Historically, UAE’s ties with Germany, one of Europe’s economic giants, have continued to grow exponentially creating new financial dimensions functioning as key catalysts for new bilateral investments between the two nations. One of the major compounds to this achievement is attributed to the growing economic ties Sharjah shares with Germany.
To-date, Sharjah is home to more than 420 German companies and agencies all functioning effectively, with operations progressively extending to multiple markets across the GCC and MENA. Strength in Sharjah’s consumer sector provided a significant advantage for German investors, as the sector played a key role in developing the emirate’s GDP and its position in the GCC and Middle Eastern markets.
The Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq) was one of the major contributors to Sharjah’s realisation in Germany’s optimistic economy, which enabled the emirate to become a central tourism and investment destination among German visitors and investors. Since its establishment in 2009, Shurooq has had a long-time mission to transform Sharjah as a strategic partner and business gateway for multiple European markets, thus allying itself with Germany as one of Europe’s economic giants and one of the world’s leading economies.
UAE and Germany: a deep-rooted friendship
The growing relations and economic cooperation between the UAE and Germany have been manifested in multiple bilateral agreements and unique ventures, as well as in reciprocal visits from high-level business and political officials between the two nations for more than 50 years. This has contributed to bolstering friendship ties, economic and political partnerships that date back to the pre-union era.
The UAE is Germany's largest trade partner in the Arab region and is its fifth largest trade partner in the world. According to the UAE Ministry of Economy, trade between the two countries stood at USD 15.5 billion dollars (AED 57 billion) in 2015. Additionally, the UAE Ministry of Economy revealed that more than 159 German companies successfully conducting business in the UAE, with more than 420 German trade agencies, as well as 8,413 German trademarks successfully establishing new footprints in diverse markets across the GCC and the Middle East. The UAE is also home to more than 10,000 German citizens.
Germany's considerable attention to the UAE, and the growing interest of German citizens to work in the UAE, is credited to its geographical location that attracts investors from multiple nations across the world, and its key position as a financial hub and a trade gateway to the Arab world and the Far East.
Sharjah enjoys one of the promising business environments which have contributed significantly to the growing numbers of German businesses conducting operations from the emirate.
Sharjah is home to more than 420 German companies and agencies, of which 100 German companies operate across multiple areas in the emirate’s mainland, while more than 300 German companies conduct operations from Sharjah’s free zones. Al Hamriya Free Zone (HAFZA) is home to 154 German companies while the Sharjah Airport International Free Zone (SAIF Zone) is home to 168 German companies.
Companies such as Lufthansa, Europe’s leading airline, and Schüco, one of the leading suppliers of high-quality window, door and façade systems made from aluminium in the UAE and the Middle East, German Gulf Enterprises, which was established in 1974, and the Sharjah international German school, which was founded in Sharjah since 1976, are among the leading German companies who continue to witness stable growth in their operations.
Signs about Sharjah’s economic diversification process have continuously been reflected among German investors’ growing confidence in the emirate. This is primarily attributed to the growing number of unique sectors in Sharjah which grew their financial and investment potentials for global investors. These sectors included leisure and tourism, environmental and renewable energy, healthcare, aviation, transport and logistics. Moreover, Sharjah’s stable credit rating and optimistic economic outlook has been a major drive for multiple investment prospects among German investors.
Sharjah’s trade and manufacturing industry is accounted as its biggest competitive advantage and is accounted for boosting its business relationship with German traders. In 2013, Germany alone accounted for over 15% of Sharjah's total imports from Europe. It also received 13.5% of the emirate's exports and re-exports of non-oil goods for Europe, demonstrating the growing stature of Europe's strongest economy for Sharjah.
On tourism, Europeans accounted for 19% of the total guests and tourist staying Sharjah's hotels in 2013, while they constituted 40% of total guests staying in hotel apartments in the same year. German tourists are accounted as one of the largest European tourists travelling to Sharjah.
Shurooq and Germany relations
Since 2012, Shurooq has progressively made annual visits to multiple cities in Germany during which it organised and hosted multiple business forums and participated in a series of economic events in a mission to familiarize as many German companies as possible with the benefits and opportunities of investing in Sharjah, as well as promising economic commodities to a growing consumer demand market in the emirate.
Shurooq's relation with Germany started in April 2012 when it participated in the HANNOVER MESSE Exhibition, and then participated in the second Arab-German Business Council, which took place in the German cities of Berlin, Munich and Frankfurt, from June 27 to July 4, 2012.
In March 3, 2014, Shurooq organised a workshop in Berlin and Hamburg to highlight Sharjah's stature as a first investment platform in the region. A few days later, it participated in ITB Berlin, the world's leading travel trade show, to highlight prospects in the promising tourism and travel sector in the emirate.
In 2015, the relations witnessed a quantum leap in strengthening investment relations whereas Shurooq participated in four economic events in Germany, started with a Business Forum on February 5 which was attended by the German Health Minister. This was followed by a roadshow organized in Berlin and Stuttgart to highlight potential opportunities in the Arab health sector, during which Shurooq outlined investment opportunities in Sharjah's health sector.
In June 2015, Shurooq organised a B2B forum with Berlin Partner for Business and Technology to highlight investment prospects in various promising sectors in Sharjah. One day later, Shurooq participated in the 18th Arab-German Business Forum in Berlin.
Shurooq’s investment in strengthening its relationship with Germany is part of its mega-plan in stabilizing its presence among European markets. This achievement was one of the driving forces for organising one of the most successful and strategic business forums in London, which attracted more than 200 British investors who have explored comprehensively Sharjah’s economy.
HE Marwan bin Jassim Al Sarkal, CEO of Shurooq, said: "The UAE and German relations enjoy a very special bond, making it a model of economic success to be emulated by other countries in the region and Europe, evidenced by its bilateral trade volume that touched AED 50 billion in 2014.”
Al Sarkal, who is also a member of the German Emirati Joint Council for Industry and Commerce, said; "Sharjah had a major hand in the development of this unique economic relations. As the UAE's industrial powerhouse, Sharjah was able to attract many leading German companies looking for an ideal business environment to fit their operations in the region, and one that has successfully identified the wants and needs of German investors. The biggest Sharjah advantage for German investors, and many other global investors, is its business infrastructure which was founded upon an open market and easy-trade process that continuously welcomes cross-border foreign investments.”
Al Sarkal added: "For many years, Shurooq has been strongly committed towards Germany. It has stepped up its efforts to promote the emirate and introduce German businessmen to promising opportunities across multiple economic sectors in Sharjah, particularly in environment, health, logistic services and tourism. We’re truly proud to reflect on the success of these efforts, as Sharjah now homes 42% of German companies who have successfully established their headquarters in the emirate."
Al Sarkal also underlined: “Sharjah’s economic diversification strategy is one which we have effectively captialised on and ensured that it was promoted effectively to global investors. With these efforts, and our efforts in diversifying Sharjah’s tourism projects, we were successfully able to attract a wide range of investments.”
According to a study conducted by Dunn & Bradstreet, the world's leading company specialized in global market research services, 52% of companies who have operated in Sharjah were able to achieve growth on their returns, while 37% of these companies maintained stability. The study also demonstrated that 46% of companies operating in the emirate saw an increase in their net profits have increased, while 34% of companies maintained their profits.
Al Sarkal concluded: “These figures undoubtedly confirm that the emirate will continue to achieve sustainable growth in the future, thus giving endless opportunities to German companies and global investors promising returns and forecasts on their investments.”