Interview with Ms. H.E. Amna Fikri, Ambassador of United Arab Emirates to Finland

H.E. Amna Fikri, Ambassador of United Arab Emirates to Finland, previously served as an Economic Advisor to Minister of State HE Ahmed Al Sayegh since October 2022. Also served as Director of the Economic and Trade Affairs (ETA) Department of UAE.

We have had the privilege of speaking with Her Excellency Amna Fikri, the Ambassador of the United Arab Emirates to Finland. Ambassador Fikri brings a wealth of diplomatic experience and a profound understanding of international relations and economic policy to her role. In this interview we delve into Ambassador Fikri's views on UAE-Finland relations, regional dynamics, and the UAE's strategic engagement in the Nordic region.

1. What is the current economic outlook for the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and what are the economic prospects for the country?

The UAE’s policies are focused on supporting long-term economic prosperity and building an economy based on knowledge and diversity, reinforced by scientific and technological progress. The country’s economic strategy has yielded significant success in this regard, and is projected to experience further growth in the years ahead. The UAE has worked over the past five decades to strengthen international partnerships and is moving rapidly to enhance the competitiveness and sustainability of its economy while exploring new opportunities. The UAE also launched national strategic projects to lead the next era of domestic and international growth, called ‘Projects of the 50.’ Projects of the 50 provides an impetus for investment in the digital and circular economies, as well as sectors based on artificial intelligence and the fourth industrial revolution.

In its most recent economic update on the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region ([1]), the World Bank increased its forecast for the UAE’s economic growth in 2025 to 4.1 percent, up from the previous estimate of 3.8 percent. In addition, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the country’s nominal GDP is projected to grow to USD 652 billion by 2028, from a projected USD 536 billion in 2024, signifying approximately a 22 percent increase. Moreover, the country’s inflation rate is projected to maintain around two percent until 2028.

2. Which kind of business opportunities are available for Finnish companies in the UAE?

The UAE’s economic business environment is characterized as dynamic, prosperous, and attractive to direct foreign investments, ranking first amongst Arab nations and holding an advanced position globally as a modern financial, trading and economic hub.

Under the guidance of its wise leadership, the country’s vision for the next 50 years is to become an international hub for investment and economic innovation, with an inclusive system for entrepreneurship, in addition to being an advanced lab for new economic opportunities and projects.

With burgeoning economic growth and low inflation, the UAE continues to offer exciting prospects to any and all investors looking to participate in the nation’s developmental journey.

3. Please outline specific investment opportunities available for Finnish companies in in the UAE.

According to global indices, the UAE has one of the world’s most open economies, and is one of the most attractive environments for foreign investment. Trade, industry and investment lie at the heart of the UAE’s long-term strategy for prosperity, and within the UAE’s federation of seven geographically and economically diverse emirates (Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Ras Al Khaimah, Um Al Quwain and Fujairah) investors can explore myriad opportunities across different business environments and industry sectors.

It is notable that the Commercial Companies Law in the UAE underwent substantial amendments in 2021, introducing prominent features and incentives specifically tailored for foreign investors. These include full ownership privileges across all economic sectors with exceptions limited to activities of strategic impact.

Additionally, foreign investors enjoy complete ownership of various legal forms of companies and the possibility of ownership in sectors with strategic impact under specific legislations. The revised law enables foreign entities to engage in banking and insurance businesses across various legal forms. Notably, limited liability companies are relieved of the obligation to bear the name of their owner. Further advantages include the absence of a requirement for a local service agent, freedom in settling disputes, no minimum capital stipulation for limited liability companies, and the ability to convene a general assembly meeting upon request by partners holding 10% of the LLC's capital, among other benefits. These provisions collectively foster a conducive and attractive environment for foreign investment, facilitating the expansion of foreign enterprises within the UAE.

Reflecting the UAE’s successful efforts in becoming a role model for economic diversification, there are a numerous investment opportunities in key industries such as human capital development, healthcare, industrial manufacturing, logistics, advanced technology, and renewable energy. In particular, the UAE’s investment policies are geared towards attracting national and foreign investments in various sectors, including tourism, technology, AI, space, renewable energy, and water research, amongst others.

4. If a Finnish company decides to invest in the UAE market, what are the most important issues that should be taken into consideration in order to succeed?

Overall, there are two key points that all Finnish companies should consider when deciding to invest and operate in the UAE.

Firstly, it is important to maintain a clear understanding of both federal- and emirate-level laws and regulations. Each emirate has slight variations in their business environments and legal frameworks, which can impact investment decisions. It is crucial to consult UAE-based lawyers and accountants in this regard.

