In the zone
Written by Jonathan Williamson
Dubai-based EZW is one of the globe’s pioneering developers and operators of economic free zones, technology, logistics and industrial parks, the combination of which creates an extensive infrastructure to support the expansion of its booming international customer base.
With the list of enticing benefits on offer, such as 100 percent foreign ownership and repatriation of capital, zero income tax, corporate tax and import/export tax, low operating costs and fast-track business setup, its little wonder many of the world’s top multinationals are flocking to these zones in their droves.
Jebel Ali Free Zone (Jafza), one of the world’s largest and EZW’s flagship operation, has 150 of Fortune Magazine’s top 500 corporations operating within it. Located in the western end of Dubai close to Port Jebel Ali, the world’s largest man-made harbour, Jafza stretches over 48sqkm and contains more than 6,400 companies based in office units, warehouses, light industrial units and self-developed land sites. Other facilities include business centres, hotels, build-to-suit opportunities and world-class logistics connections.
One stop shop
The free zone has created a one-stop solution for any and all services required by a company wishing to establish activities and take advantage of the unique environment contained within. A beneficial step was reducing the amount of approvals needed from various ministers and government departments, with a straight-forward checklist being drawn up to facilitate a smooth set-up.
More than 300 African companies are currently reaping such rewards from Jafza’s many advantages, the majority hailing from Egypt, with Sudan, Tanzania and Kenya making up many of the remainder. Some of the more well-known names include Afrisource, Barloworld Logistics, Dorman Long Engineering, Punch Limited, Kampac Oil and Metra Computer Group.
“Many African countries have huge investment potential, constituting opportunities for companies both within the continent and those based in the UAE,” said EZW Chairman Hisham Abdullah Shirawi.
“In Dubai, especially in Jafza we have the infrastructure to facilitate the establishment of an international dimension for African businesses. We offer facilities for storage, packing, marketing and a means of being connected to a truly global distribution network; all of which are unfortunately not adequately available throughout Africa,” he added.
Though headquartered in the business capital of the Middle East, EZW also has a growing number of wider interests with activities across the UAE, Middle East, India, Asia Pacific, Europe and the Americas. Of increasing importance is EZW’s own presence in Africa through Djibouti Free Zone (DFZ), located on the horn of the continent.
Created with the singular purpose of radically changing the way Africa thinks and conducts business; through DFZ, EZW have shaped the ideal environment in which trade and commerce can flourish.
“Africa is a very promising region, one of the fastest developing economically speaking,” said Shirawi. “It has huge potential in terms of energy, food, agriculture and a host of other resources.
“DFZ is one of the most successful free zones in Africa and we have plans to not only expand that operation, but establish a similar entity elsewhere on the continent particularly where high production facilities exist or could be developed and where raw materials or other opportunities could be leveraged.”
Responsible for developing and overseeing not only Jafza, EZW’s Dubai operations also includes Techno Park – providing specialist facilities for companies wishing to establish a manufacturing or R&D presence; Dubai Auto Zone – an area for the import/export of vehicles and converting a proportion from left-hand to right-hand drive and vice-versa; and Gazeley – a global developer and provider of sustainable logistics solutions.
“When Jafza was established in 1985 under the Late Ruler of Dubai Sheikh Rashid Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, it wasn’t a common activity and many considered it to be a short-lived dream; time has proven otherwise,” said Shirawi. “We have amassed a huge amount of knowledge, overcoming many of the hurdles such an activity creates and we would be very keen to share our experiences with African nations and companies.”
Within Jafza there is a business unit dedicated to working on opportunities such as establishing additional free zones in other parts of the world, with a particular African focus towards energy, like the huge reserves of coal in Mozambique, and agriculture, with corn being considered as not only a potential food source, but also a synthetic fuel.
“We have to consider each of them, prioritising on the basis of ease of execution, fastest payback period and the willingness of a country to invest in one sector over another; then we can establish our collaborative economic activities. The opportunity really is huge,” said Shirawi.
For African regions wishing to establish their own free zones, the final vision has to be the focus, said Shirawi: “What type of environment do countries ultimately want to operate in among themselves and the rest of the world in 10, 20, 50 years?”
“Once that vision becomes clear, it’s then easier to work backwards and define the rules, regulations, modifications and requirements needed that will facilitate certain stage to achieve that end goal. At each stage feedback must be gathered to monitor progress and see what has already been achieved.”
“Africa, like any other continent, is going to be integrated with the rest of the world’s economy; you can’t simply live in isolation anymore. You have to talk to your neighbour because we all have common interests, to try and do otherwise is impossible,” he concluded.Writte
GfK and VMware: Innovating together on hybrid cloud
GfK has been the global leader in data and analytics for more than 85 years, supplying its clients with optimised decision inputs.
In its capacity as a strategic and technical partner, VMware has been walking GfK along its digital transformation path for over a decade.
“We are a demanding and singularly dynamic customer, which is why a close partnership with VMware is integral to the success of everyone involved,” said Joerg Hesselink, Global Head of Infrastructure, GfK IT Services.
Four years ago, the Nuremberg-based researcher expanded its on-premises infrastructure by introducing VMware vRealize Automation. In doing so, it laid a solid foundation, resulting in a self-service hybrid-cloud environment.
By expanding on the basis of VMware Cloud on AWS and VMware Cloud Foundation with vRealize Cloud Management, GfK has given itself a secure infrastructure and reliable operations by efficiently operating processes, policies, people and tools in both private and public cloud environments.
One important step for GfK involved migrating from multiple cloud providers to just a single one. The team chose VMware.
“VMware is the market leader for on-premises virtualisation and hybrid-cloud solutions, so it was only logical to tackle the next project for the future together,” says Hesselink.
Migration to the VMware-based environment was integrated into existing hardware simply and smoothly in April 2020. Going forward, GfK’s new hybrid cloud model will establish a harmonised core system complete with VMware Cloud on AWS, VMware Cloud Foundation with vRealize Cloud Management and a volume rising from an initial 500 VMs to a total of 4,000 VMs.
“We are modernising, protecting and scaling our applications with the world’s leading hybrid cloud solution: VMware Cloud on AWS, following VMware on Google Cloud Platform,” adds Hesselink.
The hybrid cloud-based infrastructure also empowers GfK to respond to new and future projects with astonishing agility: Resources can now be shifted quickly and easily from the private to the public cloud – without modifying the nature of interaction with the environment.
The gfknewron project is a good example – the company’s latest AI-powered product is based exclusively on public cloud technology. The consistency guaranteed by VMware Cloud on AWS eases the burden on both regular staff and the IT team. Better still, since the teams are already familiar with the VMware environment, the learning curve for upskilling is short.
One very important factor for the GfK was that VMware Cloud on AWS constituted an investment in future-proof technology that will stay relevant.
“The new cloud-based infrastructure comprising VMware Cloud on AWS and VMware Cloud Foundation forges a successful link between on-premises and cloud-based solutions,” says Hesselink. “That in turn enables GfK to efficiently develop its own modern applications and solutions.
“In market research, everything is data-driven. So, we need the best technological basis to efficiently process large volumes of data and consistently distill them into logical insights that genuinely benefit the client.
“We transform data and information into actionable knowledge that serves as a sustainable driver of business growth. VMware Cloud on AWS is an investment in a platform that helps us be well prepared for whatever the future may hold.”