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Sharjah Publishing City – the World’s First ‘Free Zone for Publishers’
Sharjah’s ongoing cultural project has taken a huge leap forward with its bold plan to establish the world’s first ‘Free Zone’ for publishers – Sharjah Publishing City (SPC). The initiative further underlines Sharjah’s role as the cultural emirate and emphasises again the dedication of its Ruler to the cause of books and learning.
On December 6, 2013, His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, issued the Amiri Decree to establish Sharjah Publishing City (SPC), with the aim of placing a new global hub for the publishing industry on the world map.
Sharjah Publishing City will be overseen by the Sharjah Book Authority (SBA) and will provide publishers from around the world with an opportunity to invest in cultural and educational exchange; it will also establish strong lines of communication within the Middle East and the wider Arab region.
His Highness’ mission to enhance the Arab publishing industry has opened up an array of opportunities for publishers in the region, providing them with unhindered access to international book markets. At the same time, SPC will allow global publishers to access the Middle East’s dynamic publishing market. By acting as an extensive source and hub, the zone will fulfil the needs of publishers, printers, distribution companies, editing and auditing service providers, translators, designers, producers and other essential publishing industry stakeholders.
As the first-of-its-kind project in the world, SPC aims to be a beacon of enlightenment for diverse cultures – a guiding principle of Sharjah’s belief in education and culture. Sharjah Publishing City will eliminate typical complex procedures through simplification of sales, purchase, distribution channels and the signing of contracts and agreements. Companies operating in SPC will be exempt from taxes and will enjoy freedom of expression, signalling a clear departure from the censorship issues faced by publishers in many countries around the world.
Empowering publishers in the Arab world
The Amiri Decree by His Highness Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi established a set of pillars and a series of objectives for SPC, its primary aim being to develop Sharjah as a publishing powerhouse in the region. With the objective of attracting partners and stakeholders in the printing and publishing industries, SPC will strongly support cultural and scientific research at local, regional and international levels. The city will strive to promote the importance of reading, highlighting the pivotal role it plays in raising awareness about culture and the sciences (particularly within a society that employs technological developments) and the contribution it makes to the knowledge economy.
Today, SPC’s doors are wide open to companies and institutions involved with publishing, with the city having a clear roadmap to provide unrivalled world-class services. The zone offers advanced infrastructure and experienced publishing personnel in its print and electronic media presses, paper companies, editorial and design agencies, production houses, book agencies and specialised libraries, all of which will be provided from the city’s very first day of operations.
A pioneering concept in the field of global publishing, the SPC enterprise gains immensely from the various advantages that Sharjah enjoys – its rich cultural roots, strategic geographic location and strong economic presence in the Arab world. Sharjah is a gateway for more than two billion people; one-third of the world’s population can reach it on a four-hour flight, and the other two-thirds in eight hours. Directly overlooking the Arabian Gulf and the Indian Ocean, the emirate boasts three key ports and one international airport. Sharjah International Airport and Sharjah Seaports offer the most competitive air freight and shipping tariffs in the region.
Sharjah is characterised by financial stability, with the Emirati Dirham (AED) one of the world’s most stable currencies in terms of its exchange rate. Sharjah offers complete exemption of taxes on corporate profits – something rarely seen in other parts of the world – and allows 100% company ownership in all its free zones. Furthermore, it is aided by a robust communications network and facilitates easy acquiring of permits, residency cards and IDs for employees and workers of all nationalities.
What publishers will capitalise on at SPC
SPC will offer publishing houses low printing costs, use of large scale printing presses that operate round the clock and easy access to all printing-related materials. Additionally, publishing houses can avail airfreight and shipping services operated by hundreds of companies at competitive prices. They will enjoy the services of distribution companies under the umbrella of the main federal media institutions in the UAE, along with being able to obtain permits from government agencies within a very short space of time.
The presence of tens of prestigious universities and educational institutes around SPC presents a great opportunity for publishers and investors to capitalise on the region’s large market for academic books. This landscape is bolstered by the dozens of government initiatives and projects that purchase large quantities of books annually with the aim of distributing them to citizens, schools, universities and institutions. The most notable initiatives include ‘Knowledge without Borders’ in Sharjah, ‘A Library in Every Home’ initiative in Abu Dhabi and ‘Rewaq Ousha bint Hussein Cultural Centre’ in Dubai.
Sharjah has an unrivalled history of celebrating books and supporting publishers to develop the region’s publishing industry – a stance that has been recognised by the Middle East as well as the rest of the world. Combining the aforementioned factors and aligning them with SPC management’s vision and objectives promises to transform Sharjah into a hub from which publishers can look forward to expanding globally.