City of Future
Dubai has become the leading center for science, technology, and innovation. Dubai’s vision to become the world's leading sustainable and smart city is expanding.
Safety & Security
The Gallup Global Law and Order 2021 report ranked “the UAE as the number one country for walking at night safely after scoring 95 percent”. A Safety Index score of 80%, gives residents one less thing to worry about and allows for more freedom to discover the city.
High Living Standards
Dubai offers residents the best quality of life in the Middle East, closely followed by Abu Dhabi. This is due to the UAE’s government's progressive efforts to improve its infrastructure, attractive economic environment for foreign businesses, and a focus on increasing entertainment and leisure options.
Education and Healthcare
Dubai has one of the finest health care systems in the world, offering quality health care services to the public. The city also has affiliations with top international schools and universities from around the globe.
Thanks to its strategic location, Dubai is a trading hub for the Middle East and North Africa. Enjoying various free zones offering world-class infrastructure, setting up a business in Dubai is straightforward. Altogether, Dubai provides a full package of needed initiatives for setting up a profitable business and starting a new life.
Business Opportunities in Dubai
Dubai is investor-friendly, and its cost of living is lower than major hubs of the world as London and New York. Businesses in Dubai have the chance to reach over one billion people either from neighboring countries in the Middle East, or simply Africa, Europe, and Asia. The government’s policies, 0% income tax, and the advanced and brand-new infrastructures support the growth of all businesses. Therefore, the business setup has become extremely easy that almost all the investors would consider the emirates as their next destination.
A Tourism and Shopping Destination
Dubai’s many attractions and experiences combine a fascinating heritage with world-class shopping and entertainment facilities. Year-round sunshine also means plenty of opportunities to enjoy outdoor life. The tourism infrastructure includes the widest variety of shopping experiences, including exclusive boutiques, value chain stores and the traditional gold and spice souks. Many of the world’s leading retailers choose Dubai as their first venture in the Middle East. From Bloomingdales, Gucci and Prada to Marks and Spencer, Victoria’s Secret and Monsoon, international retailers have invested heavily in Dubai’s highly fashion-conscious residents. The shopping malls are equally varied, from the high-end Dubai Mall, the world’s biggest shopping complex, to the exotic Dragon Mart, the largest Chinese market outside of China.
Dubai continuously innovates to improve the quality of life of its residents. In 2009, Dubai Metro was opened. It is the longest unmanned light rail network and has the world’s largest underground metro station. With a total of 87 trains, the metro is also the first of its kind in the Middle East. Other public transport also includes high-end buses with air-conditioned bus shelters and an extensive hi-tech taxi fleet giving visitors and residents a constant and varied means of travel across the emirate at any time.
A Residential Destination
Dubai is a highly attractive residential city, with housing and accommodation options that suit every taste, budget and lifestyle. The emirate is now home to millions of expatriates from all over the world, who choose to live in a city with enormous business growth opportunities, an unrivaled lifestyle, a diverse and tolerant culture, economic and political stability, innovation, openness and flexibility. For many expatriates, the quality of life in Dubai is unrivalled.
Legal framework Investment laws, regulations and incentives are continuously improving to encourage further foreign investment. This includes the introduction of foreign ownership of land and stocks – Dubai became the first emirate within the UAE to open its property market to foreign ownership, followed by Abu Dhabi.
Corruption and Bureaucracy
Corruption is not part of the UAE business culture, and the country was rated at an impressive 28th out of 180 nations in Transparency International Corruption Perception Index. The UAE has also undertaken measures to reduce red tape surrounding foreign investment approval processes. The number of procedures has been cut dramatically and automated services introduced by Dubai Government’s Department of Economic Development (DED) enable investors to apply for businesses online and check the status of their applications by phone.
