Under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Second Deputy Ruler of Dubai and Chairman of the Dubai Media Council, today attended the inauguration of the World Free Zones Organization’s (World FZO) ninth Annual International Conference & Exhibition (AICE).
During the opening ceremony, His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Mohammed said:
“Dubai’s successful and distinguished free zone model has played a crucial role in the emirate’s economic development. With its state-of-the-art infrastructure, flexible legislative framework and regulatory policies, and world-class services and facilities, Dubai has supported this vital sector, creating a vibrant and stimulating business environment. Its free zones cover a wide range of diverse economic activities, making them a magnet for leading global businesses and companies specialising in different fields, as well as a launch pad for unicorns that have successfully gone global from Dubai.”
His Highness emphasised that Dubai’s free zones have handsomely contributed to the emirate’s comprehensive development over the past decades, and will play a significant role in achieving the ambitious goals of the Dubai Economic Agenda D33. Through this agenda, Dubai aims to transform into one of the world’s top three economic cities within the next ten years.
His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Mohammed highlighted the role of Dubai’s free zones in achieving the vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum to consolidate Dubai’s position as the capital of the global economy and trade, and a preferred destination for attracting investments, talent, and creative professionals from all over the world. This, HH said, was a result of the advanced technological environment Dubai offers along with an ecosystem that contributes to attracting more new businesses, especially within future-focused sectors.
Largest-ever World FZO event
The event, which is the largest edition of the flagship event since World FZO’s inception in 2014, is being held from May 2-3 at Grand Hyatt Dubai and is being hosted under the theme ‘Global Trade 2.0: Zones, An Ecosystem of Trust Driving Prosperity.’ High-level government officials including 19 ministers from various countries were in attendance during the first day of the event. More than 600 officials from free zones, experts, investors, and entrepreneurs from over 70 countries are registered to attend the two-day event.
Representatives from global organisations such as the World Trade Organization, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the World Customs Organization, the International Road Union, and the International Labor Organization were also in attendance.
HE Dr. Mohammed Al Zarooni, Chairman of World FZO, delivered the welcome address followed by the first session titled “A System of Trust: How to Build, Operate and Sustain It”. The session featured the participation of HE Ito Bisono, Minister of Industry, Dominican Republic; Ricardo Trevino, Deputy Secretary General of the World Customs Organization; Kevin Shakespeare, Director of Strategic Projects and International Development for UK Export and Trade Institute, Jochen Knecht, CEO of IFZA Dubai and Lars Karlsson, Global Head of Trade & Customs Consulting, Maersk A.P. Moller.
The second session, focused on managing the challenges facing global trade and mitigating the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, included the participation of Oliver Sykes, Partner in PWC UAE, Asli Calik, Vice President, International Road Union in Switzerland, Emeka Ene, CEO of Oildata Energy Group in Nigeria, Jeffrey Hardy, Director General of Transnational Alliance of Combat Illicit Trade in the US, Philippe Dauvergne, CEO of Luxembourg High-Security Hub, Juan Carlos Buitrago Arias, CEO of Strategos from Colombia.
The conference, running until 3 May, includes five panel discussions featuring 30 speakers highlighting themes focused on mitigating the impact of economic challenges, designing, building, and sustaining ecosystems of trust, and ways to maintain the vitality of free zones through strategies that ensure their prosperity. The sessions will also discuss ways to deal with changes in institutional governance and build trust in digitisation and data.
Al Zarooni said:
“The largest edition of AICE, World FZO’s flagship event, is being hosted by Dubai to reflect the organisation’s commitment to representing the interests and role of free zones globally in the global economic system. Free zones have become one of the most important economic engines, with more than 4,000 free zones worldwide providing over 80 million job opportunities according to latest available stats.
“Since more than one-third of world trade passes through free zones, increased investment and economic returns require greater levels of integration and collaboration. Over the past decade, the World FZO has encouraged constructive dialogue and enhanced cooperation opportunities with international organisations, government agencies, and free zones to achieve the organisation’s growth and prosperity strategy in the global economy.”
Al Zarooni added:
“Dubai’s hosting of the AICE 9th edition highlights the emirate’s successful integrated and interactive model, which is reflected in its free zones, and the wise leadership’s support to realise its high economic potential. It also underscores the international business community’s confidence in Dubai’s free zones, which presents an advanced concept for their activation and operation in achieving development. The conference will provide a comprehensive discussion on the latest trends and innovations in developing the free zone model at the operational and infrastructure levels, including various policies and initiatives.”
The race for excellence in free zones
The World FZO aims to showcase government tools and programmes that help organisations become future-ready through collaboration with international entities. This includes the Izdihar Index that measures free zones’ maturity and tracks their progress across various parameters. Izdihar, which means prosperity in Arabic, will assess free zones across parameters such as labour, safety, security, workplace culture, business and people development, social responsibility, empowerment, and economic contribution.
The organisation will also spotlight the Safe Zone Certification Program, which prioritises safety and security in free zones through the adoption of rigorous standards and best practices aimed at combating illicit trade, money laundering, and human trafficking. This programme ultimately enhances employee productivity, performance, ethics, morale, health, and welfare. Additionally, World FZO’s “Digital Zone Certification Program” focuses on developing digital thinking and skills to transform business operations and serve customers and investors remotely, reflecting the shift towards digitalisation in the business world.
The World FZO will also announce its partnership with several multinational organisations, which will contribute to the World FZO “Online Academy” by providing distinguished professors, courses, research, and other learning tools to enhance the contents and offer valuable resources to those looking to advance their careers and improve their well-being. The organisation also has a dedicated vertical for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), the “SMEEP: Small and Medium Enterprise Educational Program,” which aims to develop SMEs’ capabilities in free zones by providing them with access to educational material and learning tools.
The World FZO boasts a membership of over 1,550 from 140 countries, with a global presence through 12 regional offices and 42 national focal points. As free zones increasingly rely on its contributions, services, and network of high-quality strategic partnerships, the organisation’s role continues to expand.
News Source: Dubai Media Office