The Business Year

Dr. Mohammed Al Zarooni

UAE, DUBAI - Economy

A Gateway to Growth

Director General, Dubai Airport Free Zone Authority (DAFZA)


Dr. Mohammed Al Zarooni is the Director General of Dubai Airport Freezone (DAFZA), a role he has held since 2000. He is responsible for managing all strategic initiatives implemented by DAFZA management and to help position the organization in faster-growing functional and geographical areas. Prior to joining DAFZA, Al Zarooni worked at the Department of Civil Aviation as the Director of Administration & Research, where he was a key figure in establishing the free zone division. Al Zarooni received a PhD in economic geography from Durham University, UK. He also holds a bachelor’s degree from UAE University and an MBC in economic geography.

TBY talks to Dr. Mohammed Al Zarooni, Director General of Dubai Airport Free Zone Authority (DAFZA), on having an environment conducive to business, investment, and innovation, helping SMEs increase their collaboration with public and private entities, and creating smart, digital, and innovation-driven economies.

What have been the key achievements for DAFZA in the past year?

DAFZA has achieved strong year on year business results and made significant progress across key projects and initiatives in the past year. We recently announced the results for 1H2018, showing an 11% growth in EBID in comparison with the same period of 2017, and a growth of new rental revenues by 27%. The results included a 10% increase in licensing revenues and a 31% increase in revenues from government services, resulting in total revenue growth of 8% on 1H2017. DAFZA also achieved a solid 15% growth in the number of registered companies over the same period in 2017, providing global and regional investors across a wide range of industries with the ideal business-friendly environment, and a seamless customer experience supported by world-class infrastructure, high quality services and logistics facilities. There was also a 5% increase in the number of multinational companies at DAFZA, a direct result of our high-quality services enabling businesses to expand in the Middle East, Africa, and Central Asia and explore high investment opportunities in the region. These positive figures were delivered as a result of DAFZA’s strategic plan set in early 2017, which is in line with the ambitious objectives of Dubai Plan 2021. One of the key elements of the plan is to support Dubai in becoming one of the most innovative and progressive cities to host world-class free zones across the globe.

What makes DAFZA a strong ecosystem for international companies looking to regionally expand?

DAFZA’s ecosystem integrates world-class infrastructure with the strategic location of Dubai to provide the highest level of services and meet the needs of customers. DAFZA ensures its offerings meet international market requirements, economic policies, and developments across various global business sectors. Through its strategic location, multinational companies have the opportunity to not only achieve strong performance, but also to drive growth and expansion into emerging regional markets. This is made possible through DAFZA’s vast portfolio of exceptional services, world-class facilities, advanced infrastructure, smart solutions and investment facilities, and an environment conducive to business, investment, and innovation. The 1H2018 results highlight the flexible business and investment environment provided by DAFZA to its various segments of global investors.

To which markets would you like to expand DAFZA’s reach?

Core markets for DAFZA are based on their foreign direct investments in the UAE, both in terms of value and number of projects. Generally, DAFZA is focused on attracting investment and business opportunities from a wide number of markets, including China, India, South Korea, South America and Europe. We also organized a series of investment seminars called Gateway to Growth in India, China, Spain, Germany, Switzerland, and Korea. These roadshows aimed to introduce the opportunities, investment advantages, advanced facilities, and global infrastructure that DAFZA provides.

How does DAFZA support SME growth?

The first half of 2018 witnessed an increase in the number of registered SMEs by 17%. This confirms the success of DAFZA’s focus on providing integrated solutions and services that ensure business growth for each segment. There has been a particular focus on helping SMEs increase their collaboration with several public and private entities in line with the vision of the UAE and Dubai governments to develop the sector and help grow the national economy.

How will the Dubai Blink platform help in meeting the needs of future global trade?

The Dubai Blink project was designed to support government plans to create smart, digital and innovation-driven economies. It was launched to benefit from the growing global e-commerce market valued at around USD7.7 trillion in 2017. DAFZA has begun the implementation of Dubai Blink, the world’s first e-commerce platform for free zones companies to utilize artificial intelligence, blockchain technology, and virtual business licenses adopted as part of Dubai 10X. We have also organized a series of workshops between free zones and government entities to disseminate the project.



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