A Greenfield Business Delegation had the opportunity to engage in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region in efforts to expand operations abroad. These endeavors have taken Greenfield to Jordan, to attend the Conference and Exhibition on the Reconstruction/Investment of Iraq 2016. In this first blog post, I discuss the prospects of operating in The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. A second blog post on the Iraqi conference will be published in the coming weeks.
The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is extending an invitation to innovators around the globe. If you have thought about starting a company or branching out into a thriving region but don’t know where to begin, try finding out why prominent companies like Microsoft, Samsung, LG, DELL and CISCO have situated themselves in the heart of Jordan, the King Hussein Business Park (KHBP). The Kingdom of Jordan has reinvented itself as an economic hub to access the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), which is a pivotal geographic location rich in natural resources, economic opportunity and ripe investments. Jordan’s premiere port city of Aqaba is a central inlet to the Asian, African and European continents, reinvigorating the old Silk Road by land, air and sea. This area is safeguarded by impressive security forces, granting Jordan economic and political stability in an ever-changing region. Not only are Jordan’s borders secure, but investments are safeguarded by a fixed exchange rate, where the Jordanian dinar is fixed to the United States Dollar via the International Monetary Fund’s Special Drawing Rights. This makes the Jordanian Dinar the most stable currency in the region.
Security, central location, and economic opportunities are indicators as to why large and small companies are flocking to Jordan, but they are not the only reasons. In most cases, it is far more favorable to conduct business operations within Jordan rather than host countries. Jordan has established a set of Free Trade Agreements with the United States which provide unparalleled competition as a startup company or as an established company looking to branch out. According to the Office of the United States Trade Representative:
“In 2009, the United States and Jordan continued to benefit from their extensive economic partnership. A key element of this relationship is the United States-Jordan Free Trade Agreement, which was fully implemented on January 1, 2010. In addition, the Qualifying Industrial Zones (QIZs), established by Congress in 1996, allow products to enter the United States duty-free if manufactured in Israel, Jordan, Egypt, or the West Bank and Gaza. The program has succeeded in stimulating significant business cooperation between Jordan and Israel. Together these measures have played a significant role in boosting overall United States-Jordanian economic ties. U.S. goods exports were $1.2 billion in 2009, up 27 percent from 2008. The United States-Jordan FTA has expanded the trade relationship by reducing barriers for services, providing cutting-edge protection for intellectual property, ensuring regulatory transparency, and requiring effective labor and environmental enforcement. The central oversight body for this Agreement is the United States-Jordan Joint Committee.”
The economic activity brought about by the Free Trade Agreements and the Kingdom’s forward thinking leadership has precipitated a tremendous amount of investment in Jordan. This has initiated the Jordanian Investment Law.
The Jordanian Investment Law places the private sector in the lead among competitors, providing unprecedented streamlining of licensing, permits, and quality services necessary for business operations. The law’s regulatory framework, whose procedures are in line with leading international practices, guarantees effective implementation of business startup processes. Jordan’s regulatory environment also provides investors with an improved business environment, including, but not limited to, the following features:
- No restrictions on foreign ownership
- Clear land ownership policy
- Streamlined business procedures
- Streamlined licensing for expatriates
- Streamlined property registration and transfer
- Streamlined customs regulations to speed import/export of products and materials
- Improved investor protection and disclosure of company transactions
- Improved enforcement of intellectual property rights
- Flexible labor regulations
- Allowances for the establishment of Free Zones within the bounds of Development Zones
The Investment Law’s most promising investment feature is its tax incentives.
The King Hussein Business Park
With rapid economic development occurring in Jordan, no other establishment has its finger on the pulse of business like the King Hussein Business Park (KHBP). KHBP has gone beyond establishing an impressive 120,000 Square Meter campus housing the largest names in ICT, Healthcare, Education, and International Organizations; it has created an environment fit for innovation and networking. This has been the vision of KHBP’s leadership.
