Ras Al-Khaimah: 2024 Economic Overview

The Emirate of Ras Al-Khaimah has succeeded in building a quintessentially diversified local economy, relying on industry, trade, and increasingly sustainable agriculture.

Image credit: Shutterstock / Philip Lange

The UAE has a unique system of administrative divisions as a result of its history. On December 2, 1971, six Emirates came together to lay the foundation of the modern United Arab Emirates (UAE), with the seventh Emirate, Ras Al-Khaimah, joining the union shortly afterwards on February 10, 1972.

These seven Emirates have remained in place as the main administrative divisions of the UAE, enjoying some degree of autonomy in their internal affairs.

The country’s international affairs and macro policies, however, are decided in the capital, Abu Dhabi, where all emirates are represented.

In a series of articles, TBY is going to explore the economies of each Emirate, starting with the northernmost Emirate of Ras Al-Khaimah and moving southward to the largest Emirate of all, Abu Dhabi.

As one of the Emirates with little-to-zero oil production, Ras Al-Khaimah has been looking into the diversification of its local economy for a long time.

As we shall see later, the Emirate has been largely successful in this regard, with no sector contributing over 30% to local GDP.

The most important sectors in Ras Al-Khaimah are industry and trade, which have ensured high standards of living for its population of 0.4 million. It is the fourth-largest Emirate in the UAE by area and the per capita GDP is over USD30,000 per year, according to the Ras Al Khaimah Government Media Office.

Indeed, Ras Al-Khaimah has a long history of trade and commerce dating back to the early Islamic times and the fabled port of Julfar, from where ships set sail for the Indian Ocean on the lookout for new faraway markets and exotic products to bring back.

In more modern times and after the foundation of the UAE, the economy of Ras Al-Khaimah has gone a long way in reclaiming its former glory. The Ras Al Khaimah Economic Zone (RAKEZ) has played a critical role in this regard.

RAKEZ is home to three industrial zones and two business zones and a coworking centre, catering to businesses of all sizes and types.

The empowerment of SMEs in Ras Al-Khaimah has been the principal objective of RAKEZ.

From among more than 21,000 companies based in the RAKEZ, several businesses have managed to rise and thrive internationally, such as RAK Ceramics whose export market is now worldwide. By passing the USD1 billion mark in terms of financial turnover, RAK Ceramics can now be considered a true unicorn.

Another global giant thriving in the RAKEZ business ecosystem is Ahmad Tea, producing 22 million tea bags daily and exporting them to over 80 countries worldwide.

With a view to digitalization, RAKEZ launched Portal 360 and RAKEZ mobile app. Among other things, these platforms streamline the process of launching and maintaining a business, giving companies a dashboard to quickly submit their requests for permits online and track them 24/7. Furthermore, the economic zone also introduced “instant license,” which allows entrepreneurs to avail their UAE business license online in less than five minutes.

To also streamline the shipping of the Emirate’s industrial output to the rest of the GCC and beyond, the RAK Maritime City (RAKMC) was launched in 2009 as a free trade zone combining “the best in international port facilities with business advantages for companies seeking cost efficient, secure, transparent and customized business answers with the best in tax benefits,” according to the RAKMC.

In addition to industry and trade, the agriculture sector has developed considerably in Ras Al-Khaimah given the superior fertility of its soil compared to the rest of the UAE and its better precipitation statistics.

Since the 1990s, Ras Al-Khaimah has been the UAE’s leading producer of fresh fruit and vegetables.

Using the sustainable agriculture technology of breathable sand, farming startups in Ras Al-Khaimah have successfully cultivated peanuts, beans, and black-eyed peas in a commercially viable manner.

R&D work is currently in progress on growing citrus fruits at a laboratory level with the hope of scaling up the production to commercial level soon.

The addition of sustainable agriculture to the economic makeup of Ras Al-Khaimah will make the Emirate’s already non-oil-dependent economy still more diversified, setting an example for the rest of the country and the GCC region.

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