Setting up a business is exciting, but it requires level-headed planning.
Doing so in a new region takes things to another level. To be successful you need consider the logistics performance of the country in question, along with its reputation, ease of company setup process, simplicity of doing business, and opportunities for future growth.
So when you’re looking at where to locate in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, it’s important to weigh up the pros and cons of the different regions.
If you’re considering this part of the world, here are four factors to consider when finding the right place for your MENA business.
1. Logistics efficiency
A quick look at the World Bank Logistics Performance Index (LPI) helps define all the logistical considerations in six points: customs, infrastructure, ease of shipping, tracking and tracing, timeliness, as well as logistic services.
These factors are important for all businesses and vital if you will be importing and/or exporting.
Why the UAE has got logistics covered
In that World Bank Logistics Performance Index, the one MENA country that stands head and shoulders above all the rest is the UAE.
It ranks 1st in the GCC and MENA. Globally it’s listed 11th – ahead of the United States and Switzerland.
In terms of specifics, the UAE is placed 5th in the world for international shipments and 4th for timeliness. Meaning you can expect to have your deliveries reach their destinations by the deadline.
And it’s important not just to stop at Dubai when it comes to thinking about locations for your new MENA business. Investigate the other emirates that boast excellent logistical networks as well as ample warehousing space at a lower cost. Setting up in Ras al Khaimah, for example, is the perfect jumping off point to do business across the UAE, the Gulf and entire MENA region, and it’s less than an hour’s drive to Dubai.
2. Ease of doing business
Here we have to consider procedures, time, cost and minimum capital required to start a company. Different countries in the MENA region take different approaches to helping new businesses achieve this.
There are a huge number of options, so it’s important to locate your company in a top-level business hub that can offer you a tailor-made solution. The UAE is always going to score highly when it comes to easy setup. Look for a hub within the UAE that gives you flexibility, allowing you to choose whether you want to set up on the mainland or in a free zone.
Why the UAE has the easiest set up process
In the World Bank’s Doing Business 2019 report, the UAE was ranked 25th in the world for starting a business, with a score of 94.06 out of 100. The MENA average was 82, with only one other regional country, Bahrain (89.57), breaching the top 100.
Why? Well, the UAE was deemed to have hugely streamlined procedures and greatly reduced setup times. It’s worth looking outside of Dubai and Abu Dhabi as well – Ras al Khaimah has put in place a highly-simplified and fast-tracked business setup process.
So look for a hub that offers this level of service, and get your company off to a strong start. It’s about costs as well: Choosing the right location can mean halving your setup costs.
3. Proven track record
The MENA country you set up in will be a reflection of your business. Set up in one that is well respected for business equality and fairness and this rubs off on the organisation itself. It also affects how you are perceived by companies in the MENA (and wider) region with which you do business.
Why the UAE’s reputation speaks well for your business
The UAE has a great reputation for business for a number of reasons. It’s politically stable, has a strong economy, and offers state-of-the-art infrastructure. Its laws prohibit monopoly and encourage competition, while maintaining intellectual property rights and trademarks.
No surprise then that it’s probably the major international business hub of the Middle East. Even if you do business outside of the UAE, being based there puts you in great standing with the MENA region.
4. Room for expansion
Whatever the size of your business right now, you’re probably aiming to grow. This means you need to keep options open, because what might be the best choice now, especially in terms of location and suppliers, may change in the future.
You need a location that offers flexibility. One that has good access to other markets and one that lets you expand your offering. For example, you could be attracted by the easy setup process and zero taxation offered by many UAE free zones – but perhaps one day you will want to do business directly with the mainland.
Finding the right hub that allows that type of flexibility will be a vital part of your decision-making. So it’s important to think about your immediate requirements, and how those requirements might change down the road.
Why the UAE helps your company grow
On top the strong economy and great transport links, choosing the right business hub in the UAE brings peace of mind that you are set up for years to come. You haven’t just taken an ‘off the shelf’ solution but got one that truly reflects the kind of business you want to run today, and tomorrow.
Question your way to success
When setting up in the MENA region you need to make an informed decision rather than a leap of faith. You can improve your chances of success by asking the right questions about your business needs and the locations on offer.
The UAE ticks the right boxes – the question, then, is making sure you pick the right economic zone and the right location within it.
So, whether you’re a freelancer or a startup, an SME or an industrialist, you’re ready to use the UAE to grow your business in the region and beyond.
Director of Marketing and Corporate Communications
Ras Al Khaimah Economic Zone Authority (RAKEZ)