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UAE to open manufacturing centre of excellence in Sharjah

Pedestrians cross a road in Sharjah. The emirate is the UAE's 'manufacturing base', according to an official Boaz Rottem/Alamy via Reuters Connect
Pedestrians cross a road in Sharjah. The emirate is the UAE's 'manufacturing base', according to an official
  • EDB among project backers
  • $218m invested in Sharjah
  • Emirate has 2,500 factories

A manufacturing centre of excellence is to be set up in Sharjah, its backers announced on Monday.

The UAE Ministry of Industry and Advanced Technology, the Sharjah Entrepreneurship Centre (known as Sheraa), the Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Emirates Development Bank (EDB) have signed a memorandum of understanding for the project. 

“Hopefully it will open the eyes to a lot of entrepreneurs that manufacturing is a viable business,” Ahmed Mohamed Al Naqbi, CEO of EBD, told AGBI.

The centre aims to foster innovation and growth in the Emirati manufacturing sector, providing startups and entrepreneurs with mentoring, market access, research support and financing opportunities.

EDB’s investment in Sharjah is more than AED800 million ($218 million) across the five sectors that are considered crucial to the UAE’s development objectives – manufacturing, renewables, healthcare, advanced technology and food security.

About 64 percent of EDB’s funding for the northern emirate in the past three years has supported the manufacturing sector, but Al Naqbi said there had been nothing focused on manufacturing entrepreneurs.

“We noticed this gap and we said we wanted to support these entrepreneurs that are looking at manufacturing,” he said.

Sharjah is the third largest of the seven emirates that make up the UAE, after Dubai and Abu Dhabi. It has a population of more than 1.8 million people, according to its 2022 census, and covers an area of 235 sq km.

The emirate’s GDP was almost $38 billion in 2022, according to its Department of Statistics and Community Development.

Emirates Development Bank aims to make AED7bn of loans this year, says CEO Ahmed Al Naqbi EDB
Emirates Development Bank aims to make AED7bn of loans this year, says CEO Ahmed Al Naqbi

Sharjah accounts for more than a third of the UAE’s manufacturing sector and is home to about 2,500 factories, according to Ahmed Al Suwaidi, deputy director of the commercial affairs department at Sharjah Department of Economic Development.

“It’s actually the manufacturing base of the UAE,” Al Suwaidi said.

Towards the end of last year, the Emirati government announced that the industrial sector’s contribution to national GDP had reached AED197 billion. It wants to increase this figure to AED300 billion by 2031 and has set up the Operation 300 Billion programme to support growth.

Mohammed Juma Al Musharrakh, CEO of the investment agency Invest in Sharjah, said the emirate attracted AED1.8 billion of foreign direct investment in 2023.

“I think we need to do a lot more here in Sharjah to try and finish the 300 billion before it is due,” he said.

EBD’s investments across the UAE total more than AED10.5 billion over the three years to the end of Q1 2024. Al Naqbi said the bank was looking to approve AED7 billion in loans this year, while the overall target is to reach AED30 billion by the end of 2026.

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