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Why the UAE is the best place to set up a MENA hub

According to the World Bank’s 2018 Doing Business Report, the UAE tops the MENA (Middle East & North Africa) chart for ease of doing business.

Not only that, but it’s also ranked 11th in the World – putting it ahead of Sweden, Australia, Canada, and Germany (and streets ahead of its nearest MENA competitor, Morocco, which ranks 60th globally).

So what is the UAE doing right? Why is it such a great place for international businesses to incorporate? What does it offer over and above neighbouring countries in the region?

Let’s take a closer look at its strategic and practical advantages.

1. Convenient location

The UAE is one of the best-known countries in the MENA region. But one of its key advantages is its location.

Not only is the UAE within easy reach of all major business hubs in MENA, but one third of the world’s population is within a four-hour flight. And two thirds can be reached within 8 hours. That’s hard to beat.

Why the UAE?

It’s not just a case of being ‘not too far’ from other places; the infrastructure needed for international business travel is already in place here in the UAE.

Emirates and Etihad have direct flights to every major world city – originating in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. And despite being a ‘regional’ airline, Air Arabia – which operates out of Sharjah Airport, just 15 km from central Dubai – flies everywhere from Casablanca to Kuala Lumpur.

Looking ahead, while proposals to build a transportation tunnel between Fujairah (UAE) and Mumbai (India) may seem far-fetched, remember that massive construction projects like The Palm Jumeirah were still just ideas not too long ago.

Whether your customers are planning to incorporate a business now or at some point in the future, wherever they’re based they’ll be able to get to and from the UAE easily.

2. Tax benefits

It isn’t just year-round sunshine that brings entrepreneurs to the UAE – the economic climate is just as favourable. The Gulf states in general are known to be ahead of the rest of the MENA region when it comes to favourable tax conditions, and the UAE is leading the way.

The UAE has zero tax on both personal and corporate incomes. Outside of a few key industries, the only tax to be aware of here in the Emirates is VAT – introduced in January 2018 – which stands at a flat 5%.

In addition, the UAE doesn’t require companies to submit corporate tax returns for anything other than foreign banking or oil/gas activities.

Why the UAE?

The favourable tax environment, a multicultural lifestyle, a diversified and resilient economy and so many other factors behind the number of talented people already living in the UAE – from all over the world.

From lawyers, accountant,  consultants, digital marketers, engineers and many more – there is no shortage of experts working here. And if you can’t find the employee you are looking for, UAE-based businesses have little trouble attracting overseas workers willing to relocate.

The UAE’s approach to the business-friendly environment encourages investment, employment and entrepreneurship, attracting new businesses and encouraging corporate migration. Redomiciliation to the UAE is an attractive proposition due in no small part to the favourable tax environment, the region’s world class infrastructure and the fact that transfer of incorporation is made as easy as possible.

3. Security & safety

The quality of life in the UAE is very different to many other parts of the MENA region – and this extends to both safety and overall security.

Abu Dhabi is listed as the city with the lowest crime rate in the World, while Dubai is securely in the global top 10 – ahead of Zurich, Reykjavik, and Singapore.

Why the UAE?

While strict laws do exist in accordance with local customs, the vast majority of them are designed to preserve a more modest way of life.

They also go a long way to discourage openly aggressive or indecent behaviour – which may be a welcome change for young families relocating from other cities across the world.

That said, compared to a lot of other MENA countries the UAE is one of the most liberal in its attitudes and outlook. Progress and modernisation thrive here – in many different ways.

4. Easy company setup

Setting up a business in the UAE is simple by design. You would be hard-pressed to find somewhere that is easier.

As the government.ae website outlines, there are just five simple steps of setting up a company here:

  • Determine the type of legal entity
  • Choose a trade name
  • Apply for a business licence
  • Choose an office space
  • Get pre-approvals, register your business and get your licence

As well as 35+ free zones, you can also set up on the UAE mainland. Each have their own benefits, meaning there’s a setup solution for every entrepreneur.

Why the UAE?

There are many industry-specific hubs where related companies cluster. These include media, marketing, healthcare, finance, maritime, and education organisations – among many others.

As a result, the types of business incentives offered are tailored to each sector. These typically include:

‘100% foreign ownership, long-term corporate tax exemptions, full capital repatriation, personal income tax and import-export tax exemptions, quick incorporation with a single point of contact for administration, and human resources services.’

Owing to the different, but often similar-sounding propositions each area offers, it makes sense to work closely with a reputable incorporation agent who can help your business or your clients navigate the myriad of incentives.

5. Ras Al Khaimah – a case in point

Having summarised the merits of doing business in a UAE in general, it’s worth turning the spotlight on Ras Al Khaimah. Often overlooked in favour of the world-famous business hub of Dubai, this emirate used to be one of the UAE’s ‘best kept secrets’. Now, Ras Al Khaimah is one of the fastest-growing parts of the UAE, with a booming domestic economy. More than 30,000 companies have been registered in RAK ICC from over 160 nationalities.

Why Ras Al Khaimah?

The incentives speak for themselves:

  • Highly favourable tax climate and business-friendly regulatory environment
  • Fast-track registration and licensing, and quick turnaround of visas
  • Cost-effective set-up packages
  • Freedom for businesses to source materials and employees globally
  • Proximity to Dubai International Airport – just 45 minutes away
  • Some of the best tourist-related real estate opportunities in the UAE

For anyone looking to establish and grow business in a highly attractive location, Ras Al Khaimah’s thriving, modern and diverse commercial environment is hard to beat.

 All things considered

Whether you’re looking to set up an international business presence for yourself or your clients, regardless of where you live or your industry, if you’re looking to incorporate in the MENA region, the UAE is a strong contender.

In short, the infrastructure is in place for anyone to easily establish a fully-functioning corporate entity in a short amount of time and quickly reap the rewards of a truly international environment.

In a safe, stable, and forward-thinking nation.