Mr. Mohab Murrar, CEO, King Hussein Business Park
Mr. Murrar received our Greenfield Delegation with the same hospitality extended throughout Jordan. The KHBP CEO laid out blue prints for the campus and named a few companies in the many sectors in which he is involved:
- Major ICT, Media, Healthcare, and Education Sectors:
Microsoft, DELL, Ericsson, Samsung, LG, CISCO, Jordan Ahli Bank IT Innovation Center, MBC Group, Bayer, Al-Faisalieh Group (AFG), Schneider, Obeikan, LG New Vison, Bromine, Arabia Weather, Cyberia
- International and Non-Governmental Organization (NGOs):
IATA, DAI-USAID, CRDF-Global, King Abdullah II Fund for Development (KAFD), King Abdullah II Centre for Excellence (KACE), American Chamber of Commerce (AMCHAM), Kingdom Group
- Stars of Jordan in ICT, Media, and Health Sectors:
Rubicon, Arabia Cell, Gaming Lab, Hala FM, Bliss FM, Hakeem (EHS), Migrate, Oasis 500 and many startup companies
Mr. Murrar opened the large cherry wood doors to his office and led Greenfield Advisors on a tour of the KHBP. As we walked through the campus, a Jordanian Zaffa (celebratory march performed with musical procession of drums, bagpipes and horns) erupted in the distance in celebration of the success and diversity on the campus. Entrepreneurs and investors’ alike were networking and mingling over food and drinks. Mr. Mohab stood at the door of a large, beautifully cut modern limestone building with a banner reading “GROW”. With much pride, these were Mr. Murrar’s next words: “Do you want to see something cool?” The Greenfield Delegation entered the building.
KHBP’s GROW initiative is one of many business development projects occurring in KHBP. GROW is home to dozens of startups which share one roof in a collaborative office space. It is Mr. Murrar’s vision to not only provide a growth and development platform by managing and operating smart business ecosystems, but to also create the environment and culture that produces innovation.
“Simply put, we are pioneering an environment where we incubate innovation. We are planning for the future, and creating a culture of entrepreneurship that facilities cooperation among each other to GROW and prosper” – Mr. Mohab Murrar, CEO, King Hussein Business Park
One of the many success stories coming out of the GROW initiative is that of 3D Mena, a hardware incubator for advanced technology. Mr. Loay Malhameh, Cofounder of 3D Mena, received Mr. Murrar and the Greenfield Delegation with an invitation to innovate: “If you have a hardware idea, you need infrastructure, you need the know-how, you need the monetization and to get the product to the market, and at the same time, explore what you can do with the advanced technology. Why do we focus on advanced technology? We want to show the impact of technology on society, especially societies who need it the most.” Mr. Loay showed us his impact on society using advanced technologies.
Mr. Loay started to research and develop 3D printed prosthetics for refugees of war. His goal was to utilize advanced technologies in order to address the shortcomings that the healthcare industry has in making accessible and affordable prosthetics for consumers. Mr. Loay introduced Zain, a 6-year-old boy from Yemen who has lost his left hand to fire. Loay asked Zain, “Who is your superhero?” Zain replied, “Ben-10” (a Cartoon Network character). Loay then created a 3D printed prosthetic fit with a ‘Ben-10’ logo and a light up watch that is identical to the watch the character wears on the animated show. Mr. Loay presented the first prototype that he created for Zain; it was made of reinforced carbon fiber and cost only $75, which is 95% less than the market cost for a prosthetic hand.
Mr. Loay goes on to say, “The Key here is acceptance. When you involve a child in making his own prosthetics, it makes it easier for him, because he comes from a war torn area. So we saw the positive impact of this and took the infrastructure to the FabLab.” FabLab is a term for Fabrication Lab. Mr. Loay took Zain’s experience and created a model in which refugees from all walks of life come to 3D Mena and learn how to use 3D modelling software to fabricate their own personalized prosthetics. This model also allows for children to learn marketable skills like computer programming, project management and advanced technologies.
The development of the FabLab has changed lives. Mr. Mohab Murrar leans back as he takes in another heart felt story, marveling at how creative solutions arise when you place the right people, with the right tools, under one roof. Mr. Loay went on to speak of Ahmad, a boy from Syria who has lost his sight due to a sniper bullet to the eyes. Mr. Loay developed a small robot and installed it to Ahmad’s hand like a watch. This robot has sensors which inform Ahmad of obstacles in his surrounding via haptic feedback, allowing him to walk and navigate through society once more. Ahmad’s first words with the new robotic sensor were “I haven’t been able to walk like this for the last 2 years.” As we were moved by the story, Mr. Loay mentions, “This one cost $31 to make” as the room nods in amazement. Mr. Loay went on to discuss sustainable food production systems for refugees and countless other solutions created in his FabLabs that have been funded by large international agencies.