The UAE’s highly developed network of roads linking all seven emirates is the major means of business and leisure transport, although with a large percentage of the country’s international trade conducted by sea, all seven emirates have modern port facilities. Dubai dominates the cargo and re-export markets thanks to the size and sophistication of its two ports, Port Rashid and Jebel Ali Port. Despite being the second port in Dubai, Port Rashid is still one of the busiest in the Gulf region with 35 berths. The massive Jebel Ali facility has 63 berths and includes an economic free zone. Dubai is also home to two major airline carriers, Emirates Airlines and Flydubai, the world’s fastest-growing start-up airline.
It is easy and cost-effective to employ both UAE nationals and expatriates, with wide access to a skilled and experienced workforce. UAE governments from across the seven emirates continue to invest heavily in training the national workforce to play a greater role as competitive members of the UAE.
Access to Financing
UAE banks are more active in lending to private enterprises than their regional counterparts and offer a greater variety of financial products and services. The low cost of borrowing in the UAE is yet another of the highly attractive benefits for companies looking to begin or expand their operations in the Middle East. The ever-increasing support for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) goes from strength to strength in Dubai. Several ongoing financing and non-financing programs are designed and implemented by SME, an agency under the Dubai Department of Economic Development tasked with improving SMEs access to bank lending.
Investment Support and Promotion by the Government
Dubai’s Department of Economic Development (DED), which is tasked with setting and driving Dubai’s economic agenda, supports the emirate’s transformation into a diversified, innovative, service and knowledge-based economy to improve the business environment and increase productivity. The DED and its four agencies develop economic plans and policies, identify and support strategic sectors, and provide essential administration services to domestic and international investors and businesses.
Economic History of Dubai
Dubai is one of seven emirates that make up the federation of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). In 1833, eight hundred members of the Bani Yas tribe led by the Maktoum family settled at the mouth of Dubai creek. By the 1930s, Dubai’s population had grown to nearly 20,000 – a quarter of which were expatriates. In the 1950s the creek began to silt due to the number of ships that found it vital for their trade. When oil was discovered in 1966, Sheikh Rashid used the revenue to rapidly develop infrastructure including schools, hospitals, roads, modern telecommunications networks and transport systems. A runway extension that could accommodate any type of aircraft saw Dubai International Airport begin its journey to becoming one of the busiest in history and the largest man-made harbour in the world was constructed at Jebel Ali including a business free zone for foreign investors.
Dubai’s formula for development was becoming evident to everyone – visionary leadership, high-quality infrastructure, an expatriate-friendly environment, zero tax on personal and corporate income and low import duties. As a result, Dubai quickly became a business and tourism hub for a region that stretches from Egypt to the Indian sub-continent and from South Africa to the CIS countries. In the 1980s and early 1990s, Dubai took a strategic decision to become a leading international tourism destination. It is now known throughout the world for its luxury hotels, remarkable architecture, world-class entertainment and sporting events. Such a meteoric rise has led to the city being ranked as the top foreign direct investment destination by the FDI magazine of the Financial Times.
Starting a Business in Dubai
Dubai offers two major alternatives for registering new or existing businesses, either onshore with Dubai DED or offshore in one of its free zones. Whether a company sets up in mainland Dubai or a free zone, all businesses and their employees will pay no business taxes or personal taxes. Whichever location the investor chooses, Dubai is a business opportunity not to be missed.
Free Zone Companies
If you want to have full ownership of your company then the free zone is for you. There are more than 50 free trade zones available across the UAE. The different Emirates are having their own free zones. Being Exempt from corporate and personal taxes plus foreign ownership of the company, are among the main differentiation points of a company set up in free zones.
If you consider starting a business in Dubai mainland, you have to obtain a local partner. The UAE local partner will hold 51% of the partnership. Setting up on the mainland, means you have no restrictions regarding who you can trade all across the UAE. Also, the possibility of trading internationally would come as an added benefit of setting up a business in the UAE mainland.
Offshore companies are usually used for a range of purposes including reducing business overheads. 100% foreign ownership of the company and full tax and duty exemption would also apply to UAE offshore companies. Just note that though an offshore domicile is located in the UAE Free Zone is a separate entity that calls for a different kind of paperwork and documentation.
Source: Dubai FDI is the Foreign Investment Office of Dubai, part of the Dubai Department of Economic Development