Jebel Ali Free Zone (Jafza), the flagship Free Zone operation of Economic Zones World (EZW), has seen 454 multi-national companies joining the Free Zone in 2012, an increase of 26% on the number of new joiners, last year. The growth is quite significant especially that most of the new companies are large multi-nationals and market leaders in their respective fields. 27% of the new companies are from Europe, 25% from the GCC, 21% from Asia Pacific, 9% from Americas and 18% from Africa and West Asia. The biggest number of investors comes from the developed world. In terms of countries, 11% of the new companies are from the UK, 9% from India, 5% each from Germany, France and China. 18% of the new companies have come from the Arab Spring countries. The growth clearly indicates shift in the outlook of developed economies about the Middle East as a lucrative market apart from being one of the largest oil producing regions in the world. Trade remains the main driver of the Free Zone’s growth. 83% of the new companies are engaged in trading, 9% in services and 7% in industrial activities. The total number of active companies in Jafza at the end of 2012 stood at 6,918. These companies are estimated to have generated business worth US$82billion in the year, which accounts for more than a quarter of Dubai’s total non-oil trade. Jafza also accounts for half of Dubai’s total exports. Ibrahim Mohamed Al Janahi, Deputy CEO Jafza and Chief Commercial Officer of Economic Zones World, commenting on Jafza’s distinctive growth in the number of new companies, said: “Continued investor interest in Jafza is quite assuring and reaffirms strong resurgence in regional economies and, at the same time, shows the growing importance of Middle East region for the developed, as well as, developing economies across the world. This also cements Jafza’s status as the region’s gateway and the top trading and logistics centre.” The broader composition of investors’ interest reinforces Jafza and Dubai’s strength as the Business and Trading hub of the Middle East comprising West Asia, Africa, South Asia, and the CIS. The combined GDP of the region exceeds US$8 trillion. The Middle East is considered one of the world’s most affluent and fastest growing regions. More than US$4 trillion is expected to be spent in the region on infrastructure development in the next 10 years. Jafza’s remarkable success in attracting big multinationals is attributed to its unmatched logistics strength, leveraged through its location between the region’s two largest enablers - Jebel Ali Port and Al Maktoum and Dubai International Airport, deep commitment to excellence and efficiency and its investor friendly approach. The economic outlook for the Middle East looks quite good in 2013. Most of the oil exporting countries in the region are expected to grow at healthy rates and these countries will continue to focus on economic diversification. With the easing of the Arab unrest fears the investments in developmental activities in the region are expected to grow significantly in the year, opening huge opportunities for global investors, who, in view of anaemic growth in the US and EU’s continued downturn, are in the lookout for greener markets. Jafza, therefore, expects the growth momentum to pick-up further in 2013.