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The Economic Landscape of the UAE
Entrepreneurial Mindset - How to Start-Up
Phillip & Martin Kraeter / 13.11.2020
Speaker
Introduction
Martin Kraeter
CEO & Global Head MCI CLT
Dubai & Hanoi
Law & Tax | Facilitation
Law & Economy
(Ludwig Maximilians University Munich)
Phillip Kraeter
CSO & VP Asia MCI CLT
The Hague & Dubai
Strategy | Research | Holdings
International Studies
(Leiden University, SISU Shanghai
International Studies University)
Introduction
Preliminaries
• Our Lecture intends not to be
a Scientific Research
• Aimed to give you a
Holistic Overview
• More as Hands-on
Overview or Guide
Where are the UAE located?
UAE
Country Profile
• Macro Profile & History
• Socio Profile
• Economy Profile
• Government Profile
• Law Schools | Judicial System
• 07.11.2020 – Progressive
Law Amendments
• Taxation & International Compliance
Macro Profile & History
• Macro Overview
• Population: 9.9 mln (2020)
• Area: 83,600 km²
• GDP (PPP): 746,350 bln $
• Global Rank 34, IMF (2019)
• GDP Per Capita (PPP): 69,901$
• Global Rank 6, World Bank (2019)
• Unemployment Rate: 2.6%
• FDI Inflow: 10.4 bln $
• Currency: UAE Dirham (AED)
• Pegged to the US$
• Time Zone: UTC+04:00
• TMF GBC Index: Rank 53/77
• Complexity down from Rank 4 in 2019
• Brief History
• Historic Roots:
„Tribal States“, a Collection of Sheikhdoms
• Nomadic & Loose
• 19th & 20th Century:
Pearl Diving & Trade with India
• 1922 – 1971:
British Protectorate & Administration
• but never a Colony
• 2nd December 1971:
6 Emirates form the Federation of the U.A.E.
• Ras Al Khaimah joins 1 month later
• 2nd November 2004:
Sad Demise of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al Nahyan
• Caesura in the further Development of the Country
• Not worsening, but becoming different
Socio Profile
• 11.5% of the Total Population only
are „Locals“ = UAE Citizens
• Expat Structure: 38.2% India
10.2 % Egypt, 9.5% Bangladesh,
9.4% Pakistan, 6.1% Philippines,
15.1% Others
• Emiratization Initiatives
• Hard working conditions
• Little to no Worker Protection
• No Workers Unions
• Being addressed
Economy Profile
• 2nd Largest Economy in Middle East
• 24th Largest globally by GDP per Capita (Nominal)
• UN, IMF, WTO, WHO, GCC and OPEC Member
• Still heavily dependent from
Oil & Gas Exploration
• Exception: Dubai (O&G = 5% of GDP)
• Massive Diversification Efforts
• Trade & Distribution
• Tourism, MICE, Real Estate
• Communication Infrastructure, Technology
• Seen as one of the most Open Economies
• Rank 18 on ”2020 Index of Economic Freedom”
(right behind USA)
• Exorbitant strong Focus on Infra-
and Urban Structures
• Worldwide Leading Road Network
• 4 International Airports
• High Rankings in Tower Statistics
• Already Among the Strongest
and most Diversified Hubs
• Air, Sea, Road
• Rail in “Embryo Stadium”
• And: Aim for More
Government Profile
• Political System = Emirate-wise grouped Constitutional Monarchies
with „topped-up“ Federal Institutions under a President = Federation
• Supreme Council (SC, the 7 Rulers)
• SC elects the President and the Vice President (5 years terms)
• Since 2006 Personal Union of Vice President and Prime Minister
• Prime Minister appoints the Council of Ministers (Cabinet)
• Federal National Council (FNC, 40 Delegates) = Parliament
• Since 2006 – Election, before: Appointment by Rulers (4 years terms)
• Current Reform: 50% Election, 50% Appointment
• Legislation Examination, Advice to Cabinet, Accountability for the System
• Not an electing Parliament
• Plus Point: Great Affection towards Leadership & Institutions
Law Schools | Judicial System
• 1971 Constitution determines the Division into Local & Federal Courts,
generally under Sharia Law, with Supreme Court (SC) in Abu Dhabi (AD)
• The underlying Law School is very near to the French / Continental Law School
• Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah maintain their Judicial System with Exclusion of SC in AD
• Court of 1st Instance | Court of Appeal | Court of Cassation
• UAE’s Financial Free Zones (DIFC and ADGM) established their own
Legislation and Judicial System, up to their own Courts
• Law School is here Common Law, procedures in English Language only
• Local & Federal Law & Courts are “excluded”
• Various Free Zones are ambitious to establish at least their own Judicial Executive (Arbitration & Court)
• Strong Trend: Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)
• Arbitration and Mediation as progressive Instruments to shorten and ease (also financially) Disputes
07.11.2020 – Progressive Law Amendments I
Really remarkable Amendments to Penal Code | Criminal Law | Inheritance Law!!!
• Divorce
• Under the Laws of Country where the Marriage took Place
• Inheritance
• Free Selection of Applicable Law
• Harassment | Assault | Honor Crimes
• Equal Treatment of “Honor Crimes” = more Protection of Women’s Rights
• Punishment for “society judged” Sexual Offenses liberalized
• Rape of Minors / someone with limited Mental Capacity – Death Penalty
• Decency Laws changed from Imprisonment to Financial Fines (1st offence)
07.11.2020 – Progressive Law Amendments II
• Cohabitation
• Between unmarried Couples or unrelated mixed-sex Flat Mates is now legal!
