The Report: Sharjah 2023

Sharjah, with a largely non-oil-based economy and a population of 1.8m, is a dynamic centre for manufacturing, education and tourism. It is also prioritising sectors such health care and finance, with a focus on sustainability. With significant infrastructure investment and the rollout of strategic initiatives, Sharjah is poised for continued economic growth and development.


Sharjah stands out as a prime destination for manufacturing, culture and education. Its economy is nearly 96% non-oil based, and the emirate hosts six specialised free zones, offering flexible investment options and advanced infrastructure. In 2022 Sharjah's population reached 1.8m, with a focus on a young, urban demographic. The emirate's commitment to economic diversification is evident through initiatives supporting small businesses and investment in tourism. Recognised internationally for its culture, Sharjah aims to become a top regional family tourism destination, Sharjah is expanding its infrastructure, including Sharjah International Airport, while progressing towards a sustainable and diversified economy, harmonising economic resilience with cultural richness. This chapter contains interviews with Sheikha Bodour bint Sultan Al Qasimi, Chairperson, Sharjah Investment and Development Authority; Ahmed Al Qaseer, CEO, Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq); and Mohamed Al Musharrkh, CEO, Sharjah FDI Office (Invest in Sharjah).

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Sharjah is experiencing robust economic growth after rebounding from the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic. The emirate’s unique geostrategic location and strength in technology, health care, education and tourism make it well positioned for further development. Additionally, Sharjah has thriving manufacturing, construction and real estate sectors supported by free zones and industrial parks. Sharjah's economy is largely non-oil, constituting around 96% of its GDP, and focuses on sectors like manufacturing, services and finance. The government is strategically investing in sustainable development, as seen in projects like Sharjah Sustainable City, showcasing a commitment to environmental goals. The emirate's 2023 budget emphasises economic, social and infrastructure development while strengthening financial sustainability. This chapter contains interviews with Hamad Ali Abdullah Al Mahmoud, Chairman, Sharjah Economic Development Department; Waleed Al Sayegh, CEO, Sharjah Asset Management; and Sheikh Mohammed bin Saqr Al Qasimi, Chairman, Labour Standards Development Authority.

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Sharjah has emerged as a centre for higher education in the GCC and is home to two universities ranked in the top 500 globally. Federal restructuring has led to the establishment of key entities such as the Federal Authority for Early Childhood Education, indicating a comprehensive approach to education reform. Noteworthy initiatives include the introduction of Ajyal Schools blending national and US curricula, a four-day school week and a comprehensive training programme to integrate Emirati students into the private sector. Sharjah has also been fostering research and innovation through the Sharjah Research, Technology and Innovation Park, attracting global talent and driving innovative. Scholarships, collaborations with private investors and a focus on specialised vocational academies contribute to Sharjah's goal of building a diversified and high-tech knowledge ecosystem. This chapter includes an interview with Tod Laursen, Chancellor, American University of Sharjah.

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Sharjah is positioning itself as a prominent centre for health care and wellness, backed by government commitment and investment in Sharjah Healthcare City. With a focus on preventive care and strong partnerships between academia and industry, Sharjah aims to meet growing demand in the region. Recent developments include a new wellness centre and plans for a medical district, reflecting the emirate's dedication to advanced health care services. As the UAE progresses towards mandatory health insurance, Sharjah anticipates new business opportunities and is emphasising affordable health care. The emirate's strategic location, diverse health care ecosystem and relative cost-competitiveness put it in a strong position to tap into the international medical tourism market. With ongoing partnerships, and a commitment to comprehensive and accessible services, Sharjah is poised to contribute significantly to the overall health and well-being of its population. This chapter contains an interview with Dr Abdulaziz Al Mheiri, Chairman, Sharjah Health Authority.

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Tourism & Culture

Strategically positioned as a global centre for culture and tourism, Sharjah is looking to leverage its emerging and established arts, ecotourism, and adventure offerings. Infrastructure expansion projects such as airport upgrades and road projects have attracted investors, and heritage preservation efforts such as the Heart of Sharjah project underscore this commitment. Aligned with the UAE's tourism strategy, Sharjah anticipates sustained growth in the broader GCC tourism market. The Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority targets a 50% increase in hotel rooms by 2025, enhancing investment opportunities. UNESCO World Heritage sites in Sharjah drive growth and employment, making it appealing for tourists and investors alike. This chapter contains interviews with Khalid Jasim Al Midfa, Chairman, Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority; Aisha Deemas, Director General, Sharjah Museums Authority; and Saif Mohamed Al Midfa, CEO, Expo Centre Sharjah.

