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Jul 26 2013

Recent Changes in UAE Laws Expand Association Business Opportunity

Dubai Assn Centre.All comes together

“Non Profit” Status Now Recognized Eases Rules to Open Independently

Until recently, if you wanted to open your own commercial operation as an association in the Middle East you were treated like any for-profit corporation. You either had to let locals own 51% of your activities and they got a permanent seat on your Board (among other things) or operate through a free zone, which would give you 100% ownership but categorized as a for profit corporation.

For several years, various government organizations including Dubai Chamber of Commerce & Industry, the Dubai World Trade Centre, Dubai Tourism & Commerce Marketing, and MCI Middle East (the MENA region’s leading global association management & consulting company) have been working to gain more favorable recognition of associations by reclassifying their business as “nonprofit” as well as remove the requirement of local ownership in their organizations. The rationale for this treatment presented to local officials were fivefold:

  1. Associations were established in their home markets as nonprofits meaning that any net revenues are reinvested in new programs and services that benefit the members who join their organization;
  2. Associations exist to promote and grow an industry or a profession and offer programs and services that uniquely benefit not only the industry or profession it serves but also society as a whole;
  3. Associations as nonprofit entities do not have owners nor do they offer/sell shares;
  4. Associations have elected volunteer leadership at the global, regional and local levels of management who are not compensated for their efforts to develop new knowledge, programs or services;
  5. Associations are often mission-driven in their desire to serve the public beyond the members.

Local UAE officials began to see they could achieve a stronger position among the world’s association community by lowering barriers to establishing regional HQ nonprofit operations in Dubai to serve the UAE, GCC and MENA.  Such a strategy could position the UAE as a leading business destination for foreign associations in the GCC and MENA.

Toward an Exciting New Reality

Thanks to these efforts the Dubai government has approved laws that would confer nonprofit status for foreign associations as well as remove local ownership requirements so long as they establish their nonprofit business presence in a new facility called the Dubai Association Centre (DAC) located in the heart of Dubai at the Dubai World Trade Centre.

US associations will be able to open their own independent office featuring:

  • A business license operating from the Dubai Association Centre as well as office space
  • Visas for staff
  • Ability to open a bank account
  • A legal framework to offer products and services in the local market
  • An opportunity to be part of the Dubai association and corporate community
  • A gateway to key Dubai Government Stakeholders
  • Usage of World Trade Club facilities – Dubai’s oldest Private Club
  • Monthly Association Networking Events
  • Easy access to the market development business services of MCI if required

Dubai as a Business Hub

A leading global and regional business centre, Dubai has over 140,000 companies located in the local market.  Businesses enjoy

  • Tax free business environment
  • A thriving cosmopolitan centre for business, trade, industry and tourism
  • The commercial capital of the UAE
  • One of the world’s most popular destinations for both business and leisure
  • Modern and growing infrastructure
  • A relaxed and pleasant lifestyle
  • Wide choices of spacious, modern accommodation
  • Low crime, multicultural city where freedom of movement is safe and easy for everyone
  • Unique accessibility with direct flights to over 140 destinations
  • Excellent public transport system

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Attending ASAE in Atlanta?  Stop by MCI’s booth 1216 to Learn More

Register to Attend A Fall Business Tour to Dubai

Interested association executives will have the chance to travel to Dubai this Fall courtesy of the Dubai Association Centre partners.  Complimentary hotel accommodation and airfare provided by Emirates Airlines will provide executives with an opportunity to experience how the Dubai Association Centre can improve market access for you.

This tour will include:

  1. Meetings with government officials
  2. Private business meetings
  3. Tour of the Dubai Association Centre
  4. Detailed briefing on legislation and regulations governing associations

To learn more about DAC

Contact:  Peter Turner 571.275.1516 or [email protected]

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About the author

Peter Turner

As MCI's Senior Advisor, Global Development Strategy, I help associations build and execute global growth strategies. Over the past 30 years I have served three associations (ASAE, MPI and IEEE Computer Society) as a leader of business, product and partnership development.

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