• Suicide
• Decriminalized – favoring instead Mental Health Support
• “Good Samaritans” | First Aid Helpers
• “Any Person who is committing an Act out of good Intention,
that may end up hurting that Person, will not be punished”
• Alcohol Consumption
• No longer a Criminal Offense, if with or without License
• Judicial Procedure
• Legal Translators now mandatory to be available for Defendants & Witnesses at the Courts
• Publicity is now excluded for Victims of Crimes related to indecent Acts
Taxation & International Compliance
• Generally seen as a Tax-free Country – not 100% true
• Federal Corporate Tax Laws exist, but not executed
• Exception: Oil & Gas, Banks & Insurance, Telecommunication
• No Federal or Emirati Personal Income Tax
• Since 2018: Value Added Tax (VAT)
• Actual Tax Rate: 5.0%
• Double Taxation Agreements (DTAA)
with 117 Countries (as per 10/2020)
DTA List – Ministry of Finance
• Agile Implementation of Int‘l (OECD, US, EU etc.)
Compliance Standards
• FATCA, CRS, ESR, UBO Register
The Jurisdiction
Hypermarket UAE
• Mainland Sectors
• Free (Trade) Zones
• Financial Free Zones
• Offshore Register
Mainland Sectors
• For Mainland Registration and Licensing, all 7
Emirates maintain their own Departments of
Economic Developments
• UAE Company Law requires for LLC and JSC
that min. 51% of Shares are owned by a UAE Citizen
• Professional Firms & Branches require National Agent
• Lift of 51/49 in some fields, mainly related to high FDI
• No Minimum Capital Requirements for Corporations
• Was before 300,000 AED (81,750 $)
• Business Activities are regulated by a Licensing
System with Selection of Activity Codes
• Professional | Commercial | Industrial | Tourism License
• Annual License Renewal
• Commercial | Office Space is mandatory
• Commercial Space also Parameter for Visa Quota
• Shared Offices with > 1 License prohibited
• Virtual Mainland Licenses becoming a Trend
• NEW! E Trader | Trader | Merchant License
• Originally only for UAE and GCC Nationals
• Now open also for Expats – AND no 51/49
• License Focus: Home-, Micro- and Small Business
• Expat Limitation: Professional Services
• E-Commerce, Social Media Trade, Import and Sales
are restricted for UAE and GCC Nationals only
MCI CLT Lecture at STAMFORD University Bangkok (2020.11)
Free (Trade) Zones
• FTZs - the Main Driver for UAE’s Eco Development
& Positioning as Global Hub
• > 50 FTZs in UAE
• 1985(!): 1st FTZ, Jebel Ali FZ, Dubai
JAFZA is also the largest fenced FTZ in the World
• > 30 alone in the Emirate of Dubai
• Cluster / Theme / Specialized FTZs well established
• Main Incentives
• No Import or Export Customs Fees
• FTZ Guarantee for Exemption from
Corporate & Personal Tax, usually for > 15 Years
• 100% Foreign Ownership for
Independent Entity, Subsidiary, Branch
• Semi-independent Jurisdiction
• Most flexible Solutions for Commercial Space
• Flexi Desk/Office | Regular Office | Warehouse | Plot
• But Commercial Space to be taken IN the FTZ
• Visa | Residency Quota determined by Space Size
• Limitation to Operations inside the FTZ softens
• Service Activities unlimited rendered also in Mainland
• Trade Activities via Distributor or Branch
• Ambitions to define “universal” Localization
• Licensing aligned to all different Kind of Activity
• Trading | Service | Finance | Industrial License
• NEW – Freelancer License (no entity needed)
• Licenses to be renewed annually
• Free of Tax – but not free from Fee
Financial Free Zones
Dubai International Financial Center (DIFC)
• Established in 2002, operational 2004
• UAE’s first Onshore Financial Centre
• Banks, Financial Institutions, Asset Managers,
Funds, Insurances, Service Provider
• Independent Regulator:
Dubai Financial Service Authority (DFSA)
• Strict Compliance Regime
• Independent Jurisdiction with own Law &
Court System (Common Law)
• In GFCI on Rank 17 global
• Rank (-5) & Rating (-7) in 2020
Source: GFCI, issued 25 Sep 2020
• 40 Years Zero Tax on Corporate Income
Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM)
• Established in 2013, operational 2015
• Banks, Financial Institutions, Asset Managers,
Funds, Insurances, Service Provider
• Independent Regulator:
Financial Services Regulatory Authority (FSRA)
• Similar to DIFC:
independent Jurisdiction, own Laws,
ADGM Court
• In GFCI on Rank 33 global
• Rank (+6) & Rating (-1) in 2020
Source: GFCI, issued 25 Sep 2020
• Leading Role in Digital Asset Regulation (2018)
• Highly attractive for Crypto Companies
Offshore Register
• UAE established 3 IBC Jurisdictions
• Dubai: In JAFZA FTZ
• Ras Al Khaimah: RAKICC
• Ajman: In Ajman FTZ
• “Non-Physical” Entities with
Registered Office at Registered Agent’s
Place (mandatory)
• Usage for: Property Ownership,
Holding Business, Wealth Structuring,
Inheritance, Commission Trade,
IP & Licensing
• And “whatever”
• Advertised IBC Benefits
• No Corporate Tax
• 100% Foreign Ownership
• 100% Capital and Profit Repatriation
• UAE Bank Account
• International Invoicing
• Limited Liability Company
• Privacy and Confidentiality
• Multi-Currency Bank Account in UAE
• Virtual Office Facilities in UAE
• New Development – Trusts & Foundations
• Regulatory obstacles
The S.W.O.T.
of UAE
What are the main Strengths?
