UAE's Main Business Sectors

The United Arab Emirates' economy is very open, and the emirate's economy is very open, with a high per capita income. The UAE also has a large trade surplus, and in 2009, its GDP (as a measure of PPP) was $200.4 billion. The per-capita GDP is 14th worldwide, and third in the Middle East.

The economy of the UAE, especially Dubai's, was negatively impacted by the worldwide economic crisis that started in 2007. The economy contracted by 4% last year, but the UAE's overseas investment program is expected to pay for the recovery. The petroleum and gas sector plays a vital role in that recovery; last year, more than 85% of the economy was based on oil and gas exports.

Massive growth in the construction sector, expanded manufacturing capability and a burgeoning services sector are helping the UAE diversify economically. Across the emirate, there are more than $350 billion in construction projects. The export sector is thriving as well- iron, aluminum and steel, textiles and other exports are generating a significant portion of the UAE's GDP, and that number is expected to exceed the petroleum sector's contribution within the next half-century.

The public sector is making progress with several large projects, such as the Burj Khalifa (the tallest building in the world), and the Dubai World Central International Airport will be the highest-cost airport in history when it's completed. The largest artificially-created islands in the world, the Palm Islands, are complete.

Other projects such as the Dubai Mall will certainly expand the tourism sector. The Dubailand theme park & Dubai Sports City will not only provide an ideal tourist destination, but it will play a great role in expanding the entertainment sector.

The import sector increased greatly in size; major increases were seen in machinery, transportation equipment and manufactured goods, which made up 80% of imports last year. The foreign exchange sector, which is dominated by the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority; it manages over $360 billion in foreign investments and a predicted $900 billion worth of assets.

The manufacturing sector is being given a boost by the Jebel Ali industrial complex, which is located in Dubai. The complex includes both a port and a free trade area where all goods that are being exported enjoy duty-free status. Also located in the Jebel Ali complex are a power plant and desalination unit, an aluminum processing plant, and a steel plant. Jebel Ali is expanding, and there are parcels of land put aside for different industrial sectors.

In the UAE, every location but the free trade zones requires that a local own at least 51% equity in a foreign business. That law was put into place in order to put more Emiratis in a position of leadership, but it is currently under review with a possibility of being repealed. Repealing the majority ownership law would be necessary in order to bring the UAE into compliance with WTO rules.

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