Published On: 14-8-2013

  • Potential sectors include shipbuilding, refined petrochemical products, motor vehicles’ parts and accessories
  • In the short to medium term, the number of establishments, employment and investment is expected to increase with the development of Dubai Industrial City

Dubai, UAE: A recently-released Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry study states that the UAE is expected to pursue its diversification programme through large-scale investments in the manufacturing sector.

The potential manufacturing sectors identified include shipbuilding and vessels, basic pharmaceuticals products, refined petrochemical products, motor vehicles parts and accessories and electric power generation, transmission, and distribution products.
The study recommends the UAE manufacturing sector to continue focusing on its long-term trade openness policies to ensure sustainability, especially on policies that promote manufacturing industry for exports to developing markets, while also urging the country to focus on projects that depend on highly advanced technologies which provide high value added to the economy to increase the competitiveness power of this sector in international markets.

At the regional level and in joint efforts with other GCC countries, this particular sector can launch large and efficient manufacturing projects to limit competition among the manufacturers as this creates difficulties in exporting manufacturing products overseas, informs the study.

In its analysis of the economic importance of the sector, the study states that the UAE manufacturing sector is amongst the highest contributing sectors to the UAE’s non-oil GDP over the last decade, with stable percentage contribution of about 14% over the period 2001-2012 showing growth pattern similar to that of the UAE GDP growth path as shown in Figure 1.

Source: Based on UAE National Bureau of Statistic

The study informs that while Dubai has targeted services and light industries, Abu Dhabi believes its competitive advantage lies in heavier manufacturing industries, due to the availability of cheap energy. The development of free zones has spurred investment in UAE manufacturing sector.

The largest and most high-profile of the free zones is Dubai’s Jebel Ali Free Zone that hosts over 6,000 businesses from over 110 countries; 75% of them are involved in trading, warehousing, and distribution while 20% in manufacturing  and the rest in services. The bulk of industrial investment in JAFZA is concentrated on light engineering and final-stage assembly in sectors such as electronics.

Structure of UAE manufacturing sector

Based on the latest data released by the UAE ministry of Economy, Table 1 shows that in 2011, there were 5,201 industrial establishments with total employment of almost 399,794 workers. This is compared to 4,960 industrial establishments in 2010, registering an annual growth rate of 5%.

According to the study, this rating is relatively lower than the average growth rate in the number of establishments over the past few years which averaged about 9% annually. In 2011, about 40% of the manufacturing firms were located in Dubai, 29% in Sharjah, 15% in Ajman and 7% in Abu Dhabi. However, about 58.8% manufacturing sector investments were in Abu Dhabi, 22% in Dubai, 7% in Fujairah and rest in other emirates.

Table 1 : Manufacturing establishment by industry
Industry 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011
Food industries 334 359 379 405 433
Wood products 489 546 615 656 691
Paper products 294 317 362 384 401
Chemical products 679 734 810 857 909
Metallurgy 516 557 616 653 682
Metallurgical products 1,042 1,178 1,315 1,437 1,498
Spinning and weaving industries 267 277 282 290 294
Mining and petroleum refining 69 77 82 87 94
Other industries 162 174 183 191 199
Total 3,852 4,219 4,644 4,960 5,201

Source: Dubai Chamber based on UAE Ministry of Industry statistics

As shown in Table 1, UAE’s main industries include food and beverages, tobacco, chemicals, mineral products, metal products, equipment, paper products, textiles, clothing and wood products. The largest individual manufactured products include aluminium, cabling, petrochemicals, steel, and marine industry products.

In the short to medium term, it is expected that the number of establishments, employment and investment in the manufacturing sector to increase with the development of Dubai Industrial City, a manufacturing zone that focuses on six industrial sectors including  machinery and mechanical equipment, transport equipment and parts, base metals, chemicals, food and beverages and mineral products.


The study states that the UAE manufacturing sector has driven much of the country’s non-oil trade. In 2012, manufacturing exports (including re-exports) accounted for 53% of the UAE’s total non-oil exports of merchandise goods and 22% of total exports including oil exports, which are also considered as relatively high. UAE manufactured exports increased from USD 8.3 billion in 2000 to about USD 59.2 billion in 2012 registering a cumulative annual growth rate of about 18%.

In 2012, about 77% of the UAE manufactured exports went to Asia, 10.4% to Africa, 6.4% to Europe, and the rest to US and other transition economies. Despite the increase in the domestically consumed manufactured products in the UAE with the expansion of the economy, it is estimated that the value of manufactured exports exceeded the domestic consumption, says the study.

Manufacturing sector gross operating surplus

Despite the cyclicality of the manufacturing sector output with the GDP during the global financial and economic crisis, the UAE manufacturing sector sustained positive returns on investment during and post the crisis years.

To have an indication of the generated surpluses in the UAE manufacturing sector, Figure 2 depicts the value of the sector gross operating surplus (GOS) and its annual growth rate. GOS measures generated surplus by the sector from operating activities after the labour factor input has been compensated.

According to data, the GOS of the UAE manufacturing activity has been growing on average by 8.2% for the period 2001-2008, before dropping to -19% growth rate in 2009 reflecting the impact of the global financial and economic crisis. In 2011, the sector profitability started to improve remarkably a trend which has been sustained in 2012, concludes the study.

Source: Based on Dubai Chamber DCMM