What are the Country’s Weaknesses?
Are there any Opportunities on the Horizon?
What could Threaten the Country’s Progress?
Strengths & Weaknesses
Strengths
• Infrastructure
• Zero Tax*
• Hub Geography
• Geo-Political Stability
in a Turbulent Region
• Oil
• Tourism
Weaknesses
• Bureaucratic Inconsistencies
• Part. untransparent Regulation
• No Member of The Hague Protocol
• Over-dependence on few Sectors
• Desert Climate
Opportunities & Threats
Opportunities
• Hub Facility to Asia & Africa
• strong Emerging Markets
• Access to New Markets
• Israel - Abraham Agreement
• Accelerated Diversification
• Technological Advances
Threats
• Global Pandemics
• CoVid19
• Loss of Investments
• Other Hubs developing globally
• Climate Change
• Pegged to USD
Startup Support:
Does it exist?
• Government Initiatives
• Incubators & Accelerators
• Support from Banks
• Private Equity | Venture Capital | Funds
Government Initiatives I
• Long-term Feature – 100% Foreign Ownership
• Mainland partial (increasing), Free Zones, Offshore Register
• Modification of Visa / Residency System
• 5Y, 10Y, Permanent Residency, Golden Visa,
no National Sponsor, up to Naturalization
• SME Support in Public Projects
• Allocation of 5% of Contract Volume (110m $, Dubai)
• Allocation of 20% of EXPO2020 Contract Volume
Government Initiatives II
• Intensive Efforts towards Technology
• First Country establishing a Ministry of Artificial Intelligence
• Constant Roll-Out of SMART Initiatives G2C and G2G
• Happiness (UAE is also the first Country with its own Ministry of Happiness)
• Leveraging of Technologies, mainly Blockchain and AI
• Paperless City – Dubai, starting 2021
• Processes – Lean, Fast & Cheap
• Dubai Strategy – see https://smartdubai.ae
• BUT: “You have to come to our Office!”
Incubators & Accelerators I
• Strong Focus on Technology, but with Widespread
• Buzzword Addiction (AI, Autonomous, 3D, Blockchain, etc.)
• Clear Focus and Embedding in the General Emiratization Policy
• Omnipresent Initiatives to bring young Emiratis away from Government Jobs into
Entrepreneurships
• Exceptions everywhere where Tech is seen as “coming from abroad”
• Big Players are UAE’s Sovereign Funds, primarily not for Start Ups
• ADIA / ADIO Abu Dhabi Investment Authority / Office 696.66bn $
• ICD Investment Corporation of Dubai 239.38bn $
• Mubadala Investment Company (Abu Dhabi) 228.93bn $
• EIA Emirates Investment Authority (Federation) 45.00bn $
Incubators & Accelerators II
• Selection of Accelerators, Incubators, Tech Hubs
• Area 2071 – Accelerator with focus on “UAE Centennial 2071” https://area2071.ae
• Astrolabs – Co-Working for DigiTech Sector, powered by DMCC (FZ Authority) https://astrolabs.com
• DTEC – Entrepreneur Campus, powered by DSO (FZ Authority) https://dtec.ae
• Dubai Future Accelerator – Private/Public Collaboration Enabler, powered by DFF (Initiative) https://dubaifutureaccelerators.com
• Fazzaa Center – Member Benefit Scheme for Emiratis https://fazaa.ae
• FinTech Hive – Startup Incubator, powered by DIFC (FZ Authority) https://fintechhive.difc.ae
• Flat6Labs – Startup Accelerator, powered by twofour54 (FZ Authority) https://www.flat6labs.com
• Ghadan 21 – Startup Accelerator, powered by Government of Abu Dhabi https://ghadan.abudhabi
• in5 – Enabling Platform, powered by TECOM Group (FZ Authority) https://infive.ae
• Mohammed Bin Rashid Fund for SME (Dubai SME) – Focused Fund to invest in Startups https://thefund.ae
• Silicon Oasis Founders – Mobile Application Incubator, powered by DSO (FZ Authority) https://dso.ae
• Techstars / Hub 71 – Part of Ghadan 21, Startup Community, lead by ADGM https://hub71.com
• Turn8 – Dubai Arm of a US VC Firm as Startup Incubator https://turn8.co
Support from Banks
Support from Banks
• StartUp- and SME-friendly Claim belongs to the “Good Tone”
• ONLY – Not more, not less
• “SME Banking” is in any Bank an existing/established Department
• First Challenge is to even get a Current Bank Account
• High Minimum Balances are Standard – 10 to 100 THOUSAND $
• SME Credit Facilities?
