All about the free zones in Abu Dhabi
The UAE’s capital city, Abu Dhabi, is a hub for industrial development and economic growth in the region. Just like Dubai, Abu Dhabi has established several free zones to promote foreign investment and boost the region’s economy. If you are an entrepreneur or potential business owner looking to start a company in the capital, here’s a helpful guide to the free trade zones or free zones in Abu Dhabi.
WHY SET UP A BUSINESS IN AN ABU DHABI-FREE ZONE?
Free zones are special economic zones that provide a conducive business environment to support local entrepreneurs and encourage foreign trade and investments in the emirate.
Setting up a business in Abu Dhabi’s free zones provides several incentives for local and overseas companies looking to operate businesses within the UAE. Some of the advantages of operating in a free zone in Abu Dhabi include the following:
- 100% foreign ownership of companies
- Low-cost operational environment
- Complete repatriation of capital and profits
- Full exemption from import, export, corporate and personal taxes
- Comprehensive support services for obtaining necessary permits, licences, approvals and clearances from the relevant authorities and finding skilled manpower and suitable accommodation.
LIST OF FREE ZONES IN ABU DHABI
Whether it’s logistics, media or small businesses, the free zones in Abu Dhabi cover various industries. Currently, business owners and entrepreneurs can choose to set up their companies in any of the following zones:
- Abu Dhabi Airports Free Zone (ADAFZ)
- Masdar City Free Zone
- Twofour54 Abu Dhabi (Media Free Zone Authority)
- Khalifa Industrial Zone Abu Dhabi (KIZAD)
- Industrial City of Abu Dhabi (ICAD)
- Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM)
- Higher Corporation for Specialized Economic Zones (ZonesCorp)
Each Abu Dhabi free zone has an independent Free Zone Authority (FZA) responsible for issuing free zone operating licences for companies to establish their business. Here’s a little more information about each of these economic zones in Abu Dhabi.
ABU DHABI AIRPORT FREE ZONE (ADAFZ)
The Abu Dhabi Airport Free Zone, aka ADAFZ, is located close to the Abu Dhabi International Airport. It was developed by Skycity, a subsidiary of Abu Dhabi Airports Company (ADAC).
ADAFZ mainly targets aviation, aerospace, airport services, logistics, cargo and freight sectors. Some of the facilities and infrastructure ADAFZ provides include commercial offices, plots of land for development, warehousing units and logistics services.
MASDAR CITY FREE ZONE
Masdar City, located near Abu Dhabi International Airport, was founded in 2006. It is a joint venture between Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company, a subsidiary of Mubadala Development Company, and the Abu Dhabi government to make the area more energy efficient. It is a rapidly developing global centre for clean technology and renewable energy that relies entirely on renewables.
A flagship project of Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company, Masdar City, offers clean energy start-ups a dedicated space to pilot, demonstrate, refine, develop and commercialise their technologies and provides them all the benefits of free zones.
TWOFOUR54 ABU DHABI
Twofour54 is a media free zone in Abu Dhabi that provides world-class infrastructure and fully integrated support services for creative businesses. It was set up by the Media Zone Authority (MZA) to position Abu Dhabi as a leading player in the Arabic media content creation industry.
Popular media houses, including BBC, CNN, Thomson Reuters Foundation and Financial Times are some of the leading names in the international media arena with operations in Twofour54 Abu Dhabi.
KHALIFA INDUSTRIAL ZONE ABU DHABI (KIZAD)
A subsidiary of Abu Dhabi Ports, Khalifa Industrial Zone Abu Dhabi (KIZAD) is known as the hub for integrated trade, logistics and industrial operations. Located in the Al Taweela area between Abu Dhabi and Dubai, KIZAD is intrinsically linked to Khalifa Port – one of the world’s most advanced deep-sea ports.
KIZAD supports all kinds of business activities, including manufacturing, logistics, trade and distribution. Companies operating in this free zone benefit from its customised business facilities, geographical location and low operating cost.
Those living in Khalifa City A can access this free zone easily.
ABU DHABI INDUSTRIAL CITY (ADIC)
Abu Dhabi Industrial City, sometimes referred to as the Industrial City of Abu Dhabi, is an industrial economic zone that provides support and infrastructure for business activities related to oil and gas, engineering, construction materials and more.
It is managed by ZonesCorp, the largest operator of purpose-built industrial zones in the UAE and oversees the Al Ain Industrial City.
ABU DHABI GLOBAL MARKET (ADGM)
Established on 21 October 2015, the Abu Dhabi Global Market is an international financial centre (IFC) in the capital city. It is the ideal free zone for companies in the financial sector, especially private banking, wealth management and asset management.
ADGM comprises three independent authorities: the Registration Authority, the Financial Services Regulatory Authority and ADGM Courts. Each of these authorities enables registered financial institutions, companies and entities to thrive and operate within an international regulatory framework based on Common Law.
HIGHER CORPORATION FOR SPECIALIZED ECONOMIC ZONES (ZONESCORP)
Over 600 of the world’s largest and most well-known multinational enterprises from various sectors are located in this Abu Dhabi free zone. The Higher Corporation for Specialized Economic Zones (ZonesCorp) was founded in 2004 to develop industrial cities around Abu Dhabi.
The free zone has drawn significant foreign direct investment and has played an important role in the Emirate’s industrial development.
There are four Abu Dhabi ports that are under an hour’s drive from the ZonesCorp. Mussaffah Port, Zayed Port, Khalifa Port, and Jebel Ali Port are among them. Two world-class international airports in Abu Dhabi and two more in Dubai are also accessible from the zones.
Chemicals, food and beverage, oil and gas, leather and textile products, construction materials, engineering and metals, assembly of products, wood and paper products and fibreglass and plastic products are developed at ZonesCorp.
WHAT TYPE OF ENTITIES CAN REGISTER IN A FREE ZONE?
To be able to register in a free zone in Abu Dhabi, an entity must be a Free Zone Limited Liability Company (LLC), a foreign or UAE company branch, or freelancers with a freelance permit.
CAN AN EXPAT OWN A COMPANY IN A FREE ZONE?
Expats living in the UAE can completely own a business in a free zone without partnering with a UAE citizen.
That completes our guide to all the economic zones in Abu Dhabi. We hope you found this article helpful. If you plan to start a business in Abu Dhabi, operating in any of these free trade zones can benefit your company’s success.
Dubai also has many free zones where business owners and entrepreneurs can set up their business operations. If you’re interested to know more about them, here is the complete list of all the Dubai free zones.