In pictures: Top 20 UAE free zones
You want to start a business in the UAE and would prefer 100 percent ownership in your name. Setting up in one of the UAE's free zones is the first step you need to take
1. Dubai Multi Commodities Centre (DMCC)
\n\nDubai Multi Commodities Centre (DMCC) was named the world’s as well as the Middle East’s best free zone in 2016 in The Financial Times fDi Magazine’s annual global free zone rankings. Setting up a business in DMCC now takes just 15 days, down from 31, states fDi Magazine.
2. Jebel Ali Free Zone (Jafza)
\n\nJebel Ali Free Zone (Jafza), established in 1985, is the oldest and largest free zone in the UAE. Home to more than 7,000 companies, Jafza was highly commended for the MENA region by fDi Magazine in 2016, for the second year running.
3. Masdar Free Zone
\n\nMasdar Free Zone, a wholly owned subsidiary of Mubadala Development, focuses on enterprises that have some connection to the renewable energy or sustainable technology industries. It gained an honourable mention for the MENA region in fDi Magazine’s ‘Global Free Zone of the Year 2016’ ranking.
4. Dubai Internet City (DIC)
\n\nPart of TECOM Group, a member of Dubai Holding, Dubai Internet City (DIC) is the MENA’s biggest ICT infrastructure built inside a free trade zone. It hosts ICT giants Microsoft, Oracle, HP, IBM, Dell, and many more.
5. Dubai Outsource City
\n\nEstablished in 2007 as part of DIC, Dubai Outsource City is home to more than 140 companies, including big companies, such as Emirates Airlines. It specialises in allowing organisations to base all of their outsourcing work in one centralised community.
6. Dubai Media City
\n\nDubai Media City (DMC), launched in January 2001 by TECOM Group, encompasses a media community of over 20,000 people working in over 2,000 regional and international media companies.
7. Dubai Studio City
\n\nIn December 2016, YouTube partnered with Dubai Studio City to open an incubator space to enable YouTube creators to innovate and experiment with content. Dubai Studio City, also part of TECOM Group, focuses on the broadcasting, media production, film, television and music and entertainment sectors.
8. Dubai Production City (DPC)
\n\nLaunched in 2003 by TECOM Group, Dubai Production City, formerly known as International Media Production Zone (IMPZ), is aimed at advancing the development of the production industry in the region.
9. Dubai Knowledge Park
\n\nEstablished in 2003 as part of TECOM Group, Dubai Knowledge Park (DKP) is applauded for launching the region’s first ‘Industry and University Partnerships Forum’ (I-UP), bringing together professionals from universities, industry and government departments to discuss potential collaborations.
10. Dubai International Academic City
\n\nWith more than 400 undergraduate and post-graduate programmes currently on offer, Dubai International Academic City (DIAC), the world’s only free zone dedicated to higher education, serves over 24,000 students from all around the world.
11. Dubai Science Park
\n\nIn 2015 TECOM Group formed Dubai Science Park, an entity combining Dubai Biotechnology and Research Park (DuBiotech) and the Energy and Environment Park (EnPark), to foster the growth of the UAE’s science sector.
12. Dubai Design District (d3)
\n\nTECOM Group’s newest business community, Dubai Design District (d3) houses the region’s designers and creative thinkers as well as established international design, luxury and fashion brands.
13. Dubai Wholesale City (DWSC)
\n\nDubai Wholesale City, the region’s first integrated wholesale trading and industrial hub, was launched by HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, last year. The new development, which will be located close to Al Maktoum International Airport, aims to increase the UAE’s share of the global wholesale trade sector.
14. RAK Free Trade Zone (RAK FTZ)
\n\nEstablished in 2000, RAK Free Trade Zone hosts more than 8,000 companies from over 100 countries, representing more than 50 industry sectors.
15. Dubai Silicon Oasis (DSO)
\n\nDubai Silicon Oasis, a free zone technology park for large enterprises, SMEs, and start-ups, is best known for its Dubai Technology Entrepreneurship Centre (Dtec), the largest entrepreneurship centre in the Middle East.
\n\nTwoFour54, named after the geographical co-ordinates of Abu Dhabi, is a tax-free media and entertainment free zone that aims to make the UAE capital an international hub for media.
17. Fujairah Free Zone
\n\nFujairah, located on the east coast of the UAE, opened one of the country’s first free zones back in 1987. The free zone is now wooing companies with the promise of significant savings on business operations as compared to other emirates.
18. Sharjah Airport International Free Zone (SAIF-ZONE)
\n\nSharjah Airport International Free Zone (SAIF-ZONE), the largest free zone in Sharjah, attracts budding entrepreneurs with its lower fees when compared to Dubai and Abu Dhabi. It reportedly houses over 7,600 establishments from 160 countries.
19. Ajman Free Zone (AFZ)
\n\nAjman Free Zone reportedly houses more than 17,000 companies, of which over 40 percent are of Indian ownership. The free zone has nine representative offices around the world, with the latest one being launched in Lahore, Pakistan, in December last year.
20. Dubai International Financial Centre
\n\nDubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), the UAE’s financial hub, revealed last year that the number of new company registrations increased by 27 percent compared to 2014, from 242 to 309, the highest number achieved in a single year to date. It recently partnered with Accenture to launch the Middle East’s first FinTech accelerator.