The Sharjah-British roundtable is the latest in a series of initiatives undertaken by Shurooq in keeping with its ambitious strategy and ongoing effort to highlight the Emirate's flourishing tourism industry and investment opportunities available in various economic sectors. The event was attended by Sheikha Bodour bint Sultan Al Qasimi, Chairperson of the Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq); HE Edward Hobart, British Consul General; HE Abdulla Al Mahyan, Chairman of Sharjah Health Authority and Sharjah Healthcare City, HE Marwan bin Jassim Al Sarkal, CEO of Shurooq; Hussain Al Mahmoudi, Director General of Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and David Burns, Deputy Chair of the British Business Group, as well as a number of government representatives from both Sharjah and Britain, as well as members of the British Business Group and the British business community in the UAE. The roundtable involved presentations by representatives of Shurooq, Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority (SCTDA), Hamriyah Free Zone Authority, Sharjah Environment Company (Bee'ah) and Sharjah Healthcare City. The presentations focussed on the Emirate's four key sectors identified by Shurooq as major areas of potential growth, namely travel and tourism, environment, healthcare, and transport and logistics. Welcoming attendees, Sheikha Bodour bin Sultan Al Qasimi, Chairperson of Shurooq highlighted the deep rooted relations that bind the UAE and the UK, with a focus on the rich history that Sharjah and the UK share. "Sharjah and the UK can by no means be called strangers, rather we share a relationship that dates back centuries - from the early 1800s when what is now Sharjah was still known as the Trucial Coast, to a century later when the staging post in Sharjah for Imperial Airways flights en route from England to India resulted in the UAE's first airport...and the trade relationship between our countries is stronger than ever." "Fast forward to 2014, Sharjah is growing faster than ever before. We have the third largest economy in the Emirates and the most diversified economy in the entire region," Sheikha Bodour Al Qasimi added. Hussain Al Mahmoudi, Director General of Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, emphasised the opportunities that Sharjah's growing economy offers British businesses, stating, "British firms looking to expand or develop their operations in Sharjah are in good company. In January the global ratings agency Standard & Poor's Ratings Services assigned an 'A/A-1' long and short-term foreign and local currency sovereign credit rating to the Emirate of Sharjah and last week we released the results of the first Sharjah Chamber Business Confidence Survey, conducted with the international company Dun & Bradstreet. The results clearly showed the confidence in Sharjah's business community with 96% of correspondents expecting the business outlook to remain stable or improve. Furthermore some 64 % of all companies surveyed expect to invest to expand their capacity over the coming 12 months and a further 55 % indicated that they are planning technology upgrades in the same period. UK companies are looking for attractive business opportunities in locations that support free trade, are free from corruption, have a highly educated workforce, and a good quality of life, all of which Sharjah can offer." British Consul General, HE Edward Hobart remarked that the attractive business environment in Sharjah, progressive legislation, sophisticated infrastructure, logistics and space, all together provide an investor-friendly environment conducive for further British investment. He elaborated, "The relationship we have with Sharjah is the oldest we have in the UAE. This is the first place that British companies came and did substantial business and they've been part of the development of the infrastructure of Sharjah over the last fifty years. The leadership of Sharjah has ambitious plans for growth in different sectors and that means lots of opportunities for British companies to be partners in that and to grow their business working with Sharjah. The UK economy has recovered and is growing but to keep that growth going we have to do trade overseas, to export, and build new partnerships and new markets. The UAE represents a really important market for us - one that is growing and expanding and one that our business community knows well, allowing it to build on that relationship." In his welcome note David Burns, Deputy Chair, British Business Group, remarked, "The British Business Group specifically works to support SME's, and Sharjah is the hub of SME's in the UAE. Businesses in Sharjah have always demonstrated a very sound and professional business ethic and the British Business Group is proud and honoured to engage with the British business community in Sharjah in particular. The British Business Group in Dubai and the Northern Emirates is the biggest British Business Group in the world and the largest business group in the GCC. We appreciate the engagement by Shurooq in furthering that relationship between the two communities. We'd like to personally thank the organisers from Sharjah and the attendees of this roundtable in demonstrating their commitment to furthering business relations in Sharjah." The emirate of Sharjah and the UK enjoy a longstanding and highly successful relationship. In 2012, the value of trade exchange