Dubai Airport Freezone Authority releases new ‘Strategic Plan 2017 – 2021’

H.H. Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Chairman of the Dubai Airport Freezone Authority (DAFZ), has revealed the launching of DAFZ’s new ‘Strategic Plan 2017 – 2021’ designed to support the vision of building a Freezone that goes beyond, in line with the strategic goals of Dubai Plan 2021. The official announcement was made during DAFZ’s celebration of 20 years of excellence, leadership, and achievements that have made it a key player in transforming Dubai into one of the world’s leading business and investment destinations.

H.H. Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum said: “We are taking a new step towards the path of excellence as we celebrate two decades of existence. As a role model, DAFZ has helped boost the economic development of Dubai behind our corporate values of innovation, honesty, national responsibility, and teamwork. We are proud of our highly-acclaimed accomplishments achieved in the past 20 years which started out as an aspiration to build a leading Freezone driven by competitiveness and diversification in support of a knowledge-based economy.”

H.H. added: “As we move forward towards the future while remaining loyal to our heritage and proud of our present accomplishments, I am pleased to take this opportunity to announce the launching of our ‘Strategic Plan 2017 – 2021.’ Remaining committed to excellence, DAFZ has successfully joined the ranks of the globe’s most developed and innovative free zones according to the vision of H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, who once said that ‘We shall settle for no less than the first rank.’

H.E. Dr. Mohammed Al Zarooni, DAFZ’s Director General, said that the five-year strategic plan will enable DAFZ to further support the government’s aspiration to make the UAE at the highest rank on all fronts globally. As such, he emphasized that the plan serves as a compass to steer growth efforts towards the right direction by adopting globally recognized standards and pursuing leadership in all key business aspects. DAFZ continues to enjoy its position as a leading hub for business, commerce and investment. The Freezone has played a key role in enhancing the national economy, contributing AED 110 billion to Dubai’s non-oil foreign trade in 2015 to mark a major milestone in DAFZ’s history.

H.E. Dr. Al Zarooni stated: “Our success over the last 20 years is a result of our relentless and diligent efforts under the guidance of our forward-looking leaders as well as the hard work of our competent workforce as we strive to address challenges and overcome obstacles. We have long been motivated to further enhance the leadership of DAFZ, which serves as a gateway to key international markets for foreign and local companies aspiring to expand and capitalize on investment opportunities. We are optimistic about future prospects, more accomplishments and achievements in line with the vision of our leaders, who have always encouraged us to have faith, maintain our resolve, and always persevere to surmount all challenges – reflecting our belief here in the UAE that nothing is impossible.”

Two Decades of Excellence and Leadership

With its two decades of success and clear vision of establishing a leading Freezone in Dubai Airport, DAFZ has become one of the world’s most prestigious free zones. From its humble beginnings, DAFZ has marked many great accomplishments, among them a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 27 per cent in the number of its hosted companies and 24 per cent in the number of employees, which makes the Freezone a haven for doing business freely and achieving success. Such steady growth did not come out of nowhere but rather was a result of ambitious strategies that have paved the way for establishing a Freezone of the future under a discerning leadership that does not know boundaries or limits.

DAFZ’s leadership has crafted new criteria for achieving excellence in free zone development. From two central buildings and few warehouses at its launch in 1996, DAFZ has transformed into an attractive investment environment presently hosting 15 office buildings and 290 light industrial units to meet the needs of more than 1,600 companies – many of which are among the world’s Fortune 500.

DAFZ’s growth has not been limited to certain sectors only, though: It has also made notable progress in turning into a preferred destination for direct foreign investment. The Freezone’s remarkable growth has seen 10 core sectors that have achieved a qualitative shift with CAGR 30 per cent for engineering and building materials; 29 per cent for each of the logistics & freight and food & beverage; 26 per cent for pharmaceuticals, nutritional and medical equipment; 25 per cent for oil, coal, natural gas; as well as engines and machines; and aerospace, aviation and related services; 23 per cent for electronics and electrical; and for consumer products; and 22 per cent for automobiles and vehicles.

The CAGR of DAFZ’s assets was at 24 per cent over the last 20 years, as reflected by the increased market value of the Freezone’s office buildings and light industrial units, in conjunction with the increased demand from some of the finest international and multinational companies, and several long-term leasing contracts. The extensive planning for development projects within the Freezone has been among the driving forces of growth as it involved in-depth and broad analyses and investment studies that have helped significantly boost revenues from assets. DAFZ’s revenues, on the other hand, recorded a CAGR of 27 per cent powered by high occupancy rates within office and industrial units attributed to the Freezone’s modern and advanced infrastructure, as well as the availability of flexible office solutions meeting the high demands of customers from all sectors.

