Businesswise, the UAE is a country that’s really opening up. In a drive to attractive foreign investment and encourage international trade, Dubai created free-trade zones that provide a host of perks for foreign entrepreneurs who want to set up a business in the UAE.
We’re not talking about another Silicon Valley or Wall Street, but rather zones that hold opportunities for businesses in a number of different sectors and industries: media, finance, ICTs, healthcare, autos… the list goes on.
Here are some of those perks:
- 100% foreign ownership of the business. Before you had to go into partnership with a UAE national. This national would own the majority share of the business. Not anymore.
- Purpose-built offices and warehouses
- Exemption from taxes and customs duties while operating within the free zone
- Zero limitations on sponsorship or recruitment, so if you wish to promote your business or to hire more employees, you can do so to your heart’s content.
What about women in business there?
Some men may still have their reservations when they’re dealing with women in business, but the UAE is gradually shedding this conservative attitude. Now with the UAE economy booming, more and more women have been setting out on their own business ventures, organizing their own business banking, and enjoying general business success. In fact, there are now some 20,000 companies in the UAE, and these are owned by 13,000 women.
There are also The Dubai Women in Business Council has existed since 2002 and aims to encourage the acceptance, education, and awareness of women in business. And in 2012, Ras Al-Khaimah held its first forum for women in business.
Where do the opportunities lie?
There have been calls for women to think outside of the box, rather than opt for more female-oriented industries such as fashion or retail, if they want to succeed in business. There are two main areas that offer business opportunities which businesswomen might want to make the most of:
- Education— Education presents all kind of opportunities. The UAE requires well-designed executive programs that are tailored to specific industries or sectors. And as well as the need for training programs for UAE nationals, there’s a greater need for technology to be integrated into training.
- Creative industries — Fashion and retail aside, if women who are starting a business can come up with an original business idea to serve other creative industries, there’s real scope for business. This is mainly due to the demand for localized products that take into account Arab language, cultural sensitivities, and relevant content.
While the UAE is still conservative in its ideas and traditions, its attitudes towards women in business have relaxed, allowing women to enter the business playing field easier and experience business success. So don’t be surprised if you attend a business meeting and find another woman is leading the negotiations, or that all the directors on the board are all women. Embrace it and, deep inside, congratulate them on their success.