Ease of Doing Business Rank: 16
The United Arab Emirates is a Middle Eastern federation of seven Arab states located on the Arabian Peninsula. Iran lies to the northeast across the Persian Gulf. Iraq, Kuwait. Jordan, Qatar, and Bahrain lie to the north, Oman to the south, and Saudi Arabia to the west.
The official and national language of the United Arab Emirates is Arabic. However, English is also widely-spoken, especially in the business community. Other languages such as Persian, Urdu and Hindi are spoken in some expatriate areas.
The 2019 population is approximately 9.68 million. Most of its citizens live on the coast of the Persian Gulf. Dubai is the largest population center, followed by Abu Dhabi, and Sharjah City.
The top industries in the United Arab Emirates are oil & gas, real estate & construction, logistics & tourism, food manufacturing & services, infrastructure and transport, industrial services, agriculture, and trade.
The Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2019 lists four United Arab Emirates universities in the top 1000.
Five foreign universities have full campuses in the UAE including two American institutions – the Rochester Institute of Technology Dubai and New York University Abu Dhabi.
The most common business entities in the UAE are Limited Liability Company, Shareholder Agreement with a UAE National, Sole Proprietorship, Civil Company, Partnership, and Private or Public Share Holding Companies.
Foreign companies need to measure their options as the restrictions and benefits vary greatly between entities and they are also dependent on whether the business will operate on the mainland or in a “free zone”.
The largest incentive for foreign investors lie in the country’s free trade zones (FTZs) which encompass seaports, airports, and the mainland.
These zones offer exceptional exemptions such as total foreign ownership, no import or export tax, 100% repatriation of capital and profits, no personal income tax, and corporate tax exemptions of between 15 and 50 years. Additionally, companies may receive labor recruitment and support services, such as sponsorship and housing.
However, regulations and laws for each FTZ varies as do the tax holidays and exemptions. Fortuitously, the number of FTZs continues to grow. Currently, 45 exist in the country and at least nine more under construction.
The Central Business District of Dubai is the center of commercial and financial activities, the business hub of the Middle East, and a major global transport hub for passengers and cargo.
Abu Dhabi is also a city of great economic importance. It is the capital and the second most populous city of the United Arab Emirates.
The United Arab Emirates is well-known as a luxury destination with stunning architectural achievements and sprawling developments. The Burj Khalifa in Dubai is the world’s tallest building with the highest observation deck in the world.
However, the UAE also has a history that spans thousands of years. You can also roam the old Bastakia quarter with narrow lanes and traditional Arabic homes as well as mosques and a remnant of Dubai’s old city wall.
The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi blends ancient craftsmanship with contemporary design to create an outstanding example of modern Islamic architecture. Adorned with gold, marble, and detailed finishes, it’s a true marvel.
Conversely, the nation proudly houses historical mosques such as the Al-Bidyah. This modest adobe building is beautifully designed and decorated and in sharp contrast to the opulence of Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.
The country also has a deep, rich cultural history. The Cultural Sites of Al Ain are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and feature vestiges of many prehistoric cultures as far back as 2500 B.C.
The Sharjah Arts Museum is home to the most diverse contemporary art collections in the United Arab Emirates. It includes Arabic and European artists specializing on the Arab world.
The United Arab Emirates also features areas of outstanding natural beauty. Take a desert safari across rolling sand dunes or climb the Al Haj jar mountains for spectacular views, trekking, and wildlife. The UAE also features miles of sandy beaches, warm water, and outstanding weather.
Historically, the region that is now the UAE was highly-influenced by Persian culture due to its proximity to Iran. It was also touched by many migrants and traders due to its strategic location on the Persian Gulf.
By the 18th century, Portugal and the Netherlands reached the area, followed by the British. Seven emirates (states) united to form the Trucial States and signed a treaty with Britain in 1820.
After World War II, these sheikhdoms became independent. In 1971, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al Quwain and Fujairah formed the United Arab Emirates. The following year, Ras Al Khaimah also joined the federation and the city of Abu Dhabi served as the new federation’s capital city.
The United Arab Emirates survived rivalries between the largest governing families, the Gulf War, and ongoing territorial disputes with Iran. Today, the region enjoys political stability. However, the entire region has definitely felt the impact of lower oil and gas prices.
Most people in the United Arab Emirates are Islamic (76%). However, a substantial Christian population also exists (12.6%), as well as Hindu (6.6%) and Buddhist (2%), and a small number of other affiliations.
The UAE is largely an immigrant population. Emirati nationals only account for 11.32% of the people in the region, followed by 18% from other Arab and Iranian areas.
South Asian nationalities account for 60% of the population, while expatriates from Western, East Asian, and African nations account for 12%.
The World Bank 2019 Doing Business report ranks the UAE 11th globally as a country suitable for doing business.
Forbes’ 2019 Best Countries for Business, ranks the UAE at 32nd globally due to their heavy dependence on oil.
The 2019 Index of Economic Freedom rates the UAE number 9 globally and states, “The government needs to build on earlier efforts to upgrade the business climate. State-owned enterprises need at least partial privatization, and improvement of the regulatory regimes governing the financial, real-estate, cyber, and free-trade zone sectors would enhance their appeal to foreign investors and visitors.”