• Traditional UAE Banking: Eligibility if Entity is older than 3 Years
• “Risk Management” and Overcollateralization are massive Bottlenecks
• With view to the Legal Pitfalls of Credit Facilities – anyways advise against
• Placebos for SME’s – FinTech Clones & Blueprints, powered by Banks
• At the End = Mobile Banking Applications “with a Touch”
• Old wine in new bottles: NeoBiz (Mashreq), liv (ENBD), moneysmart (ADCB)
Private Equity | Venture Capital | Funds
• 84 VC & PE Firms, Angel Groups, Micro VC’s & Syndicates, plus
35 Funds are active in the entire UAE – which is obviously low
• Tech Startup Funding:
2018 319m $ (110 deals)
2019 253m $ (105 deals)
• The Segment is small and relatively clear
• Under the Top 10 active Investors are alone 5 Sovereign Funds,
Government owned Free Zones or their Accelerators:
Mubadala, ICD, Flat6Labs, twofour54, DSO
• Many established Business Conglomerates in UAE
are active as investor too, without going public
or promoting themselves
Sources: crunchbase, CBINSIGHTS
Facilitation:
How to start
a Business?
• Jurisdiction Evaluation & Selection
• Incorporation & Structural
Cost Frames
• Administration Procedures
• Pitfalls – Mentality | Processes | Legal
• Setup Helpers – useful?
Jurisdiction Evaluation & Selection I
1. Judge the Jurisdiction Category
primarily by your Market Approach
• Focus Mainland / Domestic Market Mainland Setup
• Focus Overseas Markets Free Zone Setup
• Focus Both Free Zone & Mainland Distributor
• Focus Conveying, IP, Commissions etc. Offshore Setup
2. Localize your Jurisdiction Candidates
• Cluster Focus of Jurisdictions (e.g. Thematic Free Zones)
• Operational Jurisdiction Features
• Geographical Preferences, e.g. Distance Living vs Working
• Pricing of Structural Cost, Residency Cost etc.
Jurisdiction Evaluation & Selection II
3. Perform a Feasibility about your
Jurisdiction Candidates
• Cost Parameters like Rent, Electricity, Water, Gas etc.
• Checkup of Communication Quality (Provider vs. Provider, Bandwidth etc.)
• Connectivity Individual / Public Transport
• Ease of Administration Processes to setup the Entity
• Visit the Candidates to get a “Look and Feel”
4. Make a Cross-Check for your Result Matrix
• Consult Jurisdiction Administrations with “One Stop Red Tape” or Dialogue Centers
• Open up in already established Offices of Companies in the Jurisdiction and ASK
• Consult Business Helpers, Advisors or Law Firms
5. Decide
Incorporation & Structural Cost Frames
• For better Comparison – only Setup and Structural Cost compared
• Operational Parameters vary for each Business Case
• Professional Fees for “Helpers” not reflected = Do-it-yourself
• Auditing Fees, ESR and other Corporate Compliance Charges not reflected
Mainland
Entity
Free Zone
Entity
Financial
Free Zone Entity
Offshore
Entity
Cost of Incorporation
(one-off)
from 2,000 $
to 4,000 $
from 600 $
to 4,500 $
from 1,000 $
to 5,000 $
from 500 $
to 1,000 $
Annual Structural Cost
(from Year 1 onwards,
with min. Commercial Facility)
from 7,500 $
to 25,000 $
from 8,800 $
to 14,700 $
from 20,000 $
to 30,000 $
from 1,500 $
to 3,000 $
Administration Procedures
• Admin Procedures vary from Authority
to Authority, but have similar Workflows
Pre- and Company / Trade
Name Approval
• Criminal / Database
Checks of Applicant(s)
• Legal, Exclusion &
Duplication Name Check
Signing with Attestation of Incorporation
Documents and related Contracts
(e.g. Office Facility)
• Mainland Entity: Memorandum & Articles
to be notarized
• Physical Presence in Principle required
• Covid-19 brought some Improvements (Digitalization)
Delivery of Corporate
Documents
• Increasing Electronic Delivery
and Courier Delivery
Ready for Follow-Up
Contracting
• Electricity, Telecom, etc.
Registration of Entity &
Members
Pitfalls – Mentality | Processes | Legal
• Cultural Competence is essential when dealing with “Locals”
• Also when dealing with Non-Locals including those who want to be “Local” but aren’t
• English = established Working Language, but not the official Administration Language
• No Survival in Abu Dhabi without Arabic (!), for example
• Early Birds leave their Offices . . . also early
• ‫ة‬ َ‫ر‬ْ‫ﻛ‬ُ‫ﺑ‬ (Bukra)
• Due to the high Speed in Process Digitization and Automation (SMART Solutions)
Hen & Egg Scenarios (decreasing)
• Frequent Escape from “System” to paper – always have a pen with you
• Plus “System Down” as a 10-15% Idle Status
• Translations (EN–AR, AR–EN) are essentially important!
• In case of Disputes and/or Doubts – only Arabic counts
• Waive Google Translate under all Circumstances
• Lawsuits require an Arabic Lawyer – ultimately!
Setup Helpers – useful?
• Business Helper / Facilitator is a large Service Sector in UAE
• Goes from 1-Man-Handy-Street-Companies up to
the Big5 in Audit & Accounting – plus Law Firms of all Sizes
• Support in Facilitation is not regulated
• Useful in more complex Setup Scenarios
• Financial Free Zones, if additional Approvals are required,
Entities of Overseas Companies, Multi Layers
• The higher the Feasibility Needs are, the higher is the Advantage
• Depends primarily on own local Knowledge
• For common Start Ups – limited Advantage
• Alternatives: Liaise with an Incubator / Accelerator
• But again: Depends also on local knowledge vs. given Timeline
Critical Pathways • Ambition as a Downfall?
