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Sharjah Publishing City

With Sharjah Publishing City gearing up to open its doors, the Emirate extends its reach further into a thriving regional industry.

A file photo shows Abdul Lateef Qadhi (L) with “The Gulf in Historic Maps,” one of 14 titles written by Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al-Qasmi, ruler of Sharjah, at the 17th Sharjah Book Fair. REUTERS/Str Old

Throughout its history, Sharjah has been responsible for the restoration of dozens of heritage sites, century-old souqs, and mosques, as well as the preservation of other historical architecture. At the same time, it is also a hub for manufacturing in the UAE, representing between 38 and 40% of the UAE’s industrial activity.

In a move sure to transform the landscape of both, the Sharjah Book Authority (SBA) is building Sharjah Publishing City (SPC), the world’s first publishing and printing free zone. Inspired by the incredible success of the Sharjah International Book Fair, which saw 2.3 million visitors from over 60 countries in 2016, helping to generate 1 billion Twitter impressions and over USD43 million in total sales, the SBA is looking to make the SPC not only an Arabian center for publishing, but also a global one.

Two of the main reasons for Sharjah’s success as an industrial powerhouse are its convenient infrastructure and pro-business free zones. Sharjah boasts two of the largest ports in the UAE, the Khor Fakkan Port on the Indian Ocean and the Hamriyah deep-water port in the Hamriyah Free Zone, the second-largest free zone in the UAE. The SAIF zone, another free zone in Sharjah, is located adjacent to Sharjah International Airport. These free zones have 100% foreign ownership, 100% repatriation of capital and profits, and 100% free transfer of funds.
SPC will be located between two major airports, Sharjah Cargo Airport, the biggest hub for Lufthansa after Frankfurt, and Dubai International Airport. Located on the main road connecting Dubai and Sharjah, SPC is also within 50km of two major wet ports. The ease with which publishers can move their product from continent to continent, connecting East to West, is one of SPC’s strongest USPs.
Sharjah Publishing City will cover 65,000sqm of land with office and warehousing space for companies to set up a regional and international sales and marketing presence. The second of five phases of construction was completed in April 2017, giving SPC the capacity to house 450 publishers in ready-to-use offices and prebuilt warehouses that can be leased on a short- or long-term basis. The facilities will be a one-stop shop, offering everything a modern business needs to be successful, including high-speed broadband, conference rooms, and secretarial services.
But the most integral part of SPC’s all-inclusive experience are its centers for in-house translating, editing, and negotiating, as well as selling rights to intellectual property. These facilities encourage global publishers to come to Sharjah and expand their range of work and networks of distribution. This is the primary ambition for HE Ahmed Al Ameri, who has already attracted major interest from publishers across Western Europe, East Asia, and the Indian subcontinent. In addition to the multitude of nationalities that attended the Sharjah International Book Fair, the delegation members from Sharjah were received as the guests of honor at international book fairs in Paris, Serbia, and Sao Paulo. At the New Delhi World Book Fair, the SPC garnered the attention of over 200 major Indian publishers. The SPC offers an excellent opportunity as roughly one-third of the UAE population is composed of expats from the subcontinent.

While the UAE’s publishing market is currently estimated at USD272 million, the Arab market of over 370 million people is valued at over USD1 billion. With 29% of this market currently being supplied by European publishers, Sharjah has a major competitive advantage both geographically and culturally. Additionally, with Sharjah boasting some of the best universities in the Middle East, its capacity to seize control of the region’s creative capacity and book publishing industry grows each day.

But to say that this is purely commercial would be a slight to the Emirate’s ambition and leadership. HH Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Federal Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah is an academic, a famous collector of books, and a cultured man insistent upon the education of his people and preservation of their culture. SPC is the realization of his vision to make Sharjah the world capital for books. Coupled with effective governing, pro-business incentives, and a central location, this vision could soon become a reality.