Investors from the UAE looking to invest in Sri Lanka will find plenty of opportunities that promise steady returns, especially in the country's ICT and tourism sectors, officials said at the UAE Sri Lanka Forum.
Speaking at the event on Tuesday, Charitha Yattogoda, consul general of Sri Lanka to Dubai and the Northern Emirates, noted that the UAE is an important country for Sri Lanka. "The UAE is Sri Lanka's fourth biggest trading partner in terms of bilateral trade, and it is the third largest partner in terms of imports. When it comes to exports, the UAE is currently at seventh position. The UAE is also the largest investor in Sri Lanka among the GCC."
Nalin Bandara, deputy Minister of Development Strategies and International Trade of Sri Lanka, also noted Sri Lanka's long-standing cordial relationship with the UAE, and said that this year marks the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries.
"Sri Lanka looks to strengthen the already excellent bilateral trade relations between the two countries. The UAE is one of Sri Lanka's top ten foreign direct investors, and, today, there are many opportunities for the UAE to invest in Sri Lanka," he said.
He also noted that Sri Lanka enjoys a steady stream of visitors from the UAE, with the island welcoming roughly 8,500 visitors from the UAE annually. These visitors are drawn by the country's rich local culture and natural beauty. "The aim right now is to improve and strengthen the trade, tourism, and investment relationship between the UAE and Sri Lanka," Bandara said.
Prasanjith Wijethilake, executive director of the Board of Investment of Sri Lanka, spoke about the various sectors that are offering significant opportunities for investors. "We have set a $28 billion export target for 2022 which is supported by the National Export Strategy that focuses on driving our exports through diversification and innovation. The focus sectors for this include ICT, boating, and wellness tourism."
Sri Lanka, he said, enjoys very favourable weather almost all year round because of its location close to the equator. In addition, the country has no shortage of Ayurvedic resorts, spas, and clinics, which form a key component of its wellness tourism strategy.
Thomas Joseph, business development manager at SAIF Zone, spoke about how the freezone has long been associated with the Sri Lankan business community in the UAE. "We understand the needs of the Sri Lankan business entrepreneurs and we have lots of success stories regarding their businesses in Sharjah. Currently, we have 8,000 companies operating at the free zone and we expect many more to join us soon. Being in Sharjah means not just doing business with Dubai or the rest of the UAE, but doing business with the world. Currently, Sharjah is among the top ten industrial cities of the future. The city boasts three sea ports and two thirds of the world's population is an eight-hours flight away, while one thirds of the world's population is only a four-hour flight away."