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The Emirate of Sharjah enjoys a brilliant cultural ambience in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) that is rooted in its rich history and intellect. It is considered as the third largest Emirate in UAE with an area of 2,590 km.sq., and is also well-known as the cultural capital of the UAE. The capital city, Sharjah, has an invaluable historical legacy coursing back to 5000 years and the city has retained its glory as one of the wealthiest towns in the Gulf region. How has Sharjah achieved its impressive growth and development? There are many factors which have been contributed to the city’s development over decades like economic free zones, political stability, and diversification that has garnered Sharjah its many accolades.
The population of Sharjah at that time was meagre, and people relied on trading, fishing and agricultural practices. In the 17th century, trading relations with the British put Sharjah on the global map as an important trading port. However, in the 19th century, the city became a staging point for the activities between Europe and Asia. In the year 1971, oil was found in the Mubarak oilfield situated 80kms offshore and close to the Abu Mousa Island. The production of oil began two years later and also gas drilling was started in 1990.
Since the discovery of oil, Sharjah city has hugely developed by utilizing the availability of natural wealth and the wisdom provided by the Sharjah ruler H.H. Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi.
Sharjah is poised to be one of the leading players of the international business community in the UAE with a stable investment environment that makes it compete at a global level. It has already registered a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6% during 2008 to 2010, the economy was reported to be growing at 3.5%, and in 2016 it is reported a GDP growth close to 2%. As of 2019, The UAE’s third-largest economy was set to grow 2.7 per cent this year. The stability is reportedly accounted to the city’s economy having one of the highest levels of diversification in the region, a strong manufacturing presence, and an abundance of small and medium-sized enterprises. The four largest sectors contributing to the city’s economy are real estate and business services, the manufacturing industry, the mining, quarrying, and energy sectors, and finally, the wholesale and retail trade.
Sharjah's economy has seen unprecedented growth over the past few years, which are the result of policies that are investor-friendly like cutting red tape and expanding of economic free zones. Around 13,500 companies are already registered in the Emirate's economic free zones, Hamriyah Free Zone and Sharjah Airport Free Zone (SAIF Zone), and the third economic zone Sharjah Media City (SMC) was recently announced in January 2016.
The joint cooperation between the government and private sectors have helped towards sustainable development and establishing a business-friendly environment. The continued urbanization and modernization drive in the city, with well-developed infrastructure facilities, have augmented industrial activities. Sharjah established special industrial zones, and all of them are well-connected through a modern network of roads that link them to seaports and airports of the Emirate.
The city enjoys an ideal logistics base with a strategic location between Europe and the Far East and is the only GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) hub with direct access to the Gulf and the Indian Ocean. It offers a gateway to 160 countries, including 2 billion people. The city flourished as a transportation hub and had the Gulf region's first airport which was established in Sharjah in 1932, and the first container port to be operating in the area was the Emirate's, Port Khalid.
Sharjah is the gateway of international expansion and is looking at opportunities that are beyond oil. The core has been to focus on innovative practices which are creating fertile conditions for global businesses by operating premium FDI policies to attract global foreign investors.
Tourism is one of the cornerstones of UAE's plan for a diversified economy, and is an important source of foreign exchange; Sharjah holds a 10% share of the UAE tourism economy. The city has also made considerable achievements in developing culture-related ecotourism. The key areas which are now being focused to transform the Emirate's economy are the sectors of environment, real estate, healthcare, transport and logistics, and travel and leisure.
Sharjah's Gulf Ecosystem Research Centre was established in 2012 and is believed, will offer long-term solutions to ecological problems, which will help transition to an entirely green, sustainable economy and contribute to UAE becoming the global green leader.