Innovators like Mr. Loay became the theme of the GROW Initiative. It brought to light innovations and their potential impact on society. Mr. Mohab Murrar directed us to the next stop, Arabia Weather.
Sleek glass doors slide open much like a Sci-Fi film. Mr. Yousef Wadi, Cofounder and CPO of ArabiaWeather, receives us with a handshake as screens flood the scene behind him with interactive maps firing off data and changing weather forecasts.
Mr. Yousef opened with: “There is a big misconception that there is no weather in region, just today Saudi Arabia received rain and flash floods. There was a clear need to start a company for weather forecasting.” Mr. Yousef and his partners started to forecast the region manually, moving towards more sophisticated technologies. This garage startup is now competing on a global level with Weather.com and Accuweather. Arabia Weather has become the global authority on Middle East and North Africa weather forecasting, boasting impressive clients like WNI Weathernews, who purchase data from Arabia Weather to provide to their clients.
Arabia Weather is not just a mobile app, but an information solutions company specialized in weather forecasting. Arabia Weather operates in two main verticals: the B2C vertical, which provides the mobile app and website that makes weather forecasting data available to consumers (free of charge), and the B2B vertical, which has established business to business relationships to solve all agency needs. For example, Abu Dhabi airport, one of the world’s busiest and highest class airports, has officially partnered with Arabia Weather. Arabia Weather provides a product to Abu Dhabi airport named “Sea, Land, Sky”, which provides robust weather data via instant notifications to pilots, mariners and land vehicles, on-call weather forecasters, and integrated Geographic Information Systems for operators to access interactive maps with live data.
Mr. Yousef has no limits to his solutions. He has pushed boundaries with computer program codes capable of Machine Learning, which is a form of Artificial Intelligence in which the algorithm adjusts itself according to the best outputs given the variables presented. This is most useful when agencies like NOAA produce raw datasets, which require solution makers like Arabia Weather to make sense of the data specific to the region.
Expanding the King Hussein Business Park
The success of the King Hussein Business Park has been built upon economic and political stability, access to international markets, robust business infrastructure, highly qualified and experienced workforce, the property’s strategic location, investment law benefits, and high-quality infrastructure and building development. But most importantly, the success of the King Hussein Business Park is due to the forward-thinking vision of the KHBP management. As Mr. Murrar walks the Greenfield Delegation back to the main offices, my colleagues and I couldn’t help but get lost in an impressive business campus sized at 120,000 Square Meters. We were not surprised that the Business Park is set to expand another 1,400,000 Square Meters in the coming years to keep up with the economic growth occurring behind the Business Park’s doors.
KHBP offers CLASS – office space which is planned with contemporary multi-functional designs like flexible open-space, raised flooring housing all connections underneath, cutting-edge communications network and IT infrastructure, all-fiber optic infrastructure, IT systems, the network on-site is a multiple of 10GB, and 1GB for each user, redundant IT and back-up electrical supply. Each floor is equipped with a “low current room”, IP telephony system, multiple layers/levels of security, and reliable international-standard safety system. The offices are connected to a sophisticated bus system that runs every 15 minutes to shuttle tenants of the business park through the immense city. The tenants enjoy parking, cycling tracks, pedestrian friendly environments, great facility management, green infrastructure initiatives, CCTV surveillance systems, 24/7 high-tech security, maintenance solutions, municipal services, state of the art data center and communication systems and even its own firefighting team.
After the tour concluded, it was very clear why companies like Microsoft, Samsung, LG, DELL, CISCO and many others call the King Hussein Business Park home. Whether you’re a startup company seeking to develop through the GROW initiative or are an established company looking to access new markets, Jordan’s FTA’s and Investment laws, in conjunction with the King Hussein Business Park, spells success. KHBP is a place to call home.