19th March 2022


Mohamed Al Dhaheri, Acting Executive Director of the Abu Dhabi Investment Office (ADIO) shares the benefits of doing business in Abu Dhabi

What are the benefits for international companies choosing Abu Dhabi as their base to enter or expand in the UAE, Middle East and wider region? 

The UAE is the second largest economy in the Middle East and one of the best places in the world to do business. Investors choosing Abu Dhabi can leverage the UAE capital’s position as a strategic trade hub and launchpad to the wider region, with 80% of the world’s population within an eight-hour flight. 

Abu Dhabi stands out for the level of support available and for a commitment to making business as easy as possible. The Abu Dhabi Investment Office (ADIO) can plug international investors into an integrated support network, whether a company is looking for funding, networks, community or mentorship. These include business enablers, free zones, equity investors, incubators and accelerators.

How easy is doing business in Abu Dhabi? 

Abu Dhabi is one of the easiest places in the world to do business thanks to the positive investment environment, enabling regulations, stability and security, access to talent, liveability, cutting-edge infrastructure and connectivity. 

Abu Dhabi has put in place initiatives to expedite the set-up process and support businesses looking to make the emirate their home. From lower business setup fees to reduced requirements for starting a new commercial business, Abu Dhabi continues to streamline the establishment process. The Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development (ADDED), for instance, has cut fees for commercial licence issuance and renewal by over 90%, reduced the regulatory burden by over 70% and introduced a new seamless digital experience for opening a new business in Abu Dhabi.

Financial and non-financial incentives are available to help businesses set up in the emirate. Investors can access financial support through grants and rebates from ADIO, as well as equity investments through ecosystem players such as ADQ and Mubadala. ADIO also provides non-financial incentives including assistance with access to facilities, regulatory assistance for visas and licences, and potential exemptions for select government fees and requirements. 

The UAE Commercial Companies Law was amended to permit 100% foreign ownership of companies incorporated in the UAE, effective on 1 June 2021. In Abu Dhabi, non-citizens are permitted to own economic licences and establish commercial companies with full 100% ownership for 1,105 registered commercial and industrial activities across a range of sectors. This promotes an open, flexible and business-friendly environment, demonstrating the government’s commitment to providing companies with the optimum conditions they need to operate. 

Abu Dhabi’s five free zones, ADGM, KIZAD, Masdar City, Abu Dhabi Airport Free Zone (ADAFZ) and Twofour54, offer easy business setup and support for companies and startups, and have tailored regulations to meet the needs of the relevant industries they serve. 

All these initiatives reflect the strength of collaboration and engagement between the government and private sector to identify evolving requirements and develop effective solutions to make doing business in Abu Dhabi as seamless as possible.

How easy is it to move to Abu Dhabi?  

To attract talent, immigration processes are designed to make it easy for skilled workers and those with higher education qualifications to obtain work permits. The UAE introduced long-term Golden Visas in 2019 for international talent working, creating, studying, excelling and investing in key sectors, and began offering citizenship to select foreigners and professionals in 2021. The UAE’s Golden Visa is available in Abu Dhabi for international investors and top talent from around the world, providing them with visas for up to 10 years. The “Thrive in Abu Dhabi” programme, launched in 2021, builds on this initiative by encouraging talented professionals, students and investors to set down roots by highlighting the long-term residency in line with the emirate’s goals, specifically in terms of growing priority sectors and industries.

Is Abu Dhabi focused on any sectors in particular?  

Abu Dhabi has made it a priority to advance technological solutions that further economic progress for the region and beyond. Consequently, innovation is an underlying theme for many of the emirate’s initiatives to support international investors. 

ADIO focuses on creating partnerships with companies in innovation-focused sectors such as financial services, ICT, health services and biopharma, tourism and AgTech, among others. These are areas in which Abu Dhabi has a competitive advantage and can help drive innovation for global impact. The depth of support that the government provides to encourage the private sector to develop innovation in these sectors and others is a defining characteristic of Abu Dhabi’s business environment. We want to attract innovators, founders and startups to establish and grow here as we have the right incentives and environment to be able to support their development. ADIO’s Innovation Programme and many other government initiatives focus on supporting entrepreneurs and startups in these sectors. Furthermore, Abu Dhabi is a safe ground for innovation and a place where entrepreneurs can confidently take commercial and creative risks.

How can ADIO help international investors establish and grow in Abu Dhabi? 

ADIO is the first port of call in Abu Dhabi for international investors. Our role is to support and guide companies to set them up for long-term success in Abu Dhabi. We help them understand the opportunities the market has to offer, highlighting areas for growth, facilitating connections with relevant entities and crafting long-term partnerships. Our investor care team provides a comprehensive range of tailored services that support the ambitions and ongoing growth of investors. These are complemented by comprehensive cash and non-cash incentives for businesses operating in high-growth areas.

Does ADIO have a presence outside of Abu Dhabi? 

Our international office network acts as an extension of ADIO. Our offices in Tel Aviv, New York, San Francisco, Frankfurt, London, Paris, Beijing and Seoul focus on facilitating connections between companies in those markets and Abu Dhabi.

How can international investors contact ADIO? 

ADIO’s Investor Care team is ready to assist international investors on every stage of their journey in Abu Dhabi. They can get in touch via the ADIO website (www.investinabudhabi.ae) or by contacting on our international offices.