Ruler Sheikh Humaid bin Rashid al-Nuaimi

Population 250,000

GDP $3.8bn

Per capita GDP $15,145

Key economic sectors Manufacturing (cement and quarrying), trading and repair services, real estate, government services

Main towns Al-Hamidiya, Ajman, Manama

Covering about 259 square kilometres, Ajman is the smallest of the UAE’s emirates in terms of land area, occupying the stretch of coast between Sharjah and Umm al-Quwain. The emirate has two inland enclaves: Al-Menameh and Masfut. They are bisected by the main highway, with Al-Menameh to the east and Masfut to the west.

The ruler of Ajman is Sheikh Humaid bin Rashid al-Nuaimi. He succeeded his father in 1982, having been the crown prince since 1960. He has a reputation as a benevolent and approachable figure who continues to host an open majlis on week days at 9am. His son, Sheikh Ammar bin Humaid al-Nuaimi, is the crown prince and also chairman of the Ajman Executive Council, with responsibility for security. Ajman’s main tribe is the Naim, who also inhabit the Al-Ain oasis in Abu Dhabi.

Economy

Ajman’s proximity to Dubai and Sharjah means its fate is intertwined with the fortunes of the larger emirates. During the boom years of 2003-08, property developers in the UAE were touting Ajman as an affordable alternative to Dubai and Sharjah. Its role as a ‘spillover’ market saw its population rise sharply in the past decade. Increasingly, Ajman has become integrated into the Sharjah region and the border between the two is now barely discernible.

Ajman population
Year Number
2002 171,000
2003 182,000
2004 190,000
2005 207,000
2006 212,000
2007 224,000
2008 237,000
2009 250,000
Source: IMF

Commuting between Dubai and Ajman was made easier with the opening in 2008 of three extra lanes on the Emirates Road, turning it into a 12-lane highway. Ajman was the second emirate after Dubai to offer 100 per cent freehold property ownership rights to foreign nationals in 2004, when it launched the Al-Naeemiya Towers project, comprising 15 freehold residential buildings.

This freehold law fuelled strong growth in Ajman’s real estate sector. In 2003, the emirate’s property market was worth an estimated $118m, according to government transaction records. Following the new legislation, this jumped to $953m in 2006 and, by the third quarter of 2007, developers in Ajman had announced plans to build real estate projects worth nearly $22bn. This would make an extra 65,000 residential units available between 2009 and 2012. But the financial downturn and property market crash in Dubai hit Ajman hard, forcing developers to cancel or suspend projects as predicted demand fell. According to regional projects tracker MEED Projects, 94 real estate developments worth a total of $13.4bn are currently on hold in Ajman.

Ajman gross domestic product
Year GDP ($m)
2002 1,317
2003 1,599
2004 1,898
2005 2,316
2006 2,989
2007 3,445
2008 3,938
2009 3,786
Source: National Bureau of Statistics

Traditionally, the emirate was known for fishing and ship building. Since the opening of Ajman Free Zone in 1988, manufacturing has become the mainstay of the economy, representing 39 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP).

With the large contribution that construction and real estate make to Ajman’s GDP, it is not surprising that the emirate has failed to maintain the impressive growth that characterised much of the past decade. GDP growth peaked at 29 per cent in 2006 and 2007, on the back of robust expansion of the construction, real estate and trading sectors.

Ajman GDP by sector, 2009
Sector  ($m) (%)
Manufacturing 1,497.10 39
Construction 547.9 14
Wholesale retail trade and repair services 437.7 12
Real estate and business services 379.1 10
Other 284.4 8
Government services 235.1 6
Transport, storage and communication 211.6 6
Financial services 139.1 4
Agriculture 54.5 1
GDP=Gross domestic product. Source: National Bureau of Statistics

Between 2008 and 2009, GDP fell by 4 per cent from $3.9bn to $3.8bn as real estate projects were put on hold. The government will need to diversify away from property if it is to regain its momentum.

The UAE’s northern emirates suffer from a chronic power shortage and many firms have to use generators to power their factories.

Ajman accounted for 1.2 per cent of the UAE’s total GDP in 2009.

Free Trade Zones

Ajman Free Zone

Ajman Free Zone was set up in 1988 and is a major manufacturing hub in the UAE. It allows 100 per cent foreign ownership and repatriation of capital and profits. Land contracts are offered for 20-year periods, renewable for a further 20 years. Four main types of licence are available, including a trading licence (single-activity AED3,900 ($1,061), a professional services licence (AED6,500), and an industrial licence (AED9,100). Located near Ajman port, the free zone is home to textile firms, metals, chemicals and paper manufacturers, and other conversion industries. Between 2002 and 2009, 576 companies joined the site.

Tel: (+971) 6 701 1555

Website: www.afza.gov.ae

Accommodation and business premises

Ajman’s property market has been severely affected by Dubai’s downturn. Between the fourth quarter of 2008 and October 2009, the average rent across the emirates of Ajman, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah and Umm al-Quwain fell nearly 34 per cent.

Downward pressure continues to be exerted on residential and commercial space and incentives from landlords are common. New supply is coming to the market, including the first phase of the beachfront Ajman One project, which consists of 12 towers. Office space is limited in Ajman, but some new high-quality capacity has been delivered on Sheikh Zayed Road. The setting up of the Ajman Real Estate Regulatory Agency (Arra) by the government in December 2008 has introduced a greater degree of transparency. All land, villas and apartments, freehold or otherwise, must be registered with Arra.

Transport

There is no bus or train service to Ajman. The nearest airport is in neighbouring Sharjah.

Healthcare

Gulf Medical College hospital is Ajman’s only private hospital and is listed by all major health insurance providers. The 250-bed facility sees more than 1,500 patients daily in its outpatients department.

Tel: (+971) 6 746 3333

Email: manvir@thumbay.com (or) drbangera@gmchospital.ae

Website: www.gmchospital.com

Government departments and offices

Ajman Department of Economic Development

This office issues trade licences for onshore businesses in the emirate that are not in the industrial areas or free trade zones.

Tel: (+971) 6 701 1141

Email: Info@ajmanaded.ae

Ajman Naturalisation & Residency Department

Companies setting up onshore businesses must apply for their employment visas through the Naturalisation and Residency Department. Companies in free zones or industrial zones will apply through their Free Zone Authority.

Location: Sheikh Rashid bin Humaid 1st Street

Tel: (+971) 6 742 2255

Labour Office, Ajman

Work permits are issued through the local office of the Ministry of Labour. Proof of trade licence and commercial premises are required for permits to be awarded. The permit then needs to be taken to the residency department to obtain an employee visa.

Tel: (+917) 6 740 0444

Website: www.mol.gov.ae

Ajman Chamber of Commerce and Industry

All new businesses in the UAE must register with the local chamber of commerce. Membership fees depend on the type of business being registered. Membership ensures businesses are listed in the Ajman directory. The chamber also produces research and information for businesses, including an annual trading manual.

Tel: (+971) 6 742 2177

Email: aco@ajcci.gov.ae

Website: www.ajmanchamber.ae