The Sharjah FDI Office (Invest in Sharjah) concluded the emirate’s first-ever Sharjah-Barcelona Business Seminar yesterday, engaging with more 150 Spanish investors and senior officers at the Spanish city of Barcelona, in a bid to enhance Emirati–Spanish relations in trade and investment. The seminar was focused on exploring new investment opportunities in education and healthcare, and other sectors of common interest for both countries, and aims to build on the emirate’s portfolio of Spanish companies which are valued at 96 registered businesses.
The business seminar was held as part of a high-profile delegation visit from Sharjah, led by Sheikh Fahim bin Sultan Al Qasimi, Executive Chairman of Department of Government Relations (DGR), Sharjah, and comprising of a number of the emirate’s state entities such as the Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq), Sharjah Heritage Institute, Sharjah Education Council, and the Sharjah Health Authority.
The four-day visit from 11-14 March aimed to boost bilateral trade and investment, and the long-held nurture cultural ties between UAE and Spain. In doing so, the seminar offered a vital platform to highlight Sharjah’s attractive investment opportunities, consistently performing non-oil sectors, the emirate’s uniquely business-friendly environment and strategic location that can be used as a hub by Spanish investors to expand their regional and global operations.
Among important attendees representing the UAE were HE Mohammed Abdullah Ali Al Shamsi, UAE Consul General in Barcelona; Sheikh Fahim bin Sultan Al Qasimi, Executive Chairman Sharjah DGR; HE Marwan Bin Jassim Al Sarkal, Executive Chairman, Sharjah Investment & Development Authority (Shurooq);; HE Abdulaziz Abdulrahman Almusallam, Chairman of Sharjah Institute for Heritage; HE Dr. Saeed Musabih Al Kaabi, Chairman of the Sharjah Education Council; HE Abdulla Ali Al Mahyan, Chairman of the Sharjah Health Authority (SHA); Mohamed Juma Al Musharrakh, CEO of Sharjah FDI Office (Invest in Sharjah); HE Dr. Abdulaziz Saeed Al Muhairi, Director of Sharjah Health Authority (SHA), who were joined by a several local investors.
Reflecting on the importance of this first-ever business seminar between the two cities, Sheikh Fahim bin Sultan Al Qasimi explained: “The event reflects on Sharjah’s commitment to developing strong partnerships with other financial centres around the globe, and through the Sharjah Barcelona Business Seminar, we were able to facilitate exchanges geared towards boosting bilateral trade and investments, and share views on how both parties can make the most of mutual commercial interests in light of regional and international developments.”
He added: “The seminar and the larger Sharjah delegation visit are geared towards reinforcing the close relationships the UAE and Spain have has since 1972. As the most prosperous of Spain’s 17 regions, Catalonia houses roughly 19 percent of Spain’s economy, benefiting from tourism, exports, manufacturing, and industry. Within this dynamic, Barcelona is an economic and cultural powerhouse, and we believe there is huge potential to push for more joint cooperation in many fields that pave the way for shared growth and prosperity.”
The UAE Consul General highlighted that trade between UAE and Spain amounted to 1.9 billion euros in 2018, and emphasised on the longstanding relations between the two nations. HE Al Shamsi also expressed his willingness to enhance cooperation with Catalonian investors by facilitating their entry in larger numbers into UAE’s vital sectors – renewable energy, transportation, education, health, technology, water, food security and space.
Among the seminar’s keynote speakers, HE Marwan bin Jassim Al Sarkal addressed audiences explaining: “Our message to our friends and partners from Barcelona during the seminar was that in light of several developments in Sharjah’s economy, it continues to strengthen its position as a global market for SMEs, entrepreneurship and start-ups from the world and from Spain specifically.”
He continued: “Sharjah has long been a central and global hub for innovation, technological advancements and for ideas that allow young and upcoming business leaders to utilise its business infrastructure as means to nurture their ventures and expand to new markets, thanks to its geographical location, covering east and west, as well as its three strategically located seaports.”
He added: “Our role as Shurooq is to facilitate new partnerships and new joint-ventures with our Spanish counterparts, building on our history of successful partnerships such as the one between ourselves and the City Sightseeing Worldwide, which saw the debut of the City Sightseeing services in Sharjah, and our partnership with the bespoke Spanish theming company, Rocas and Design, launching a successful joint company called Rocas Emirates.”
During a panel discussion titled ‘Investment Opportunities in Sharjah’, Al Musharrakh and Dr. Al Muhairi offered the attendees a detailed account of promising investment opportunities Sharjah offers to foreign investors in various sectors, particularly in health care.
The speakers underscored that Barcelonan investors can benefit from tax-free services in Sharjah’s free zones offering opportunities in a plethora of sectors like media, education, trade, healthcare, environment, technology and logistics.
Al Musharrakh noted that the meetings and events organized by Sharjah FDI office locally and regionally are part of an integrated strategy that aimed at consolidating the emirate’s position on the global investment map. He explained that the seminar was hosted to respond to the increasing willingness of Spanish investors to go global through Middle East and Gulf channels. He pointed out that Sharjah’s economic stability and pro-business environment have already attracted about 96 Spanish companies who are operating out of the Sharjah Airport International Free Zone (SAIF), Sharjah Media City (Shams) and Hamriyah Free Zone.
Established in 2016, Invest in Sharjah is the entity responsible for intensifying Sharjah Government’s efforts to promote the emirate’s business and investment opportunities in key international markets. The office, which operates under the Sharjah Government, is a fully integrated brand that communicates key insights and latest information on investment opportunities in the emirate, carried forward and consolidated by multiple state entities.