Growing With the Dubai Association Centre

15th November 2022

Once considered a bold step forward in establishing the city as an association hub, Dubai Association Centre (DAC) now stands as an example of the rapid progress that can be made when collaborative entities across the public and private sector come together to drive growth. Launched in 2014 as an initiative to facilitate the licensing of professional societies or trade organizations, whether regional or international, DAC can actually make your life very easy.

Words Remi Deve

Priding itself on business-friendly policies, Dubai, as a leading international centre for commerce, industry and tourism, has brought its ‘open doors’ spirit into the modern world, attracting foreign business and investment through free-trade zones, zero income tax and a favorable corporate taxation policy.

Progress underway

But beyond trade, the Emirate is on a journey to become a knowledge-based economy, and the Dubai Association Centre (DAC) is a good example of the progress underway. Associations, indeed, play a key role in the destination’s growth as they can drive education and professional standards, engage with government and regulators to encourage sustainable development, and act as a bridge to attract talent.

Offering assistance for the establishment of associations in Dubai, DAC – a joint initiative between Dubai Chambers, Dubai’s Department of Economy and Tourism, and Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC) –provides a formal environment where organizations can form a membership-based community or open a regional representative office to conduct business in the UAE and beyond. So far, it has achieved good results, with more than 75 licensed associations as of November 2022 – an increase that didn’t stop during the pandemic.

Steen Jakobsen, vice president at Dubai’s Department of Economy and Tourism (DET), explains: “Dubai Association Centre’s steady growth has continued, building on the reputation it has established as a gateway for associations to access not just the city and the UAE, but the wider Middle East and proximity regions. DAC’s reach extends across most major economic sectors, and especially into the fields at the heart of the city and wider country’s innovation agenda.”

Practically speaking, a DAC license enables associations to open an office within the DWTC Free Zone in Dubai and enjoy use of its numerous facilities, which aim to offer organizations a fresh new space where growth and networking with the right businesses in the area are priorities. Being together under one roof, it allows associations to connect with each other and share best practices and solutions to overcome common challenges.

In addition, DAC organizes quarterly roundtables for its members to address macro-topics related to association management, but also on the impact of the global pandemic on the association sector and how associations can deal with the disruption caused.

Cases in point

“The networking events DAC regularly organizes are definitely an added value,” says Bettina Smith, Operations Manager, Direct Selling Association of UAE, “These events allow us to share experiences with other associations and also learn valuable information from DAC directly on what is happening within the region. DAC has also supported us in our registration and licensing which can be challenging – having that kind of support is a real asset.” 

David Macadam, CEO of The Middle East Council of Shopping Centres & Retailers (MESC+R), goes even further and praise the team of professionals at DAC “who understand the association business from years of hands-on experience. They were able to quickly develop a strong relationship with our own team and others seeking their advice. From delivery of trade licenses for operating in the UAE, to assistance and guidance in delivery of event permits, to providing alternative choices for venues for events, to providing office space, DAC has all aspects of business covered. The support is always delivered with a timely urgency which is critical to our success.” 

DAC’s supportive structure, backed by the entities that founded the Centre, have also been important to Dr Jamal Jomah, President of the Arab Association of Surgical & Medical Aesthetics: “Not only do we have the possibility of obtaining a prime location with logistical assistance, but DAC can help with government support and advice. The networking and collaborating with other organizations, which increases our visibility and presence on the global stage, is also very important. Besides, they offer reduced fees for association events and make the chamber resources for us to use available. The list could actually go on and on.”

“We understand we must continue to show association leaders that Dubai is not only a viable regional hub for them, but one that they need to set up in,” concludes Steen Jakobsen. “A major part of this is demonstrating that DAC allows associations not only to tap into membership and influence growth in Dubai and the UAE, but the wider Middle East and indeed into Africa – all regions that in many cases have been underserved in the past.”

In addition to offering an environment that eases the ability to conduct business, Dubai, in this regard, gives associations the opportunity to tap into an entirely new market. If you’re looking for growth, you indeed need to grow globally and Dubai can help you just do that.

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