between Sharjah and the UK was AED 1.1 billion. Although there has been a slight decrease in the overall trade between Sharjah and the UK - trade in 2010 was AED 1.2 billion. There are more than 100,000 UK expatriates live in the UAE- the UK's largest trading partner in the Middle East - working in more than 5,000 UK businesses in the emirates which draw, alongside tourism, more than one million British visitors through 170 weekly flights between the two countries. CEO of Shurooq HE Marwan bin Jassim Al Sarkal said: "Shurooq's main focus is to create and facilitate investment and development opportunities in Sharjah through careful planning and designing of Sharjah's key tourism and development assets to create a diverse portfolio of projects that include heritage preservation, waterfront developments, retail, commercial and residential offerings as well as by stimulating new activities in key sectors such as healthcare, energy, the environment and logistics." Sharjah is becoming an increasingly popular tourism and leisure destination thanks to the strategy laid by His Highness Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, and the close follow up of Sheikha Bodour bint Sultan Al Qasimi, Chairperson of Shurooq. This strategy has seen a diverse range of projects across the major sectors being undertaken by Shurooq, which offer highly rewarding investment opportunities for local and foreign investors. In line with Sharjah's overall strategy, Shurooq has initiated a large array of ground breaking projects, aimed at stimulating the Emirate's burgeoning tourism sector, such as Al Jabal Resort - The Chedi Khorfakkan, Sir Bu Nair Island, the Heart of Sharjah, Al Bait Hotel, Al Majaz Waterfront, Flag Island, the Kalba Eco-tourism project, Al Montazah Park, and Al Hisn Island - Dibba Al Hisn." Emphasising the special relationship between Sharjah and Britain, the Shurooq CEO said, "The emirate of Sharjah and the UK enjoy a longstanding and highly successful relationship. In 2012, the value of trade exchange between Sharjah and the UK was AED 1.1 billion. Although there has been a slight decrease in the overall trade between Sharjah and the UK - trade in 2010 was AED 1.2 billion. There are more than 100,000 UK expatriates live in the UAE- the UK's largest trading partner in the Middle East - working in more than 5,000 UK businesses in the emirates which draw, alongside tourism, more than one million British visitors through 170 weekly flights between the two countries." On Sharjah's advances in the field of sustainability, Meera Taryam, Director of Environmental Services & Education the Sharjah Environment Company (Bee'ah), said, "The UAE government is proactively implementing stricter environmental legislations and setting targets for renewable energies. This is spurring both public and private sectors to explore ways to achieve compliance and generate demand for environmental services. Bee'ah aims to tackle waste in the region and build a strong waste management infrastructure, with the ultimate goal of leading the emirate of Sharjah to become the first city in the Middle East to achieve Zero-waste-To-Landfill by 2015. Our aim is to foster the creation of sustainable and economically viable solutions for waste management and to thereby drastically reduce Sharjah and by extension, the UAE's carbon footprint." On Sharjah's logistics sector, Ohoud Ali Abdalla, from Hamriyah Free Zone Authority, highlighted Sharjah's unrivalled strategic location, its direct access to three ports and both the Arabian Gulf and the Indian Ocean, its well-developed air transport and cargo capabilities and the fact that it offers foreign investors and businesses an ideal environment to base their operations in the Gulf region. Emphasizing Sharjah's strength an economic centre, Ohoud said, "Sharjah has the most diversified economy in the region with economic sectors contributing more than 20% of the emirate's GDP. Sharjah is the UAE's industrial powerhouse as it is home to almost one third of industrial activities in the country, powered by durability of the SME sector, which consists of about 45,000 strong and effective companies, making Sharjah an excellent competitive investment destination". Concluding the presentations, Binu Pisharadi, Commercial Affairs Manager of Sharjah Healthcare City (SHCC), outlined the array of opportunities available to prospective investors in Sharjah's healthcare and related fields. Stating, "Sharjah's healthcare industry is expected to grow by 9.3% from its current AED 4.59 Billion to AED 6.55 Billion in that year - he stated that this represents a key opportunity for investors wishing to enter the market." Shurooq was established in 2009 with the aim of achieving social, cultural, environmental and economic development on the basis of Sharjah's distinct Arab and Islamic identity, and to encourage investment by adopting the best international standards in providing quality services that help attract investors from the region and the world. Shurooq's key mission is to provide facilities and incentives to help overcome obstacles facing investment activities in the emirate, evaluate tourism-related infrastructure projects, and lay down the necessary plans to complete such projects. In recognition of its overall accomplishments, Shurooq has been named The Banking Awards 2013 - FDI Agency of the Year in the MENA region in The European's Global Banking and Finance Awards.