Sharjah: Broadening the base

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Looking to boost investment in its key industrial sector, Sharjah is broadening the scope of its promotional activities, with these aimed at showcasing local manufacturers and the opportunities on offer in the emirate.

Manufacturing is at the heart of Sharjah’s efforts to expand and diversify its economy, efforts that have over the years paid dividends for both the emirate and the country as a whole. Sharjah’s contribution represents just under half of the industrial GDP for the UAE, supported by a base of more than 1600 local enterprises.

To further broaden the sector, Sharjah has stepped up efforts to attract investment, while also working to strengthen its brand name and reputation for quality and dependability.

Following on from the success of its “Made in Sharjah” exhibition – a five-day event held in late November 2010 that profiled local industries and promoted opportunities for investment – the Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI) has unveiled plans to take its trade show on the road, announcing that it will stage an expo in the Iraqi city of Erbil sometime in 2011.

There is the potential for Sharjah firms to break new ground in Erbil and the rest of the Kurdish region of northern Iraq, which is now moving into a phase of rapid economic expansion, said Saif Mohammed Al Midfa, the director-general of the Expo Centre Sharjah, which hosted the fair.

“In Kurdistan, Erbil is a fast emerging business destination, with new hotels, buildings, trade, health care and leisure facilities all coming up at a rapid pace. This has thrown open excellent growth opportunities and hence Expo Centre is focusing on Erbil in a big way,” Al Midfa said while visiting northern Iraq late last year.

The aim of the Made in Sharjah promotion, according to Hussein Mohammed Al Mahmoudi, SCCI’s director-general, is to open opportunities in the area of industrial investment and provide technical and consultancy services, as well as funding facilities for investors.

“We look forward to realising Sharjah’s long-term goals by promoting confidence in local products and bringing the local economy to a new level of excellence,” he told a press conference in late November.

To some degree, the expansion of the manufacturing sector in Sharjah is dependant on the pace of economic recovery in the region and beyond. Most indications are that demand is steadily on the rise. One sign that the global recovery is well under way came from Anchor Allied, the region’s largest producer of adhesive tapes and specialty adhesives, which in mid-February announced a $7m expansion of its factory in Sharjah. According to a statement issued by the firm, the new investment was in response to greater demand for its products from Central and South Africa, as well as Eastern Europe.

Mustafa Kachwala, Anchor Allied’s general manger, said, “Once the expansion is complete, we will have the capacity to produce over 18m additional cans of aerosols per year from our Sharjah factory and cater to new markets,” he said on February 16.

Another indicator that industry is on the upswing came from the Sharjah Economic Development Department on February 15, when it announced there had been a 7.1% increase in the number of new and renewed business licences in 2010 compared to the previous year. Among the overall increase in new licences, which saw growth of 18.4% there was solid rise in the number of industrial permits issued, up from the 78 of 2009 to 97 in 2010.

According to SCCI data, in the first 10 months of 2010, some Dh8bn ($2.17bn) was invested in Sharjah’s industrial sector. Employment levels also rose, with those active in the sector totaling 82,000, up from 75,000 last year.

Recent efforts undertaken to boost the supply of power should help to sustain this growth going forward as new capacity comes on-line. Electricity provision has proven to be something of an issue in recent years, with the very success of the emirate’s efforts to attract industrial investments contributing to this.

Having invested in a strong logistics framework, including road and maritime cargo moving infrastructure, Sharjah’s manufacturing sector can benefit from strong fundamentals. If it can follow suit with steps to raise its profile through promotional efforts and expansion into new markets, the emirate’s industrial base should be set for continued expansion in the years ahead.

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