The Report: Ras Al Khaimah 2015

With more limited hydrocarbons reserves compared to its UAE neighbours to the south, RAK has developed into an industrial hub thanks to its dynamic network of industrial free trade zones. Considerable natural resources feed the country’s thriving cement and ceramics industries while elsewhere the emirate is looking to leverage its varied landscapes in a bid to boost tourism revenues in line with general economic diversification targets.

Country Profile

RAK is ruled by Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi, who has ruled since the passing of his father, Sheikh Saqr, in 2010. The emirate’s population has grown significantly over recent years, rising from 267,000 in 2009 to 413,000 in 2010. Despite its relatively small geographic size, the emirate nevertheless boasts a varied landscape and considerable natural resources. Indeed it is home to the largest rock quarry in the Gulf, while the high-quality deposits of limestone and clay found in the emirate underpin RAK’s thriving cement and ceramics industries. Meanwhile the various industrial free zones remain core pillars of the emirate’s growth, with attractive incentives in place for foreign companies continuing to attract international players.

This chapter contains an interview with Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and ruler of Ras Al Khaimah; and a viewpoint from Tony Abbott, former Prime Minister of Australia.

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RAK’s path towards economic diversification started early and has seen it transform into an industrial and manufacturing hub, supported by targeted resource development, a fast-expanding network of free zones, and government efforts to promote and incentivise investment. The emirate’s GDP growth was reported at 7.6% in 2013, reaching $7.05bn, with manufacturing representing the single-largest economic sector, contributing 25.1% of GDP.

This chapter contains an interview with Sheikh Ahmad Bin Saqr Al Qasimi, Chairman, Ras Al Khaimah Free Trade Zone (RAK FTZ).

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Financial Services

RAK’s financial services sector has posted robust growth in recent years. New regulations in line with Basel III standards are set to stabilise and protect banks, setting new capital and liquidity standards, while changes to the insurance sector are expected to limit investment losses in the UAE’s equities markets. While local banks are increasingly focusing on retail and SME lending, construction development in the region continues to bode well for the sector, with events such as Dubai’s World Expo 2020 and FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar set to generate greater investment and financing demand.

This chapter contains an interview with Peter England, CEO, National Bank of Ras Al Khaimah.

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Industry & Retail

RAK is home to thriving cement and ceramics industries, and in 2014 manufacturing – the emirate’s main employer – accounted for 25.1% of total GDP. The emirate’s free trade zones have been key to driving this expansion. The FTZs offer international companies 100% ownership and allow them to take full advantage of the GCC’s free trade laws. Meanwhile, the emirate’s retail offering continues to grow as malls press ahead with expansion and upgrade plans.

This chapter contains an interview with Yousef Obaid Al Nuaimi, Chairman, Ras Al Khaimah Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

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Construction & Real Estate

Construction remains a key sector in RAK, with the industry driven by a combination of infrastructure, housing and hospitality schemes. The emirate’s role in providing raw materials and manufactured components for mega projects in the UAE and beyond looks set to continue as the region builds up to major events such as the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Strong demand continues to drive new residential development across the emirate, particularly in the case of seaside residential developments. New mortgage regulations introduced by the Central Bank of the UAE and the launch of the federal Al Etihad Credit Bureau are factors expected to reduce risk for lenders moving forward.

This chapter contains an interview with Abdullah Rashed Al Abdooli, Managing Director, Al Marjan Island.

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RAK’s location on the Strait of Hormuz, its well-developed infrastructure, and the free trade agreements in place within the GCC are some of the key logistical advantages offered to businesses located in the emirate. RAK boasts five ports, each with a clearly defined role, and all of them branded as RAK Ports and managed by the Saqr Port Authority. The 1200-km Etihad Rail Project is being built across the UAE in three stages and will eventually transport both freight and passengers, as well as provide rail links to the proposed GCC network.

This chapter contains an interview with Cliff Brand, General Manager, RAK Ports Group.

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The energy mix in RAK is currently led by government-owned operators RAK Petroleum and RAK Gas, both of which are involved in exploration and operation activities internationally. The fall in global oil prices in mid-2014 is already being felt in RAK, with RAK Petroleum recording its first year of losses since 2007 in 2014. Despite this, falling oil prices are set to benefit RAK Gas’s major industrial customers and should improve the availability of affordable fuel necessary for ongoing industrial expansion. With population and business growth set to boost demand for energy in the emirate, the government has started pursuing renewable power options, with a number of international players putting forward bids for tenders to build desalinisation plants and develop renewable power capacity in the emirate.

This chapter contains an interview with Richard Menezes, Managing Director, UTICO.

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Investment in both private and public health care facilities has been on the rise over the past decade in RAK, with the health care sector expected to undergo a sustained period of major growth. Demand for new services is rising rapidly as RAK, like the rest of the UAE, witnesses an increasing incidence of lifestyle-related diseases. The government has increasingly targeted private health care provision as a strategy to improve patient outcomes. The inauguration of the Sheikh Khalifa Specialty Hospital (SKSH) in February 2015 was a major step in the development of the sector in that regard.

This chapter contains an interview with Dr. Myung-Whun Sung, CEO, Sheikh Khalifa Specialty Hospital.

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Moves towards the development of a knowledge-based economy have begun in RAK as the emirate implements education reforms and student enrichment initiatives get under way. The Ministry of Education’s mid-range policy for the 2015-21 period targets knowledge integration in industries related to science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Meanwhile, with the federal goal of meeting 15% of total energy demand via renewable sources by 2030, RAK’s research institutions are increasingly involved in launching their own renewable energy projects.

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Revenues for RAK’s tourism sector rose 44% in 2014 and the total number of overnight stays by guests grew by 72% to reach 2.14m.The tourism sector is estimated to support 307,000 jobs across the UAE, or 5.4% of total employment, which is expected to rise by 5.4% in 2015 and 2.6% per annum until 2025. Developers hope to see the area grow substantially in the next few years as the mixed development of holiday homes, restaurants, marinas and numerous hotels will make a significant contribution to the economy and change the shape of the hospitality sector.

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The Guide explores some of the cultural heritage on offer to visitors in RAK, as well as listings of leading hotels and resorts, and contacts for important government offices and services. It also contains useful tips and information for first-time or regular and business and leisure visitors alike.

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