• Pioneering every Development
• Overregulation
• Complex Horizon of Regulation
• Development of other (regional) Hubs
• Readjustment to the New Normal
• Post Covid Society
• Going with the Digital Developments
The End
REACHOUT – most welcome
Phillip Kraeter
pk@mciclt.net (E-Mail, Zoom)
+31.6 10091370 (WhatsApp, Signal)
Martin Kraeter
mk@mciclt.net (E-Mail, Zoom)
+971.54 4445659 (WhatsApp, Signal)
+84.86 5229150 (WhatsApp, Line, Zalo)

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MCI CLT Lecture at STAMFORD University Bangkok (2020.11)

  • 1. The Economic Landscape of the UAE Entrepreneurial Mindset - How to Start-Up Phillip & Martin Kraeter / 13.11.2020
  • 2. Speaker Introduction Martin Kraeter CEO & Global Head MCI CLT Dubai & Hanoi Law & Tax | Facilitation Law & Economy (Ludwig Maximilians University Munich) Phillip Kraeter CSO & VP Asia MCI CLT The Hague & Dubai Strategy | Research | Holdings International Studies (Leiden University, SISU Shanghai International Studies University)
  • 3. Introduction Preliminaries • Our Lecture intends not to be a Scientific Research • Aimed to give you a Holistic Overview • More as Hands-on Overview or Guide
  • 4. Where are the UAE located?
  • 5. UAE Country Profile • Macro Profile & History • Socio Profile • Economy Profile • Government Profile • Law Schools | Judicial System • 07.11.2020 – Progressive Law Amendments • Taxation & International Compliance
  • 6. Macro Profile & History • Macro Overview • Population: 9.9 mln (2020) • Area: 83,600 km² • GDP (PPP): 746,350 bln $ • Global Rank 34, IMF (2019) • GDP Per Capita (PPP): 69,901$ • Global Rank 6, World Bank (2019) • Unemployment Rate: 2.6% • FDI Inflow: 10.4 bln $ • Currency: UAE Dirham (AED) • Pegged to the US$ • Time Zone: UTC+04:00 • TMF GBC Index: Rank 53/77 • Complexity down from Rank 4 in 2019 • Brief History • Historic Roots: „Tribal States“, a Collection of Sheikhdoms • Nomadic & Loose • 19th & 20th Century: Pearl Diving & Trade with India • 1922 – 1971: British Protectorate & Administration • but never a Colony • 2nd December 1971: 6 Emirates form the Federation of the U.A.E. • Ras Al Khaimah joins 1 month later • 2nd November 2004: Sad Demise of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al Nahyan • Caesura in the further Development of the Country • Not worsening, but becoming different
  • 7. Socio Profile • 11.5% of the Total Population only are „Locals“ = UAE Citizens • Expat Structure: 38.2% India 10.2 % Egypt, 9.5% Bangladesh, 9.4% Pakistan, 6.1% Philippines, 15.1% Others • Emiratization Initiatives • Hard working conditions • Little to no Worker Protection • No Workers Unions • Being addressed
  • 8. Economy Profile • 2nd Largest Economy in Middle East • 24th Largest globally by GDP per Capita (Nominal) • UN, IMF, WTO, WHO, GCC and OPEC Member • Still heavily dependent from Oil & Gas Exploration • Exception: Dubai (O&G = 5% of GDP) • Massive Diversification Efforts • Trade & Distribution • Tourism, MICE, Real Estate • Communication Infrastructure, Technology • Seen as one of the most Open Economies • Rank 18 on ”2020 Index of Economic Freedom” (right behind USA) • Exorbitant strong Focus on Infra- and Urban Structures • Worldwide Leading Road Network • 4 International Airports • High Rankings in Tower Statistics • Already Among the Strongest and most Diversified Hubs • Air, Sea, Road • Rail in “Embryo Stadium” • And: Aim for More
  • 9. Government Profile • Political System = Emirate-wise grouped Constitutional Monarchies with „topped-up“ Federal Institutions under a President = Federation • Supreme Council (SC, the 7 Rulers) • SC elects the President and the Vice President (5 years terms) • Since 2006 Personal Union of Vice President and Prime Minister • Prime Minister appoints the Council of Ministers (Cabinet) • Federal National Council (FNC, 40 Delegates) = Parliament • Since 2006 – Election, before: Appointment by Rulers (4 years terms) • Current Reform: 50% Election, 50% Appointment • Legislation Examination, Advice to Cabinet, Accountability for the System • Not an electing Parliament • Plus Point: Great Affection towards Leadership & Institutions
  • 10. Law Schools | Judicial System • 1971 Constitution determines the Division into Local & Federal Courts, generally under Sharia Law, with Supreme Court (SC) in Abu Dhabi (AD) • The underlying Law School is very near to the French / Continental Law School • Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah maintain their Judicial System with Exclusion of SC in AD • Court of 1st Instance | Court of Appeal | Court of Cassation • UAE’s Financial Free Zones (DIFC and ADGM) established their own Legislation and Judicial System, up to their own Courts • Law School is here Common Law, procedures in English Language only • Local & Federal Law & Courts are “excluded” • Various Free Zones are ambitious to establish at least their own Judicial Executive (Arbitration & Court) • Strong Trend: Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) • Arbitration and Mediation as progressive Instruments to shorten and ease (also financially) Disputes
  • 11. 07.11.2020 – Progressive Law Amendments I Really remarkable Amendments to Penal Code | Criminal Law | Inheritance Law!!! • Divorce • Under the Laws of Country where the Marriage took Place • Inheritance • Free Selection of Applicable Law • Harassment | Assault | Honor Crimes • Equal Treatment of “Honor Crimes” = more Protection of Women’s Rights • Punishment for “society judged” Sexual Offenses liberalized • Rape of Minors / someone with limited Mental Capacity – Death Penalty • Decency Laws changed from Imprisonment to Financial Fines (1st offence)
