Al Khaimah and Member of the UAE Supreme Council, said the emirate was keen to make doing business easy.
“It was important to me to take Ras Al Khaimah to be part of this successful venture, to become a successful partner in the emirates,” Shaikh Saud said in his opening speech at the first Ras Al Khaimah Finance and Investment Forum at the Rixos Bab Al Bahr hotel.
Juma Mohammad Al Kait, UAE Assistant Undersecretary for Foreign Trade, said foreign direct investment (FDI) into the UAE reached $11 billion (Dh40.4 billion) in 2015, having grown 9.3 per cent annual since 2011, which represented 27.5 per cent of all inflows into the Arab region.
Ras Al Khaimah’s share of the FDI cake in 2015 was $1.05 billion, he said, helping its GDP grow by 5.2 per cent during the year. The UAE as a whole grew 3.8 per cent.
He added that no sector in Ras Al Khaimah contributed more than 20 per cent to GDP.
“From its modest beginning as a fishing, trading and agricultural community, Ras Al Khaimah has emerged as an economically diverse emirate overflowing with potential and guided by a visionary leadership,” he said.
Ramy Jallad, CEO of Ras Al Khaimah Investment Authority, said the emirate was a cost-effective place to do business, with good infrastructure, agility and big enough to take advantages of economies of scale.
“Cost effectiveness, at the end of the day, is really the bottom line that everybody looks at, no matter what you say. Whether it’s the right ecosystem or the wrong ecosystem, people always look at the cost effectiveness of running their own operation,” he said during in a panel on the emirate’s outlook for 2017.
In a later interview, he said the emirate was encouraging firms to look at running their back-office operations in the emirate. He said the emirate was seeing significant growth in firms specialising in global trading, and was keen to grow its manufacturing sector and encourage SMEs. He said there was already a growing body of firms supplying global companies.
“There’s a lot more we can do to encourage growth that is required in the automation field, in the IT spectrum,” he said, “especially when it comes to SMEs, which are always looking for cost-effective solutions.”
A newly agreed deal allowing companies in Ras Al Khaimah to have disputes heard in English at Dubai International Financial Centre’s courts will give investors greater confidence in the Emirate’s trading environment, according to Sheikh Saud Bin Saqr Al Qasimi, the ruler of the emirate.
Speaking on Tuesday at the Ras Al Khaimah Finance and Investment Forum, Sheikh Saud said: “We understand that we live today in a world where not everybody speaks Arabic language. We’re very proud of our language, but we are human beings. Arabs are known for their hospitality.
“What we want to do is allow businesses, people who live here, to feel comfortable that they can speak as well in English. What we want is to say [is], we in Ras Al Khaimah want people to feel safe.”
He said one of the key elements of a legal system is that it “allows us to resolve our disputes in a civilised manner … For that to happen, you need to have the confidence of two parties in the quality of justice. So we’ve taken that measure to allow the global investor to see that in RAK we have done that step.”
A memorandum of understanding signed this week allows for judgements issued by the DIFC Courts to be directly enforced by Ras Al Khaimah’s courts, provided that the contracts originally signed allows partners to opt in to DIFC Court jurisdictions.
The agreement covers contracts entered into by RAK government bodies, companies, investors and individuals who can choose to have disputes settled through either DIFC’s court or its arbitration centre.
A further deal announced on Tuesday allows for individuals based in Ras Al Khaimah to have wills registered through DIFC’s Wills and Probate service enacted by local courts in Ras Al Khaimah, and DIFC Courts will train RAK Courts staff.
Ahmed Mohammed Al Khatri, the chairman of RAK Courts Department, said: “As more people are choosing to set up businesses, work and live in Ras Al Khaimah, using the successful DIFC Wills and Probate Registry system will increase their confidence and commitment, allowing them to put down roots and build happy lives and thriving businesses.”
Speaking at the same forum on the prospects for Ras Al Khaimah’s economy, Waleed Mohsin, the executive director of global investment research at Goldman Sachs, said: “We think it’s a very well-balanced economy with a strong core.”
He said the emirate’s economy had outgrown the rest of the UAE in recent years, with average GDP growth of 4 per cent per annum. He said it was also diversified, with no sector making up more than 25 per cent of total GDP, and oil representing less than 5 per cent.
