A peoples’ business
The Ajman Free Zone (AFZ) has become a leading choice for businesses as it offers not only world-class infrastructure but also a business-friendly environment. Eng Ali bin Towaih Al Suwaidi, Director General tells us more
It’s been a little over a year since Al Suwaidi took over and the free zone has witnessed a tremendous growth. In the first quarter of the year 492 new companies registered in the free zone compared to 269 in 2020.
Al Suwaidi has been instrumental in fostering a business-friendly environment for investors that stems from building personal relationships, safety, security, and accelerating the pace of smart transformation.
He believes that Ajman Free Zones plays a vital role in the progress of the UAE economy. “I joined in May 2020 and when I took on the responsibilities here, I realised how important AFZ is, not just to the Ajman Government or to the economy in the emirate but is crucial to the success of the UAE and the industries in the region,” he says.
He adds: “By realising its importance, we need to also value our presence and how we can add value to the industry and economy. We need to learn to progress further. I joined during an incredibly challenging period because the whole world was under a lockdown, but that gave me an opportunity to understand the business, the culture here, business partners, type of industries and the challenges they face. I took my time building up the trust both internally and externally.”
A personal touch
Al Suwaidi takes special interest in getting to know the companies in the free zone, understanding their businesses and providing solutions to any challenges that come up.
“I take personal interest in each business coming in. I try to meet and welcome them here and get to know more about their operations. I have learned so much in the few months that I’ve been here. I see opportunity everywhere and my aim is to support each business here to the best that we can,” he states.
“While infrastructure and world-class facility offerings are great, what’s of greater importance is the solutions we provide to our partners. I believe in developing a relationship with our investors and that is a game changer. The service we provide, the solutions offered, and assistance granted is what makes us a preferred free zone. This gives investors great confidence in us as they realise how we value them. We offer tailor-made solutions and take time to understand what their businesses are about so we can do our best to support them.”
A competitive edge
Ajman Free Zone also bets on its modern infrastructure that supports its aspirations to become a leading choice for businesses all over the world. “The infrastructure we have is great and quite accommodating to the needs of different industries. Not just the warehouses, but office spaces and a range of facilities available encompassing the latest technology,” he reveals.
Much of this infrastructure is sustainable and is serving businesses that are committed to sustainable development. A 9,000 sqm green zone using eco-friendly methods has been introduced.
This green zone is equipped with the right technologies to limit waste, reduce energy costs, and improve efficiency, and can help companies save money while meeting their environmental sustainability goals.
AFZ is looking also to reduce water consumption and the warehouses have effective waste management solutions, dedicated loading, vehicle parking, e-charging stations powered by solar energy, and readily available pantry.
Security is another aspect that AFZ is focusing on. He notes: “We have more than 1,000 surveillance cameras around our facilities. Entry and exits are strictly monitored. It is a very safe environment. Investors and business owners can be rest assured that their employees, their premises, and operations are secure here.”
A strategic security and safety partnership was signed with BrakeFire to ensure security, safety, and wellbeing of its business community.
The partnership will help AFZ to offer a new set of business support services according to distinct industry standards. It seeks to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of safety practices within the free zone, as well as lessen accidents, personal injuries, and property damage for a safer and more sustainable, flexible, and productive business environment.
Value added offerings
Furthermore, under Al Suwaidi’s able leadership AFZ is providing its investors with value added services such as banking and healthcare services.
In July, AFZ partnered with Abu Dhabi National Insurance Co. (ADNIC) to provide health insurance policies to investors and entities. Following which, a collaboration with Ajman Specialty General Hospital was announced to offer additional healthcare benefits to employees and investors.
The partnership will allow AFZ staff and clients, together with their personnel and immediate family, to avail discount on their medical bills while receiving premium healthcare services from the hospital.
Al Suwaidi says: “This partnership reflects our initiative to strengthen our support to our business partners. On our part, we are continuing to provide various value-added services to help investors focus on their business and accomplish their desired goals.”
To help business operators, especially SMEs, AFZ tied up with RAKBANK to facilitate easy access to account opening services, loans, credit facilities, and other banking solutions. Earlier in the year it partnered with Mashreq Banks to offer similar services.
Al Suwaidi is leaving no stone unturned to boost investment activities in the free zone. In May it launched Mashoura an initiative that leverages the expertise and experiences of leading Emirati businessmen to support entrepreneurs.
The initiative establishes new linkages and opportunities to network for entrepreneurs within the Ajman business community, which can lead to new projects and strategic partnerships.
Supporting logistics firms
Logistics is an important facet of AFZ, and Al Suwaidi takes great pride in the logistics support provided to business partners. “We have a number of factories and manufacturing businesses operating here so transportation is the most obvious challenge and the highest cost in their operations.
“To ease this, we have connected with several land transport partners and created strong links with Ajman Port Authorities, JAFZA, KIZAD, Khalifa Port. These links are helping our business partners with import and export. We also have good relationships with all the airports in the country,” he says.
AFZ has tied up with several training and educational institutes in Ajman to provide its logistics and supply chain firms certification courses for their employees. These trainings cover relevant information related to the logistics sector.
As part of Al Suwaidi’s plans to improve investment opportunities into the free zone and ease business operations, AFZ is working creating different business clusters. “We’re segregating businesses based on their type of operations and once complete it will allow us to be a bigger success,” he reveals.
AFZ is also focusing on ensuring regulations are followed – not just local but global too. “The flexibility to work around these regulations is going to allow us to attract new companies. We have a huge number of licenses available, and these numbers are scattered. One of our focus is to segregate them into business groups and work with them and be a part of their development. We are working on trying to be true partner and how we can support them, not just here but outside the free zone because their success is our success,” Al Suwaidi says.
Al Suwaidi has one vision for AFZ – to be a leading choice in the region. “I envision AFZ to strengthen its presence in the market and to be one of the leading free zones in the region in the next five years.
“The UAE is a global country now and anything we do there has a significance across the world, not just in the region. This is thanks to the vision of our leaders whom we are incredibly grateful to for putting the country on the global map. Our achievements as a country are enormous.”
He adds: “As AFZ, we need to strengthen that position by having a world class business environment and employees who are equipped for the opportunities it provides. So, the challenges have given us enormous opportunities to capture business.
“Based on that there have been many decisions taken and many processes put in place. We’re working on towards one goal and that is to portray Ajman Free Zone as a valuable partner to businesses out there who are looking for a solution.”