The Anatomy of Special Economic Zones

Special Economic Zones (SEZs) are areas with a special planning status that offer tax benefits and world class services and are used by national governments to get foreign companies to invest. There are currently 3,500 SEZs worldwide, operating in 130 countries, employing 66 million people, and adding over $500 billion of trade related value. SEZs can involve investments up to $900 million and can stimulate national economies and lift millions of people out of poverty. However, knowledge on what makes SEZs successful is limited.

The publication ‘The Anatomy of Special Economic Zones’ looks at what makes SEZs successful and is a primer for anyone involved in their development. It can be downloaded below.


Professor Dr. Douglas Crawford-Brown, director of the Cambridge Centre for Climate Change Mitigation Research (4CMR) , University of Cambridge:

“Special Economic Zones (SEZs) are increasingly popular as a way to stimulate growth, but there remains a significant question as to whether they deliver on this promise. This report provides a well grounded introduction to the topic, laying out both the challenges and enabling conditions for creation of effective SEZs through a series of global case studies…”

Sérgio Brodsky, director at World Capitals of Culture:

“Out of everything what impressed me the most is China’s strategy of “exporting the exporting zones” to Africa and what sort of consequences can it generate in terms of national sovereignty as well as local governance. Are we living in a new imperialist era? After various economic experiments made in Latin America with a promise for increasing the production value-chain I am quite skeptical about China’s infrastructural contributions to Africa. Nevertheless your perspective that SEZs are catalysts for localised development, instead of vehicles for globalising ambitions, is rather refreshing. It will be interesting to see the legacy of Shenzen in the next 50 years and how different will it be from today…”

Romi Dahele, CEO of Ikotek Ventures:

“A great report, it provides a good overview to Special Economic Zones, including the historical development, expansion and implications worldwide. A must read for anyone looking at the industry…”

Annick Labeca, editor of Urban Lab Global Cities:

“For those who want a global outlook on the topic of SEZs and understand why and how China becomes this today’s China — city clusters, China’s interest for urbanism as economic instrument for global market access, etcetera — without the economic (for example) jargon, this ebook is for you…”


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The publication exploring what makes Special Economic Zones successful is designed to be read on tablets or e-readers and can be downloaded below. I am interested in your feedback – please use the contact form to send me an email.