Expo Leaders – Business Zones and Authorities

Abdulla Bin DamithanMichael Garin
Ahmed Sultan Bin SulayemMarwan Bin Jassim Al Sarkal
Arif AmiriDr. Mohammed Al Zarooni
Hamad BuamimRaja Al Mazrouei
Mark Cutis
Abdulla Bin Damithan, CEO and Managing Director, JAFZA

Abdulla Bin Damithan

CEO and Managing Director


Abdulla Bin Damithan is the CEO and Managing Director for DP World in the UAE Region and JAFZA, or the Jebel Ali Free Zone. He has been working for the company for more than 20 years now – he was appointed to his current role earlier this year, and before that he’d worked as the Chief Commercial Officer having joined DP World at the end of 2001.

He studied marketing at Suffolk University in the United Kingdom, and also has a graduate Diploma in Maritime and Port Management from the National University of Singapore.

As part of his previous role as DP World’s Chief Commercial Officer, Bin Damithan had been responsible for all revenue generation activities, products, and services offered across the company’s broad portfolio. He led many different aspects of the business, including ports and terminals, parks and zones, and its trade enablement solutions.

He also sits on the board of several DP World ports and terminals all over the world, and is an independent director in logistics ventures.

Since he was promoted to CEO and managing director in May of 2021, Bin Damithan’s duties have included expanding the company’s business here in the UAE, as well as increasing its overall contribution to both Dubai and the wider economy of the UAE.

Talking about it at the time, he said: “I am taking responsibility for a business in robust health,” and added that he was looking forward to supporting “sustainable socio-economic growth and to cement DP World’s position as a leading smart trade enabler.”

Earlier this year, JAFZA reported that it had seen a 12 percent growth in its healthcare and pharmaceutical customer base between 2019 and 2020. The DP World-owned free zone houses 174 companies from 41 countries and provides 1,100 jobs. In 2019, the volume of trade in the segment stood at 25,000 metric tonnes, valued at AED900m. The Covid-19 pandemic has brought the need for medical supplies into sharp focus globally as shortages cropped up in many countries at the onset of the health crisis.

Ahmed Sultan Bin Sulayem, Executive Chairman, DMCC

Ahmed Sultan Bin Sulayem

Executive Chairman


Ahmed Sultan Bin Sulayem is the Executive Chairman of the Dubai Multi Commodities Centre (DMCC) at Jumeirah Lakes Towers (JLT).

He studied Business Administration at California State University in San Bernardino before joining DMCC as director in 2001, prior to its official launch just one year later.

Few had heard of either DMCC or Bin Sulayem before he was appointed to lead it. Since then, he’s transformed it into a top-class commodities centre, taking it from a startup of 28 companies to a free zone with more than 18,000 members from 180 countries over the world, which employ more than 60,000 people.

Under his leadership, DMCC has also established the Dubai Diamond Exchange (DDE), which is the only such exchange in the Middle East affiliated with the World Federation of Diamond Bourses, and the Dubai Tea Trading Centre (DTTC), which assists the world’s tea trade. He’s the chairman of the DDE, as well as the Dubai Gold and Commodities Exchange, a DMCC joint venture initiative. Bin Sulayem’s plans for the future of DMCC consist of bringing the world’s leading blockchain and cryptographic technologies here to Dubai.

Before he began working for DMCC, Bin Sulayem had been the director at ASTECO, the largest realty company in Dubai. He earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration at the California State University in the US, shortly before returning to Dubai.

Despite the challenges of the global pandemic, DMCC hasn’t shown any sign of stopping or even slowing down. In 2020, the free zone registered over 1,750 new companies, a figure that’s on par with previous years.

It’s regularly topped fDi Intelligence magazine’s annual list of the Global Free Zones of the Year, and did so once again in 2020, for the sixth year in a row. DMCC managed to impress the judges with a mix of operational results and technological innovation.

