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Ras Al Khaimah: Rooted In Trade, And Ready For The Future Free zones or economic zones such as Ras Al Khaimah Economic Zone (RAKEZ) have played an important role in creating this diverse economy, leading to an influx of international residents and billions of dollars in new investment.

By Anas Hijjawi

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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An aerial view of Marjan Island in Ras Al Khaimah

In the past decade, Ras Al Khaimah has emerged as a leading global investment destination. The northernmost and one of the seven emirates that make up the UAE, this welcoming destination has seen exponential growth– and trade has been at the heart of its economic development.

The past ten years have seen some of the greatest breakthroughs in economic and development innovation in the Emirate, but this openness to foreign trade and commerce has been built into its fabric for a lot longer. Let's consider the legacy of this rich trading history, and explore what it means for local and international entrepreneurs today.

A long tradition of trade

Ras Al Khaimah's reputation as a global trade hub is not new. The Emirate has capitalized on its strategic location between East and West for more than 7,000 years, and trade has flowed through the Gulf since the Bronze Age. Favored by merchants from all over the world, Ras Al Khaimah prospered for centuries as a crossroads of trade routes between Europe, India and China.

Europeans used the coast as a major hub for trade in everything from pepper to pearls, while the mainland was used by the Bedouins and other tribes to transport goods overland. By the 13th and 14th centuries, Julfar (now a UNESCO World Heritage Site) had emerged as one of the most prominent trading posts in the Gulf, and an important commercial centre for pearl fishing and pottery.

Simply put, trade has always been central to the region's success.

More recently, as other emirates leveraged their oil reserves, Ras Al Khaimah capitalized on its varied topography and strategic location. For instance, the Hajar Mountain range provides a vast supply of limestone that has literally built many of the UAE's powerhouse cities and landmarks, and helped facilitate the region's rise to the global stage.

Now, as the UAE ramps up efforts to create a more diversified economy through international trade, Ras Al Khaimah is one of the prominent destinations leading the way.

Related: Ras Al Khaimah Aims To Attract Investors With The New RAK Economic Zone

A promising future

This long tradition of trade and cultural exchange is just as strong today. Guided by the vision of H.H. Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi, UAE Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Ras Al Khaimah, the Emirate has emerged as one of the fastest-growing economies in the region, and a leading location for foreign investment.

By capitalizing on its natural resources and focusing on diversification, the Emirate has enjoyed an uninterrupted growth over the past two decade. During these years, Ras Al Khaimah witnessed significant economic growth– with trade being the main driver. London-based Financial Times fDi Magazine recently ranked Ras Al Khaimah as one of the 'Top 10 Small and Mid-sized Cities of the Future', along with other big-hitters like Zurich and Geneva. Between 2020 and 2021, non-oil foreign trade rose by 14%, according to the RAK Centre for Statistics and Studies. The Emirate frequently ranks as a top destination in the World Bank's Ease of Doing Business report, too.

Free zones or economic zones such as Ras Al Khaimah Economic Zone (RAKEZ) have played an important role in creating this diverse economy, leading to an influx of international residents and billions of dollars in new investment.

Propelling growth for local and international traders

Ras Al Khaimah offers international traders one of the most stable and secure environments to establish and grow their businesses. While its economy is accelerating, living and business costs are notably lower than other major trading hubs, offering significant benefits for entrepreneurs, particularly traders.

How can local and international traders join in?

RAKEZ offers a comprehensive set of business solutions and facilities for traders, making it a prominent trading hub in the UAE, where traders have access to various benefits and simplified setup processes. The economic zone connects investors to all growing markets, through its cost-effective and world-class business hub that nurtures businesses.

Additionally, traders can benefit from a wide range of business and industrial facilities, modern offices, state-of-the-art warehouses and land for development, while maximizing profits with 100% foreign ownership, full capital and profit repatriation, and a transparent legal framework. All this, from a central location with busy ports, including Saqr Port, the largest bulk-handling port in the middle east.

Where past, present, and future meet

"Opening the door to foreign trade is a hallmark of Ras Al Khaimah's past, present and future," H.H. Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi, , UAE Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Ras Al Khaimah, has said. "Today, we honor our heritage by welcoming the investors of the future."

Aligning with this vision, international trade, commerce and cultural exchange are built into the bedrock of Ras Al Khaimah. Combine this with a business-friendly environment, world-class infrastructure and favorable government policies in promoting trade and investment, it isn't hard to see why the Emirate is becoming a top choice for international and local traders looking to setup a business venture that thrives.

Related: Innovation Nation: How The UAE Is Establishing Itself As A Global Frontrunner In Game-Changing Technologies

Anas Hijjawi

Chief Commercial Officer at Ras Al Khaimah Economic Zone (RAKEZ)

Anas Hijjawi is the Chief Commercial Officer at Ras Al Khaimah Economic Zone (RAKEZ), a powerhouse business and industrial hub in the UAE that uniquely offers customizable solutions to free zone and non-free zone businesses. From freelancers and startups to SMEs and industrialists, RAKEZ’s multinational community is flourishing in over 50 industries.

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