  • 12. 07.11.2020 – Progressive Law Amendments II • Cohabitation • Between unmarried Couples or unrelated mixed-sex Flat Mates is now legal! • Suicide • Decriminalized – favoring instead Mental Health Support • “Good Samaritans” | First Aid Helpers • “Any Person who is committing an Act out of good Intention, that may end up hurting that Person, will not be punished” • Alcohol Consumption • No longer a Criminal Offense, if with or without License • Judicial Procedure • Legal Translators now mandatory to be available for Defendants & Witnesses at the Courts • Publicity is now excluded for Victims of Crimes related to indecent Acts
  • 13. Taxation & International Compliance • Generally seen as a Tax-free Country – not 100% true • Federal Corporate Tax Laws exist, but not executed • Exception: Oil & Gas, Banks & Insurance, Telecommunication • No Federal or Emirati Personal Income Tax • Since 2018: Value Added Tax (VAT) • Actual Tax Rate: 5.0% • Double Taxation Agreements (DTAA) with 117 Countries (as per 10/2020) DTA List – Ministry of Finance • Agile Implementation of Int‘l (OECD, US, EU etc.) Compliance Standards • FATCA, CRS, ESR, UBO Register
  • 14. The Jurisdiction Hypermarket UAE • Mainland Sectors • Free (Trade) Zones • Financial Free Zones • Offshore Register
  • 15. Mainland Sectors • For Mainland Registration and Licensing, all 7 Emirates maintain their own Departments of Economic Developments • UAE Company Law requires for LLC and JSC that min. 51% of Shares are owned by a UAE Citizen • Professional Firms & Branches require National Agent • Lift of 51/49 in some fields, mainly related to high FDI • No Minimum Capital Requirements for Corporations • Was before 300,000 AED (81,750 $) • Business Activities are regulated by a Licensing System with Selection of Activity Codes • Professional | Commercial | Industrial | Tourism License • Annual License Renewal • Commercial | Office Space is mandatory • Commercial Space also Parameter for Visa Quota • Shared Offices with > 1 License prohibited • Virtual Mainland Licenses becoming a Trend • NEW! E Trader | Trader | Merchant License • Originally only for UAE and GCC Nationals • Now open also for Expats – AND no 51/49 • License Focus: Home-, Micro- and Small Business • Expat Limitation: Professional Services • E-Commerce, Social Media Trade, Import and Sales are restricted for UAE and GCC Nationals only
  • 17. Free (Trade) Zones • FTZs - the Main Driver for UAE’s Eco Development & Positioning as Global Hub • > 50 FTZs in UAE • 1985(!): 1st FTZ, Jebel Ali FZ, Dubai JAFZA is also the largest fenced FTZ in the World • > 30 alone in the Emirate of Dubai • Cluster / Theme / Specialized FTZs well established • Main Incentives • No Import or Export Customs Fees • FTZ Guarantee for Exemption from Corporate & Personal Tax, usually for > 15 Years • 100% Foreign Ownership for Independent Entity, Subsidiary, Branch • Semi-independent Jurisdiction • Most flexible Solutions for Commercial Space • Flexi Desk/Office | Regular Office | Warehouse | Plot • But Commercial Space to be taken IN the FTZ • Visa | Residency Quota determined by Space Size • Limitation to Operations inside the FTZ softens • Service Activities unlimited rendered also in Mainland • Trade Activities via Distributor or Branch • Ambitions to define “universal” Localization • Licensing aligned to all different Kind of Activity • Trading | Service | Finance | Industrial License • NEW – Freelancer License (no entity needed) • Licenses to be renewed annually • Free of Tax – but not free from Fee
  • 18. Financial Free Zones Dubai International Financial Center (DIFC) • Established in 2002, operational 2004 • UAE’s first Onshore Financial Centre • Banks, Financial Institutions, Asset Managers, Funds, Insurances, Service Provider • Independent Regulator: Dubai Financial Service Authority (DFSA) • Strict Compliance Regime • Independent Jurisdiction with own Law & Court System (Common Law) • In GFCI on Rank 17 global • Rank (-5) & Rating (-7) in 2020 Source: GFCI, issued 25 Sep 2020 • 40 Years Zero Tax on Corporate Income Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) • Established in 2013, operational 2015 • Banks, Financial Institutions, Asset Managers, Funds, Insurances, Service Provider • Independent Regulator: Financial Services Regulatory Authority (FSRA) • Similar to DIFC: independent Jurisdiction, own Laws, ADGM Court • In GFCI on Rank 33 global • Rank (+6) & Rating (-1) in 2020 Source: GFCI, issued 25 Sep 2020 • Leading Role in Digital Asset Regulation (2018) • Highly attractive for Crypto Companies
  • 19. Offshore Register • UAE established 3 IBC Jurisdictions • Dubai: In JAFZA FTZ • Ras Al Khaimah: RAKICC • Ajman: In Ajman FTZ • “Non-Physical” Entities with Registered Office at Registered Agent’s Place (mandatory) • Usage for: Property Ownership, Holding Business, Wealth Structuring, Inheritance, Commission Trade, IP & Licensing • And “whatever” • Advertised IBC Benefits • No Corporate Tax • 100% Foreign Ownership • 100% Capital and Profit Repatriation • UAE Bank Account • International Invoicing • Limited Liability Company • Privacy and Confidentiality • Multi-Currency Bank Account in UAE • Virtual Office Facilities in UAE • New Development – Trusts & Foundations • Regulatory obstacles
  • 20. The S.W.O.T. of UAE What are the main Strengths? What are the Country’s Weaknesses? Are there any Opportunities on the Horizon? What could Threaten the Country’s Progress?