Arif Amiri, CEO, DIFC

Arif Amiri



As the CEO of the Dubai International Financial Centre Authority, Arif Amiri was responsible for creating an international focal point for FinTech and innovation, enhancing DIFC’s reputation and helping it to become one of the world’s most advanced financial centres.

Under his leadership, DIFC has gone on to emerge as a powerful catalyst for the financial services sector, as well as the leading financial centre in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia (MEASA) region.

This was part of its ambitious 2024 strategy, which aimed to triple the scale of the financial hub with goals including 1,000 active financial firms, 50,000 combined working professionals, $250bn AUM booked in the centre, and a $400bn combined balance sheet. DIFC ended up achieving this three years ahead of schedule, in 2021. In the first half of 2020, 310 new firms joined DIFC, which increased its total number of active registered firms to 2,584 – more than double the amount of firms that had been registered there just a few years ago, in 2014.

Amiri was appointed the CEO in 2014. Before taking office, he’d worked in a number of senior positions at both Emaar Properties and HSBC Bank Middle East.

DIFC has become the preferred financial centre in the region for Chinese firms and home to the major financial institutions from the country. Earlier this year, the China Export and Credit Insurance Corporation (Sinosure) chose it as the location for its first ever office in the Middle East. Sinosure,a state-funded and policy-oriented insurance company, was established back in 2001 to promote China’s foreign economic trade development and cooperation on a non-profit basis.

Amiri said: “DIFC has a well-established reputation as an ideal base for leading Chinese companies and Sinosure strengthens this. Their collective presence is underpinned by the strong bilateral relations between the UAE and China.”

Hamad Buamim, President and CEO, Dubai Chamber

Hamad Buamim

President and CEO

Dubai Chamber

As well as being the president and CEO of the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Hamad Buamim also serves as the deputy chairman of the World Chambers Federation – ICC in Paris, and the chairman of National General Insurance.

He is a board member of the UAE Central Bank and Dubai World, and chairman of Hawkamah, the Institute of Corporate Governance. He helped Dubai seal the bid to host the World Chambers Congress in 2021.

Buamim is known as the businessman’s best friend in Dubai. As head of the Dubai Chamber, he represents, supports and protects more than 200,000 businesses and 49 foreign business councils all over the emirate, including working with the government to both improve regulations and to provide invaluable insight and analysis.

As well as helping to attract thousands of international businesses to Dubai’s shores, the chamber has rapidly grown its presence internationally. The most influential business organisation in the GCC now also has offices in eight cities across the globe, with more in the pipeline set to open their doors in the near future.

Buamim, who has served on the boards of Emirates NBD and Emirates Financial Services, also introduced the Dubai Innovation Index in 2015, the first report of its kind in the region. The annual study measures and compares innovation output in Dubai and 27 other global cities, on both macroeconomic and microeconomic scales.

The head of Dubai Chamber has served on the boards of prominent institutions including Emirates NBD, Emirates Financial Services, Kerzner International and Network International. 

Mark Cutis, CEO, ADGM authority

Mark Cutis


ADGM Authority

In 2021, a new authority was established to drive growth in Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM), the international financial centre in the UAE capital. The board of ADGM approved the establishment of the ADGM Authority, which is led by Mark Nicholas Cutis as its CEO, who assumed his position on June 1 this year. Cutis had previously worked as a senior executive at Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC).

The new authority is set to play a pivotal role in driving ADGM’s growth by leveraging the trends emerging across the international financial services sector and the developments associated with the post-pandemic world. The key functions of the new authority will include the Office of Strategy and Business Development, Corporate Services, the Office of Information Security and Enterprise Risk Management. ADGM marked its fifth year of operations in October 2020.

Prior to working for ADGM, Cutis was the Group Chief Financial Officer at ADNOC, as well as being chief adviser of finance and investments. Before ADNOC, he worked for 10 years at the sovereign wealth fund, Abu Dhabi Investment Council (ADIC). He joined ADIC in 2008, where he was responsible for setting up the Special Situations unit, which has a track record of focussing on investing globally in idiosyncratic and one off transactions.