Mr Mohsin highlighted manufacturing, tourism, logistics and real estate as its four key growth sectors and praised the fact that 50 per cent of its GDP was in companies listed on the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange.
He said that although “there is clearly a challenge” for Ras Al Khaimah to continue its growth rates, there were a number of relatively untapped opportunities. For instance, most of the development of RAK’s manufacturing industry has been by local and GCC investors. “Clearly, the opportunity is to attract more foreign investment within this sector,” said Mr Mohsin.
Ras Al Khaimah’s government is progressing plans to develop a new education free zone to attract more universities and schools to the emirate.
The zone is in the early design stages, which could take up to 18 months to complete, said Ramy Jallad, the chief executive of RAK Investment Authority and RAK Free Trade Zone.
He was speaking on the sidelines of the Ras Al Khaimah Finance Investment Forum on Tuesday.
Discussions are already happening with institutions that can offer undergraduate, masters, PhD and executive learning programmes.
“We’re taking it gradually,” he said. “In the past year, we’ve been talking to four major educational institutions in terms of high schools. We’ve been talking to three major universities. But these are all in the making.”
Mr Jallad said that the authorities in the emirate were willing to incentivise higher education providers to set up there, but that it expected benefits to be funnelled back to potential students in the area by way of reduced tuition fees.
“When it comes to education, even in that sector our value proposition still holds,” he said.
“So our mandate is that when we attract schools or universities to Ras Al Khaimah, the same quality of higher education institutions that are available in other parts of the world, or in neighbouring emirates, they come here and they’re able to provide a more cost-effective tuition fee to the population, because we are offering them incentives to allow them to keep their operating costs much lower than anywhere else.”
Plans for a US$1 billion (Dh3.67bn) education free zone in Ras Al Khaimah were first announced in November 2008 but the project was never developed.
Mr Jallad said that there were also opportunities for investors in schools projects to get involved in the development of its free zones, where it is looking for partners to build schools, hospitals, malls and accommodation for both blue- and white-collar workers.
“We’re opening up our master planning where these private investors can come into our zones and we work with them,” said Mr Jallad.
“It can become a win-win where we’re all developing and creating that environment for SMEs or industry to thrive. Otherwise, if that load were to be put on the government’s head it would take longer and it would be a real burden on our finances.”
Abdulrahman Al Shayeb, the general director of RAK’s Department of Economic Development, said that he was chairing an executive committee aimed at improving the operating environment in the emirate for SMEs. He said that 21 recommendations for cutting red tape as well as reducing fees were likely to be announced by the end of the month.
Changes likely to be made include the reduction in the number of government departments investors have to deal with to gain licences. About Dh2.5m is also being invested in a system that will allow for many functions, such as licence applications, to be completed online.
“We have to think that business people don’t waste their time going from one department to another. We want them to take the time to build their business.”
Ras Al Khaimah Finance & Investment Forum (RAKFIF), the new platform for uncovering business investment opportunities and set-up in Ras Al Khaimah (RAK), is gearing up for a successful first edition. http://www.multivu.com/players/uk/7979351-rakfif-emirates-growth-potential-investment/
Taking place from 13-14 December 2016 at the Rixos Bab Al Bahr in Ras Al Khaimah, [UAE], RAKFIF is already attracting huge interest in line with the growing demand for events like this in the region, which focus on markets with high growth rates such as RAK.
Aiming to help business leaders, financiers, and investors navigate this developing landscape, the inaugural event Ras Al Khaimah Finance & Investment Forum provides a platform for information, networking and commercial opportunities.
RAKFIF, hosted under the patronage and with the presence of His Highness Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Ras Al Khaimah, is backed by strong government support and key RAK entities.
Commenting on their involvement in the forum, His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Saqr Al Qasimi, Chairman of Ras Al Khaimah Free Trade Zone (RAK FTZ) and Ras Al Khaimah Investment Authority (RAKIA), said: “RAK FTZ and RAKIA are proud strategic partners of this unique event as it puts RAK in the limelight. We, together with other government authorities in the emirate, have been committed to reinforce the positioning of the emirate in the global economic map as a premier business destination. RAKFIF is a wonderful platform for the international business community to learn more about the opportunities and advantages available in the emirate.”