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Financial Services

Sharjah's financial services sector features prominent banks and a thriving insurance industry. The financial technology space is also advancing, propelled by national strategies promoting digital finance and Sharjah's commitment to innovation. The sector is subject to Emiratisation policies, with an aim for the sector’s workforce to include 45% Emirati nationals by 2026. Additionally, the UAE's financial landscape is adapting to sustainable finance, evident in Sharjah's issuance of the GCC's first sustainable sovereign bond in 2023. The insurance sector is also undergoing transformation, with the Central Bank of the UAE overseeing its development and adherence to stringent solvency guidelines. The future outlook remains positive, driven by the UAE's economic growth, and initiatives fostering innovation and sustainability. This chapter contains interviews with Khaled Mohamed Balama, Governor, Central Bank of the UAE; Mohamed Khadiri, CEO, Bank of Sharjah; and Ahmad Abu Eideh, CEO, Invest Bank.

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Energy & Green Economy

Sharjah is playing a crucial role in the UAE's drive to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, leveraging its strategic location. The emirate is emphasising carbon capture and storage, renewable energy sources, waste-to-energy initiatives and sustainable finance to support its green programmes. The energy transition in Sharjah aligns with the UAE Energy Strategy 2050. This framework focuses on creating jobs, attracting investment and increasing the share of clean energy sources to 32% by 2030. Highlighting the integral link between energy and water efficiency, the strategy aims to reduce consumption, addressing water scarcity challenges in the country. Sharjah is also actively participating in international climate efforts, hosting the COP28 UN Conference on Climate Change in 2023 and committing to significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. This chapter includes interviews with Hatem Al Mosa, CEO, Sharjah National Oil Corporation; and Khaled Al Huraimel, Group CEO and Vice-Chairman, BEEAH.

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Sharjah has a diverse and flourishing economy, primarily driven by small and medium-sized enterprises. However, larger corporations are also attracted to the emirate due to its financial incentives. Sharjah's commitment to industrial development is evident in its tailored policies and legislation, as well as its numerous free zones and initiatives like Operation 300bn, aimed at boosting the sector's contribution to the UAE's GDP. The success of these endeavours is reflected in the issuance of industrial licences, the redirection of funds into the economy and the sector's substantial contribution to the GDP. With ongoing programmes, Sharjah aims to enhance its competitiveness, diversify its economy, and promote sustainability through high-tech and advanced industries, making it a key player in the UAE's industrial landscape. This chapter contains an interview with Badr Jafar, CEO, Crescent Enterprises.

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Situated strategically in the UAE, Sharjah is a pivotal hub for transport and trade, bordering both the Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. Home to the country’s inaugural international airport and three major ports, Sharjah invests in sustainable transport aligned with the UAE's 2031 plan for advanced infrastructure. The ongoing SkyWay project, a revolutionary hanging railway system, aims to reduce congestion. The emirate is also enhancing its transport system by upgrading its bus network, transitioning taxis to electric vehicles, and seeing robust growth in the aviation sector, especially at Sharjah International Airport. With continuous road improvements, a national rail network and expanding ports, Sharjah is positioning itself as a sustainable transport model that provides a potential blueprint for other regions to emulate. This chapter contains interviews with Ali Salim Al Midfa, Chairman, Sharjah Airport Authority; and Adel Abdullah Ali, Group CEO, Air Arabia.

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Construction & Real Estate

Sharjah's economic evolution is driven by vibrant construction and real estate sectors. The 2024 budget allocated $11.1bn, emphasising infrastructure, economic and social development. Real estate contributes significantly to Sharjah's GDP, generating $6.6bn revenue in 2022, helped in part by competitive mortgage rates, low taxes and enhanced transport links. Expatriates are a substantial segment of the population and are driving property demand. Legal changes in recent years have allowed non-UAE or GCC nationals freehold property ownership, spurring foreign investment. Meanwhile, the construction industry is supporting economic growth by expanding industrial sites and free zones. Initiatives like Sharjah Sustainable City and green construction investment underscore the emirate's commitment to sustainability. Ongoing infrastructure projects bolster connectivity, confirming Sharjah's position as a resilient and innovative investment destination. This chapter contains interviews with Yousef Al Mutawa, CEO, Sharjah Sustainable City; and Ahmed Alkhoshaibi, Group CEO, Arada.

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Aligned with national strategies like We the UAE 2031, Sharjah is positioning itself as a competitive ICT centre through innovative digital transformation policies and substantial infrastructure investment. The emirate has implemented advanced solutions including a digital payment mechanism to enhance accessibility to information and services for residents. The UAE's comprehensive digital government strategies, such as UAE Digital Government Strategy 2025 and Operation 300bn, emphasise its dedication to global technological leadership. Additionally, the country’s telecoms segment is seeing growth with several government-owned companies leading the way in the deployment of 5G services. Furthermore, Sharjah is actively participating in technology development initiatives, investing in 3D printing and supporting start-ups. The future outlook emphasises the interplay between digitalisation, sustainability and innovative technologies, establishing Sharjah as a prominent player in the region's digital transformation landscape. This chapter features interviews with Hussain Al Mahmoudi, CEO, Sharjah Research Technology and Innovation Park; and Najla Al Midfa, CEO, Sharjah Entrepreneurship Centre.

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The Guide

This chapter contains selected listings of some of the country’s top hotels, helpful tips for business and leisure travellers and other useful suggestions for travel to Sharjah.

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