Before that, Cutis worked in Japan for six years, where he was the CEO of Unicredito (HVB), and then the Chief Investment Officer for Shinsei Bank. He was originally hired at the New York branch of HVB, as the Treasurer for the Americas, and was responsible for developing the firm’s proprietary allocation to alternative investments while he was there.

Cutis has worked all over the world – in New York, London, Frankfurt, Tokyo, and Moscow, as well as Abu Dhabi. He studied economics at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, and he also received an MBA at the Wharton School in Pennsylvania.

Michael Garin, CEO, twofour54

Michael Garin



Michael Garin, the former CEO of Image Nation, took over as chief executive of Abu Dhabi’s media free zone twofour54 back in January of 2020.

Garin has more than 50 years of experience as a media executive, and he had worked for Image Nation since February 2011. Before that, Garin had held posts at companies such as the Abu Dhabi Media Company, Time, Fortune and Time-Life Television, as well as the US-based independent TV company Lorimar-Telepictures.

The media free zone twofour54, which gets its name from Abu Dhabi’s geographical coordinates, is home to the regional headquarters of companies such as Ubisoft Entertainment and CNN. It’s aiming to triple the size of the emirate’s media industry over the next decade, as part of ongoing efforts to diversify the oil-dependent economy.

Garin joined twofour54 at a pivotal time for the media and entertainment industry in Abu Dhabi, with a new chapter about to start for the media zone at its purpose-built new home on Yas Island. The new, government-funded Yas Creative Hub is projected to add AED3.5bn ($952.9m) to gross domestic product by 2023 and create 11,000 new jobs by 2031 in sectors like gaming and production.

Garin is also trying to attract gaming companies to grab a piece of one of the fastest-growing sectors in entertainment. The global video game industry is now estimated to be larger than film and music combined – the sector generated annual revenue of $135bn in 2019 and Morgan Stanley Investment Management expects double-digit sales growth by 2025.

Twofour54 has partnered with Unity Technologies SF to make Abu Dhabi the centre of the digital and gaming world. Garin said the centre has already signed nine deals with gaming companies in the region, and is expecting to attract as many as 45 more over the next three years, creating 450 jobs. Other roles he held include CEO of Central European Media Enterprises and global head of media and telecommunications investment banking for ING.

Marwan Bin Jassim Al Sarkal, Executive Chairman, Shurooq

Marwan Bin Jassim Al Sarkal

Executive Chairman


Marwan bin Jassim Al Sarkal is the executive chairman of Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq). Al Sarkal was appointed as CEO of Shurooq in 2009 at the time of its establishment as per the Emiri Decree no.2 of 2009, issued by Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah.

Since joining Shurooq, Al Sarkal has played an integral role in transforming Sharjah’s economic infrastructure, diversifying markets and facilitating new investments by leading projects and partnerships across major sectors such as tourism, healthcare, environmental, logistics, real estate, retail and light manufacturing.

Al Sarkal has spearheaded all major infrastructural projects and key partnerships at Shurooq, initiating the development of a portfolio with a total estimated value of more than AED10bn, and covering Sharjah’s western, central, and eastern regions.

His creative, innovative thinking and ambitious drive, rooted in the emirate’s traditions, has enabled Shurooq to adopt world-class standards in providing an array of services and infrastructural facilities to attract investors from the UAE, Middle East and beyond. In 2018, following nine years of exemplary leadership excellence, and an effective driver of change across Shurooq and Sharjah, Sheikh Dr Sultan issued the Emiri Decree Number 30 of 2018 promoting Al Sarkal to executive chairman of Shurooq.

Al Sarkal has led every major enhancement Shurooq has made since its inception, and is one of the longest tenured people at the authority. He has spearheaded several of Shurooq’s crucial projects and initiatives, turning them into runaway successes. Al Sarkal is a keen proponent of giving opportunities to talented Emiratis. He has appointed Emirati nationals in key positions in each of Shurooq’s divisions, resulting in talented UAE nationals filling 40 percent of the positions at the company, including management positions.

