Abu Dhabi is pressing ahead with plans to develop its industrial and logistical sectors as a key element in its policy of economic diversification. The move will see billions of dollars invested in the creation of multiple industrial cities across the emirate.

‘We are creating an industrial base with high-value clusters such as steel, petrochemicals, chemicals, automotive components, manufacturing, gas and pharmaceuticals,’ Hussain al-Nowais, board member of the Higher Corporation for Specialised Economic (HCSEZ), said on 20 November at the Second MEED Major New Opportunities in Abu Dhabi conference.

Speaking on the sidelines of the conference, Al-Nowais confirmed that more than AED 5,000 million ($1,360 million) had already been invested in the Industrial City of Abu Dhabi (ICAD), with a further AED 6,000 million ($1,630 million) in ICAD II. ‘Revenues from ICAD I are about AED 20 million [$5.4 million] a day from the 69 non-oil companies operating in the zone,’ said Al-Nowais. ICAD I has 40 operational factories and 42 under construction.

HCSEZ is developing the industrial cities on a public-private partnership basis and will act as a one-stop shop for investors. The government will allot land, infrastructure and facilities and issue operating licences, as well as liaise with banks to provide financing for companies.

‘There are plans for more industrial cities including ICAD III, which is in the masterplanning stage, and Al-Ain Industrial City, which will be launched some time next year,’ he said (see Construction). Clusters expected to be developed first include an oil and gas service complex and a metals zone, which will see the construction of a world-scale aluminium smelter.

‘The new economic strategy is to develop various sectors in Abu Dhabi and review laws and regulations to bring it line with international standards,’ said Mohammad Omar Abdullah, director-general of the Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce.

One of the new laws currently under review by the government could give investors majority ownership of companies in special economic zones. ‘It will depend on industries and HCSEZ will determine how it will impact the cities if the law is approved,’ said Al-Nowais. ‘If it is approved, it is likely to be within the framework of the federal law.’

Speaking on the difference between HCSEZ areas and the traditional free zone model used across the federation, Al-Nowais said that the specialised economic zones focused on clusters of industries within the country as opposed to free zones located offshore. ‘Special economic zones are part of the future, whereas free zones are a thing of the past,’ he said.