  • 21. Strengths & Weaknesses Strengths • Infrastructure • Zero Tax* • Hub Geography • Geo-Political Stability in a Turbulent Region • Oil • Tourism Weaknesses • Bureaucratic Inconsistencies • Part. untransparent Regulation • No Member of The Hague Protocol • Over-dependence on few Sectors • Desert Climate
  • 22. Opportunities & Threats Opportunities • Hub Facility to Asia & Africa • strong Emerging Markets • Access to New Markets • Israel - Abraham Agreement • Accelerated Diversification • Technological Advances Threats • Global Pandemics • CoVid19 • Loss of Investments • Other Hubs developing globally • Climate Change • Pegged to USD
  • 23. Startup Support: Does it exist? • Government Initiatives • Incubators & Accelerators • Support from Banks • Private Equity | Venture Capital | Funds
  • 24. Government Initiatives I • Long-term Feature – 100% Foreign Ownership • Mainland partial (increasing), Free Zones, Offshore Register • Modification of Visa / Residency System • 5Y, 10Y, Permanent Residency, Golden Visa, no National Sponsor, up to Naturalization • SME Support in Public Projects • Allocation of 5% of Contract Volume (110m $, Dubai) • Allocation of 20% of EXPO2020 Contract Volume
  • 25. Government Initiatives II • Intensive Efforts towards Technology • First Country establishing a Ministry of Artificial Intelligence • Constant Roll-Out of SMART Initiatives G2C and G2G • Happiness (UAE is also the first Country with its own Ministry of Happiness) • Leveraging of Technologies, mainly Blockchain and AI • Paperless City – Dubai, starting 2021 • Processes – Lean, Fast & Cheap • Dubai Strategy – see https://smartdubai.ae • BUT: “You have to come to our Office!”
  • 26. Incubators & Accelerators I • Strong Focus on Technology, but with Widespread • Buzzword Addiction (AI, Autonomous, 3D, Blockchain, etc.) • Clear Focus and Embedding in the General Emiratization Policy • Omnipresent Initiatives to bring young Emiratis away from Government Jobs into Entrepreneurships • Exceptions everywhere where Tech is seen as “coming from abroad” • Big Players are UAE’s Sovereign Funds, primarily not for Start Ups • ADIA / ADIO Abu Dhabi Investment Authority / Office 696.66bn $ • ICD Investment Corporation of Dubai 239.38bn $ • Mubadala Investment Company (Abu Dhabi) 228.93bn $ • EIA Emirates Investment Authority (Federation) 45.00bn $
  • 27. Incubators & Accelerators II • Selection of Accelerators, Incubators, Tech Hubs • Area 2071 – Accelerator with focus on “UAE Centennial 2071” https://area2071.ae • Astrolabs – Co-Working for DigiTech Sector, powered by DMCC (FZ Authority) https://astrolabs.com • DTEC – Entrepreneur Campus, powered by DSO (FZ Authority) https://dtec.ae • Dubai Future Accelerator – Private/Public Collaboration Enabler, powered by DFF (Initiative) https://dubaifutureaccelerators.com • Fazzaa Center – Member Benefit Scheme for Emiratis https://fazaa.ae • FinTech Hive – Startup Incubator, powered by DIFC (FZ Authority) https://fintechhive.difc.ae • Flat6Labs – Startup Accelerator, powered by twofour54 (FZ Authority) https://www.flat6labs.com • Ghadan 21 – Startup Accelerator, powered by Government of Abu Dhabi https://ghadan.abudhabi • in5 – Enabling Platform, powered by TECOM Group (FZ Authority) https://infive.ae • Mohammed Bin Rashid Fund for SME (Dubai SME) – Focused Fund to invest in Startups https://thefund.ae • Silicon Oasis Founders – Mobile Application Incubator, powered by DSO (FZ Authority) https://dso.ae • Techstars / Hub 71 – Part of Ghadan 21, Startup Community, lead by ADGM https://hub71.com • Turn8 – Dubai Arm of a US VC Firm as Startup Incubator https://turn8.co
  • 29. Support from Banks • StartUp- and SME-friendly Claim belongs to the “Good Tone” • ONLY – Not more, not less • “SME Banking” is in any Bank an existing/established Department • First Challenge is to even get a Current Bank Account • High Minimum Balances are Standard – 10 to 100 THOUSAND $ • SME Credit Facilities? • Traditional UAE Banking: Eligibility if Entity is older than 3 Years • “Risk Management” and Overcollateralization are massive Bottlenecks • With view to the Legal Pitfalls of Credit Facilities – anyways advise against • Placebos for SME’s – FinTech Clones & Blueprints, powered by Banks • At the End = Mobile Banking Applications “with a Touch” • Old wine in new bottles: NeoBiz (Mashreq), liv (ENBD), moneysmart (ADCB)
  • 30. Private Equity | Venture Capital | Funds • 84 VC & PE Firms, Angel Groups, Micro VC’s & Syndicates, plus 35 Funds are active in the entire UAE – which is obviously low • Tech Startup Funding: 2018 319m $ (110 deals) 2019 253m $ (105 deals) • The Segment is small and relatively clear • Under the Top 10 active Investors are alone 5 Sovereign Funds, Government owned Free Zones or their Accelerators: Mubadala, ICD, Flat6Labs, twofour54, DSO • Many established Business Conglomerates in UAE are active as investor too, without going public or promoting themselves Sources: crunchbase, CBINSIGHTS
  • 31. Facilitation: How to start a Business? • Jurisdiction Evaluation & Selection • Incorporation & Structural Cost Frames • Administration Procedures • Pitfalls – Mentality | Processes | Legal • Setup Helpers – useful?