Secondly, it is key to determine whether the company plans to generate income from transactions with the UAE mainland or via foreign markets. This will then determine whether the company should be established within the UAE mainland or within one of the UAE’s more than 40 multidisciplinary free zones. For instance, if a company is established within a UAE free zone and transacts only with international customers, thus sourcing income exclusively from outside the country, it may not therefore be subject to UAE federal corporate tax. As one may appreciate, such decisions can have a significant impact on a business.

5. Which kind of assistance and benefits are available for Finnish companies that would like to invest in the UAE?

The UAE is renowned for providing incentives through tax exemptions and legislation aimed at empowering the private sector. Such incentive structures create a conducive business environment, providing all manner of opportunities to prospective investors, whether as a means of diversifying supply chains or expanding into international markets.

A number of notable incentives include the ‘Golden Visa’ program, which provides long-term residence visas to enable foreign talents to live, work or study in the UAE while enjoying exclusive benefits. In addition, the country does not levy personal income tax on individuals at either the federal or emirate level, while a flat corporate tax on profits over AED 375,000 (€96,000) stands at a modest and globally competitive rate of only nine percent.

Furthermore, the UAE does not withhold tax on UAE-sourced income to non-residents, offers a 100% repatriation allowance on all capital and profits, and maintains zero foreign exchange controls.

Given the dynamic nature of the UAE’s economy, new incentive packages are introduced and implemented on a regular basis, it is, therefore, advisable that Finnish companies interested in investing in the UAE should follow Emirati media outlets for the most up-to-date developments.

6. What rules of the UAE-business culture should a Finnish businessperson be aware?

Following its wise leadership’s directives, the UAE has set a long-term vision to become the best country in the world by its centennial in 2071. As part of this strategy, the UAE is dedicated to ensuring the country is a safe, secure, tolerant, cohesive and ethical society that embraces happiness, a positive lifestyle, and a high quality of life.

Indeed, the UAE today is a diverse, modern and multicultural society of more than 200 nationalities that maintains a spirit of openness to the world, reinforcing integration, adapting best practices, exchanging expertise, technology localization, and collaborating to overcome international economic challenges.

Strategically situated at the crossroads of Europe, Asia, and Africa, the UAE is an ideal hub for trade and commerce, and as such, hosts a productive and welcoming business environment supported by world-class infrastructure, business-friendly policies and a diverse economy making it a prime location for global investors.

7. Please tell us about the tourist attractions and holiday resorts in your country. What about your cuisine?

The UAE is a highly sought-after destination for tourists and business professionals globally, owing to its diverse array of attractions accessible throughout the year. The country stands out as a unique tourist attraction, blending elements of the past, present, and future. The UAE is ranked first in the Middle East for tourism appeal and also holds a prominent global position in this field. This is evident in key indicators like hotel and resort occupancy rates, as well as air and sea transportation activities, among other metrics.

Indeed, the number of hotel guests visiting the UAE increased by 11% in 2022 and 2023, while the generated revenues increased by 15% during the same period. The UAE is considered one of the fastest-recovering economies in the world following the pandemic, particularly in the tourism sector. Notable landmarks in the UAE include Louvre Abu Dhabi (the only Louvre outside of France), Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Qasr Al Hosn, Ferrari World, Warner Bros. World, and Jebel Hafeet in Abu Dhabi, among other compelling destinations in Dubai, such as the Burj Khalifa – the world’s tallest tower - Dubai Mall, the world’s largest shopping destination, and the Palm Jumeirah, a man-made island resembling a palm tree frond.

The country also possesses significant heritage, historical, and archaeological sites across the Northern Emirates and Al Ain city, and is also developing its environmental and marine tourism, particularly due to its captivating desert landscape featuring the world's tallest sand dunes.

Tourism in the UAE thrives as a result of robust support from the service sector, fostering a diverse range of hospitality practices. The UAE is home to more than 200 nationalities, exemplifying a rich model of global cultures, evident in its diverse lifestyle, cuisine, and more. The UAE’s tourism appeal is further enhanced by the implementation of proactive and contemporary government policies, ensuring security, stability, safety, and a welcoming environment for individuals of diverse backgrounds. The UAE's commitment to openness, cultural diversity, religious tolerance, and its strategically advantageous geographical location contribute to its attractiveness as a global hub. Facilitating seamless accessibility, the UAE boasts modern airports equipped with state-of-the-art facilities, providing flights that connect major cities within the country to numerous destinations worldwide. Dubai International Airport, for example, is one of the busiest airports worldwide.

Louvre Abu Dhabi houses a vast collection of artistic masterpieces from various corners of the globe. Moreover, the UAE offers a plethora of theme parks, including the renowned Warner Bros. Park, zoos, and various entertainment facilities, adding to the richness of its tourist offerings. The UAE's appeal as a destination is underpinned by a harmonious blend of cultural, recreational, and business attractions, ensuring a compelling experience for visitors and establishing the country as an unmissable global destination.