Moreover, a net profit CAGR of 45 per cent was achieved, thanks to a steady rise in operational profits, the availability of financial sources, improved operational processes, and the adoption of a visionary governance policy.

The earnings before interest and depreciation (EBID) accounted for a significant share of the CAGR over the past two decades at 43 per cent. One of the most recognizable drivers of growth in EBID is the improved profit margins because of the faster rise in revenues and sales prices over cost and the growth in built-up area (BUA) and net leasable area (NLA). These coupled with the successful implementation of a series of energy saving programs and green initiatives led to the awarding of LEED certification in energy and environmental design to DAFZ.

DAFZ also continues to play a key role in advancing Dubai’s economy by supporting the national strategies of economic diversification, competitiveness and innovation. This has been reflected within the last two decades in the remarkable financial results and economic impact of DAFZ.

Strategic Plan 2017 – 2021: Changing DAFZ’s competitive landscape

The ‘Strategic Plan 2017 – 2021’ consists of the four key perspectives of learning and innovation, internal process, customer, and financial perspectives. New objectives and business programs will be launched to keep abreast of and anticipate new developments over the next five years in line with DAFZ’s mission to actively contribute to the UAE’s economy by promoting innovation and smart solutions as well as attracting international investors to its customer-oriented business environment driven by a passionate entrepreneurial workgroup. To ensure that the Strategic Plan is in sync with Dubai Plan 2021, the strategy timeline has been extended from three to five years to be in line with and support the Dubai Government’s strategies for major areas such as smart transformation, innovation, happiness, open-source data, clean energy, sustainable development, Islamic economy, and the upcoming Expo 2020.

H.E. Dr. Al Zarooni also shared that the Strategic Plan contains 13 strategic goals to optimize investment prospects according to the national development plan as well as contribute to building a competitive and diversified economy for future prosperity. He pointed out that the plan focuses on DAFZ’s investment opportunities and competitive advantages, with special emphasis on highly qualified employees and a customer-centric corporate culture as well as sustaining a strong brand image to achieve desired growth.

H.E. Dr. Al Zarooni added that the new strategic plan aims to attract more foreign direct investments from leading markets in a manner consistent with DAFZ’s key role in fostering national economic prosperity through increased GDP contributions.

H.E. Dr. Al Zarooni said: “We look forward to maximizing the satisfaction of all stakeholders and creating new opportunities for our partners. To this end, we will continuously develop and improve the quality of our services by offering an array of smart and integrated solutions delivered using advanced technologies, modern infrastructure, and high-tech facilities. Realizing the magnitude of existing and emerging challenges at the local and global levels, the plan will identify and devise innovative approaches to efficiently and effectively address these issues. We will rely on innovation and research and development to achieve our goals as well as encourage and provide innovative solutions and creative products and services in hopes of building a free zone that goes beyond all boundaries and traditional concepts.”

“We will remain committed to our national and social responsibilities by implementing the objectives of our new strategic plan, which mainly aims to contribute positively to the UAE’s prosperity. As we look to the future with faith and confidence, DAFZ led by our qualified and creative employees will foster a positive culture and reinforce our strengths to ultimately achieve our vision, mission, and strategic goals,” H.E. Dr. Al Zarooni added. 

The first of the four main perspectives of the new ‘Strategic Plan 2017 – 2021,’ which contains 13 strategic goals and is in line with the growth of Dubai and the UAE, focuses on the financial aspect to enable DAFZ to assume the key role of driving national economic growth. To achieve this, DAFZ will aim to attract foreign direct investments from highly valued and established businesses in major and economically active markets. It will also maximize its profits through trade diversification, joint ventures, the provision of an array of new commercial products and services, and fostering and spreading a culture of the national responsibility across the Freezone.

The second perspective underscores the importance of customer happiness and satisfaction, which drives the demand for services that enhance client experiences and engagement according to the best international standards as well as encourages partnerships to develop unique and value-added solutions.

The third perspective centers on increasing and enhancing the quality of life in Dubai. As such, DAFZ will emphasize security, smart systems and sustainability across its existing and future projects, in addition to sustaining its global leadership by implementing the best international practices, forging new partnerships, and encouraging research and development. DAFZ will also strive to surpass investors’ expectations through the provision of leading, smart, integrated, and technology-driven services.

Learning and innovation is the fourth and last perspective which aims to establish a culture of happiness by engaging, retaining and providing high-performing and distinguished talents within a positive work environment. DAFZ will focus on their professional development by effectively investing in their skills, potentials, and knowledge competencies. Moreover, the fourth perspective seeks to improve managerial accountability; transform the office culture based on the employees’ performance and productivity; and promote DAFZ’s status as a world-class, innovation- driven organization.


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