Today, Al Sarkal is one of the key figures in Sharjah’s growth ambitions, as he continues the journey to lead, grow and diversify Shurooq’s achievements, projects and initiatives, as well as the development of major joint ventures across a spectrum of sectors in the emirate.

Under his visionary guidance, Sharjah has upped its stakes in the leisure and entertainment category with the development of Al Qasba, a premier family-friendly destination overlooking the tranquil lagoons of Sharjah. 

Dr. Mohammed Al Zarooni, Vice Chairman and CEO, DSOA, DAFZA & Dubai Commerce City

Dr. Mohammed Al Zarooni

Vice Chairman and CEO

DSOA, DAFZA & Dubai Commerce City

Mohammed Al Zarooni’s mission is to create a universally recognised state-of-the-art “technology oasis” in the UAE, by facilitating and promoting IT industries, research and development, all gathered together within a fully integrated community.

He has been delivering on that mission ever since he was appointed as the vice chairman and CEO of the Dubai Silicon Oasis Authority (DSOA) back in 2002. Al Zarooni has also served as the director general of the Dubai Airport Free Zone Authority (DAFZA) since 2000, as well as the secretary general of the Dubai Free Zone council since its establishment in 2015. In 2014, Al Zarooni was elected as the chairman of the World Free Zones Organisation (World FZO), an entity that was established in Geneva in 2013 and is headquartered in Dubai. The World FZO operates as an association for all other free zones around the world.

Additionally, he is a member of the Dubai Executive Council’s Economic Development Committee.

In 2020, economies across the world shrunk because of the safety measures taken in response to the global spread of the coronavirus. However, one solution that helped the global population adapt to the new way of life – technology. There is no debate that digital transformation accelerated due to Covid-19, leapfrogging technology adoption by 10 years.

Dubai Silicon Oasis Authority achieved a total revenue of AED544.7m in 2020, marking a surge of 2.7 percent from 2019. In the same year, it attracted 1,731 new companies, raising the total number of companies registered at DSO by the end of 2020 to 4,936, registering a 54 percent increase from 2019. The total value of the major projects completed in DSO in 2020 reached AED4bn.

In the near future, DSOA will be playing a crucial role as an incubator for innovation and knowledge, in-line with Dubai’s journey to become the world’s smartest and happiest city to live in, as well as a major player in attracting foreign investments.

Raja Al Mazrouei, Executive Vice President and Board Member, DIFC Fintech Hive and Dubai Chamber of Digital Economy

Raja Al Mazrouei

Executive Vice President and Board Member

DIFC Fintech Hive and Dubai Chamber of Digital Economy

Raja Al Mazrouei oversees the region’s first fintech accelerator, DIFC Fintech Hive, which brings together financial institutions, government entities, technology partners and entrepreneurs to develop technologies that benefit the financial industry.

Since 2017, Fintech Hive has accelerated more than 100 fintech startups through its different programmes and launched more than fifty products in the UAE market.

In June of this year, she was elected onto the board of the newly minted Dubai Chamber of Digital Economy, joining a slew of business and political leaders with a strong track record of expertise relevant to the chambers they are chairing.

With more than a decade of experience in the financial services sector, she has developed an ecosystem for financial technology entrepreneurs that has been a primary contributor in the emirate being named a top ten global FinTech hub. Throughout her career, she has held senior positions at Dubai Holding, National Bonds Corporation and at the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) Authority.

Al Mazrouei plays an integral role in building awareness, increasing media outreach and facilitating partnerships in emerging fintech markets, such as China, India, the UK, the US and Africa.

She recently spoke exclusively with Arabian Business about cryptocurrencies, what’s next for digital coins and the work DIFC is doing to empower an ecosystem of fintech start-ups.

Speaking about cryptocurrencies during the interview, Al Mazrouei said: “I believe in digital, but not so much in crypto. And this is why I have recently written an article about central bank digital currencies (CBDCs). I believe digital is the future for the currency, however [it must be] a regulated and protected kind of currency, which would be issued by central banks.”