  • 32. Jurisdiction Evaluation & Selection I 1. Judge the Jurisdiction Category primarily by your Market Approach • Focus Mainland / Domestic Market Mainland Setup • Focus Overseas Markets Free Zone Setup • Focus Both Free Zone & Mainland Distributor • Focus Conveying, IP, Commissions etc. Offshore Setup 2. Localize your Jurisdiction Candidates • Cluster Focus of Jurisdictions (e.g. Thematic Free Zones) • Operational Jurisdiction Features • Geographical Preferences, e.g. Distance Living vs Working • Pricing of Structural Cost, Residency Cost etc.
  • 33. Jurisdiction Evaluation & Selection II 3. Perform a Feasibility about your Jurisdiction Candidates • Cost Parameters like Rent, Electricity, Water, Gas etc. • Checkup of Communication Quality (Provider vs. Provider, Bandwidth etc.) • Connectivity Individual / Public Transport • Ease of Administration Processes to setup the Entity • Visit the Candidates to get a “Look and Feel” 4. Make a Cross-Check for your Result Matrix • Consult Jurisdiction Administrations with “One Stop Red Tape” or Dialogue Centers • Open up in already established Offices of Companies in the Jurisdiction and ASK • Consult Business Helpers, Advisors or Law Firms 5. Decide
  • 34. Incorporation & Structural Cost Frames • For better Comparison – only Setup and Structural Cost compared • Operational Parameters vary for each Business Case • Professional Fees for “Helpers” not reflected = Do-it-yourself • Auditing Fees, ESR and other Corporate Compliance Charges not reflected Mainland Entity Free Zone Entity Financial Free Zone Entity Offshore Entity Cost of Incorporation (one-off) from 2,000 $ to 4,000 $ from 600 $ to 4,500 $ from 1,000 $ to 5,000 $ from 500 $ to 1,000 $ Annual Structural Cost (from Year 1 onwards, with min. Commercial Facility) from 7,500 $ to 25,000 $ from 8,800 $ to 14,700 $ from 20,000 $ to 30,000 $ from 1,500 $ to 3,000 $
  • 35. Administration Procedures • Admin Procedures vary from Authority to Authority, but have similar Workflows Pre- and Company / Trade Name Approval • Criminal / Database Checks of Applicant(s) • Legal, Exclusion & Duplication Name Check Signing with Attestation of Incorporation Documents and related Contracts (e.g. Office Facility) • Mainland Entity: Memorandum & Articles to be notarized • Physical Presence in Principle required • Covid-19 brought some Improvements (Digitalization) Delivery of Corporate Documents • Increasing Electronic Delivery and Courier Delivery Ready for Follow-Up Contracting • Electricity, Telecom, etc. Registration of Entity & Members
  • 36. Pitfalls – Mentality | Processes | Legal • Cultural Competence is essential when dealing with “Locals” • Also when dealing with Non-Locals including those who want to be “Local” but aren’t • English = established Working Language, but not the official Administration Language • No Survival in Abu Dhabi without Arabic (!), for example • Early Birds leave their Offices . . . also early • ‫ة‬ َ‫ر‬ْ‫ﻛ‬ُ‫ﺑ‬ (Bukra) • Due to the high Speed in Process Digitization and Automation (SMART Solutions) Hen & Egg Scenarios (decreasing) • Frequent Escape from “System” to paper – always have a pen with you • Plus “System Down” as a 10-15% Idle Status • Translations (EN–AR, AR–EN) are essentially important! • In case of Disputes and/or Doubts – only Arabic counts • Waive Google Translate under all Circumstances • Lawsuits require an Arabic Lawyer – ultimately!
  • 37. Setup Helpers – useful? • Business Helper / Facilitator is a large Service Sector in UAE • Goes from 1-Man-Handy-Street-Companies up to the Big5 in Audit & Accounting – plus Law Firms of all Sizes • Support in Facilitation is not regulated • Useful in more complex Setup Scenarios • Financial Free Zones, if additional Approvals are required, Entities of Overseas Companies, Multi Layers • The higher the Feasibility Needs are, the higher is the Advantage • Depends primarily on own local Knowledge • For common Start Ups – limited Advantage • Alternatives: Liaise with an Incubator / Accelerator • But again: Depends also on local knowledge vs. given Timeline
  • 38. Critical Pathways • Ambition as a Downfall? • Pioneering every Development • Overregulation • Complex Horizon of Regulation • Development of other (regional) Hubs • Readjustment to the New Normal • Post Covid Society • Going with the Digital Developments
  • 39. The End REACHOUT – most welcome Phillip Kraeter pk@mciclt.net (E-Mail, Zoom) +31.6 10091370 (WhatsApp, Signal) Martin Kraeter mk@mciclt.net (E-Mail, Zoom) +971.54 4445659 (WhatsApp, Signal) +84.86 5229150 (WhatsApp, Line, Zalo)