With a contribution of roughly one-third to the manufacturing sector of the entire UAE and more than 1,400 registered manufacturing entities, Sharjah has been coined the industrial hub of the Emirates. Its 19 different industrial areas and two free zones have played a major role in attracting up to 12,000 foreign and domestic companies that operate in Sharjah as of today. As a result of the growing number of companies setting up shop in Sharjah, the industrial areas have been expanded to their very limits. Furthermore, these areas, of which the first ones were established as early as the 1970s, are located closely to residential areas, thereby putting a strain on the wellbeing of citizens in those areas. Since the room for expansion in the industrial zones is limited, Sharjah runs the risk of losing companies that are limited in their growth, and decide to relocate their operations outside the Emirate.
In order to cope with the growing manufacturing sector and support Sharjah’s economic development, a consortium of GCC real estate investors set up the Emirates Company for Industrial Cities in 2005, and launched its pilot Emirates Industrial City (EIC) project in Sharjah with a total development investment of over AED4.5 billion ($1.23 million).
Strategically located at the outskirts of Sharjah within a fifteen minutes’ drive from both Dubai and Sharjah, Emirates Industrial City provides industrial land and facilities suitable for light and medium industries, which will be exempt from import taxes to the GCC. Established on an area of land comprising 9sqkm, the city offers a wide array of infrastructure services and utilities, such as a reliable power distribution network suiting different electrical power supply needs, a water supply network, a high-tech communication network, and a steady supply of natural gas for fueling purposes.
The city is located in the vicinity of Sharjah International Airport and the seaports of both Dubai and Sharjah, which is an additional advantage to companies operating out of EIC. Divided into eight clusters, two of which are dedicated to warehouses and logistical support, where offices, permanent showrooms and multi-purpose business centers can be set up. The other sectors are designated for residential and commercial purposes, as well as industrial plots for small and medium size manufacturing facilities.
By gradually moving the concentration of industries away from the old industrial zones and Sharjah’s residential areas, EIC is a key component in ensuring that Sharjah remains the industrial hub of the United Arab Emirates. As such, it occupies an important position as a driver of economic growth. For Mohammed N. Al-Hazzaa, Director General of The Emirates Company for Industrial Cities, however, this is just the beginning. He is keen to expand the current EIC, and hopes to “find other similar locations in Sharjah and the wider GCC region so that more Industrial Cities can be developed.“ In order to make sure that such expansion plans see the light of day, Al-Hazzaa would welcome strategic partnerships with domestic and foreign companies. As a pilot project, EIC has arguably proven its worth, and replication of the model in other places will truly be a testament to EIC’s role as an enabling factor for prosperous growth of the UAE’s manufacturing industry, and driver of economic growth of Sharjah.