A Quarterly Newsletter from the UAE and Oman member firms of the PKF International Ltd. network

VOL 18, Issue 4 October 2016


Mr. Abdalla Al-Banna joined Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC) in 2015. Leveraging his industry insight and over 17 years of expertise, Mr. Al-Banna’s role is to lead the Free Zone Operations team within the Dubai World Trade Centre Authority. Under his keen leadership, his team provides seamless one-stop solutions for prospective businesses to establish permanent representation within offshore zones in Dubai.

Prior to joining DWTC, he served as Vice President of Customer Relation & Development at Economic Zone World (JAFZA), where he oversaw top-notch service delivery. Within Economic Zone World, he also served as Vice President of Commercial Sales. In this role, he spearheaded team efforts in the accomplishment of business targets and maximized market penetration through independent relationship development with key clients across various countries.

Q. Handling the reins of a new free zone in Dubai – the land of free zones – must be challenging. How are you and DWTC gearing up for this challenge?

A. Free zones provide businesses with an effective and well-regulated ecosystem in which to operate. The DWTC Authority regulates the free zone environment and enables us to cater to the diverse requirements of businesses. We have designed, deployed and managed best-in-class legislative policies and operational procedures in collaboration with government authorities to ensure a uniquely flexible model, offering co-location of onshore and offshore operations in a business-conducive regulatory environment. These offerings enable global enterprises and multinational organisations to headquarter their regional operations in Dubai.

Q. How has the JAFZA experience helped you in your current role in DWTC?

A. Experiencing the dynamic world of enterprise development via free zones certainly feeds into my capacity to support DWTC in helping international businesses establish representation in one of the best free zone locations in the heart of Dubai’s business and financial district.

Q. The UAE is home to nearly 40 free zones. With the tough competition, what steps has the DWTC Authority taken to ensure that DWTC free zone is set apart from the others?

A. DWTC Authority stands out with a highly competitive, single-point of contact ecosystem for companies, allowing them to hold a business-operating permit for any onshore-licensed entity in tandem with an independent free-zone license for their business to be operable from within the same zone. The strategic location of the zones also enhance the DWTC Authority’s ability to catalyze the influx of domestic and international investments and empower businesses. Located at the very heart of the city’s Central Business District in One Central and at the new Dubai Trade Centre Jebel Ali adjacent to Al Maktoum International airport in Dubai South, the free zone opens up new opportunities for companies.

Q. One Central – the new jewel of the Trade Centre district is creating quite a buzz. Tell us the story behind this creation from DWTC?

A. One Central is an integrated mixed-use project totaling 540,000 square metres, including business, residential and leisure developments in the heart of the DWTC complex. Its origination emanates the desire to support the nation’s continued economic success, the creation of new employment opportunities in addition to delivering sustainable economic growth in line with the UAE Vision 2021.

The project is inclusive of five Grade A, LEED Gold certified office buildings, the first of which is almost fully leased at this stage. It also includes four hotels ranging from 3, 4 and 5 stars with an estimated 2,000 total room capacity, residential towers offering 1,300 premium apartments and townhouses and a 2,500-capacity multi-purpose theatre.

Through such a well-rounded impactful project, the DWTC Authority aims to sustain Dubai’s leading position in developing extraordinary projects and investing in infrastructure to attract global companies and international business leaders.

Q. You already have the advantage of a central location. What are the other offerings from the DWTC Authority, which will help it make a mark in the free zone industry?

Central location is surely important; however to ensure most businesses’ needs are met, the DWTC Authority’s Free Zone spans locations within the iconic DWTC and the adjoining One Central, as well at the upcoming new Dubai Trade Centre Jebel Ali adjacent to Al Maktoum International airport in Dubai South. In addition to DWTC Authority’s one-stop business solution that offers a multitude of licensing, registration and immigration services, businesses can benefit from premium commercial leasing opportunities across the DWTC complex, including One Central. Operating within the Free Zone and benefiting from the incentives of the DWTC Authority provides multinational organizations a unique opportunity to leverage Dubai as the base to enter local and regional markets.

Q. You have nearly two decades of experience in the free zone industry. Does this help in understanding the current needs and demands of the Dubai business community?

A. As an economy, Dubai is continuously evolving at a very fast pace. It is not only a global business destination but also a hub in regional trade. Dubai has enabled fortune-1000 companies and millions of their customers to connect and conduct business year on year. Partnerships are forged and investments are made in this city. Whereas the experience is quite helpful in understanding the market and anticipating consumer needs, there is always something new to learn in this dynamic market.

Q. So that can businessmen look forward to in DWTC as a Free Zone?

A. Prospective businesses interested in operating in Dubai can have full ownership of their company by operating via the DWTC Free Zone which offers many benefits. These include 100 percent foreign ownership; 100 percent repatriation of capital; zero income tax for 50 years and renewable; zero corporate tax for 50 years and renewable; no export tax; no restriction on currency and repatriation of funds, and no restriction on hiring foreign employees. This is in addition to clear regulation and a one-stop–shop service that provides business partners with a variety of government services, including company registration, licensing, visa and other services.

Q. And finally, in your opinion how does DWTC free Zone fit into Dubai’s profile?

A. The Free Zone will offer the most highly desirable proposition for businesses looking for an effective, competitive and well-regulated business ecosystem to compete even more effectively regionally as well as globally. It will also contribute to building Dubai’s profile as a global business destination.