Mr. Peter England, Chief Executive Officer of RAKBANK, said: “We are delighted to take part in this prestigious business investment and finance forum in our home emirate, Ras Al Khaimah. We fully support any initiative that aims to position Ras Al Khaimah as the investment destination of choice for individuals and businesses in the UAE. This participation offers us a peer-to-peer platform to meet with high profile international and regional investors and financiers and to explore how RAKBANK can cater to their specific banking needs. We always strive to bring more innovation and convenience in order to improve our customers’ experience and to support them as they move into a new phase of growth.”
As a high-level international business investment and finance forum, RAKFIF is bringing together experts from government and leading industries with international and regional investors and financiers to highlight the numerous investment projects that have been initiated in the emirate, focusing on a number of key economic sectors including hospitality & tourism, real estate, manufacturing & production, infrastructure – ports, airport and utilities.
The event’s agenda includes panel discussions, sector specific breakout sessions and plenary sessions and already has a confirmed stellar line up of speakers representing key economic sectors that the forum will focus upon, such as the Ras Al Khaimah Department of Civil Aviation, RAK International Airport, RAK Ports, Al Marjan Island Company, RAK Tourism Development Authority, RAK Free Trade zone & RAK Investment Authority, as well as from leading corporations such as Goldman Sachs International, HSBC, Samena Capital Investments, Colliers International, UTICO, Nabarro LLP, Hilton Worldwide, ADPI, Hutchison Ports to name a few.
Mr. Andy Tsoi, Managing Director, Middle East and Africa of Hutchison Ports, the world’s leading port investor, developer and operator, commenting on their participation at the Forum, said: “Ras Al Khaimah is a dynamic economy for investment. The ruler has successfully created a very business-friendly environment, conducive to both international investment as well as supportive of local industries. In the face of slowing economic growth elsewhere in the world, we see good potential in RAK.”
The Forum will gather over 300 C level and other industry leaders with RAK entities, showcasing Ras Al Khaimah in its entirety, while offering professional investment assistance and information.
HH Sheikh Ahmed, has a welcome message for businesses interested in Ras Al Khaimah “It is my pleasure to welcome a diverse community of businessmen and financiers to our rising emirate. Ras Al Khaimah’s supportive business environment and competitiveness have helped thousands of companies become established players in their respective fields. Investors who are looking for business growth opportunities should look no further as Ras Al Khaimah definitely offers that and more.”
Irina Awote, Director of the RAKFIF event said “As we bring together influential business leaders, investors and financiers to discuss the business opportunities and the viable investment projects that are underway for involvement in the emirate, we are extremely pleased to have RAK FTZ & RAKIA as our Strategic partner sponsors as well as the sponsorship support of leading organizations such as Hutchison Ports, RAK Bank, UTICO, HSBC and Archirodon Construction. Their support is a true testament of their understanding of the growth and business potential of the rising emirate.”
She added “There is still opportunity for companies interested to get involved, RAKFIF provides an outstanding opportunity for organisations wishing to increase brand awareness or connect with a qualified and targeted group of business leaders and investors. The forum’s sponsorship packages are designed to complement individual company’s existing marketing mix, whether they are looking to increase visibility in their target market or for the opportunity to develop relationships with potential customers and strengthen existing relationships with current ones, we will ensure that their company stands out, as we promote their involvement with the event.”
Alongside the presentations, a number of engaging features and events will take place across the two days of the Forum providing attendees with additional industry related content. RAKFIF has arranged a number of site visits to the locations of new and ongoing developments for delegates to participate in, in order to gain an even greater perspective of all that Ras Al Khaimah has to offer. In addition to these, the Forum provides an opportunity to build professional relationships with its informal gatherings, an evening reception on the 13th of December at the venue, and its networking opportunities. A dedicated onsite exhibition staffed by RAK entities will offer investment advice while showcasing the Emirate fully.
RAKFIF is an industry-only event, open to financiers and investors, and industry professionals with an interest in ongoing and fresh development opportunities in RAK from the surrounding Gulf States and internationally. The two-day Forum will be open on day one from 8.30am to 5.45pm and 8.30am to 4pm on day two, with free access for senior executive professionals who register online until the 21st November. Further information on the event, including directions, travel and registration are available at http://www.rakfif.com.