Business confidence in the UAE is returning after the initial impact of covid-19, and so too are foreign firms establishing themselves in the region. Alia Haskouri explains the mood of optimism

According to the National Economic Register, the number of foreign companies operating in the UAE grew by 3.5% in December 2020.

This surge came after the government announced in November an overhaul of foreign ownership rules for commercial companies, which demonstrated that the UAE is open for business. This reform means that UAE onshore companies will soon be able to be wholly owned by foreign shareholders.

The previous requirement that foreign companies appoint a local service agent for UAE branches has also been removed. These changes are expected to bring further significant increases in companies establishing themselves in the UAE during 2021 and beyond. 

Business leaders in the region believe that the increase in foreign companies and high net worth individuals investing in, or relocating to, the UAE has also been influenced by the practical response to the covid-19 pandemic. 

The UAE has one of the highest per-capita testing rates in the world and is currently second in the world per-capita for vaccinations. 

Other initiatives that have contributed to Dubai's recent resurgence include the launch of its virtual visa scheme, the virtual company license (allowing entrepreneurs to do business in the country digitally) and the retirement programme for expats and foreigners who are over 55. 

These all demonstrate that the UAE does not stand still.  Doing business in the region is becoming easier and more rewarding. And with a continued focus on attracting business to the region, the future is looking bright. 

Alia Haskouri is associate director at JTC in Dubai