Now is the time.
Female entrepreneurs are a key part of the UAE’s economic future, and more women than ever are looking to the Emirates to set up their businesses. Across a variety of industries, local and international women are taking advantage of the growing opportunities.
So here are four reasons why you, as a female entrepreneur, should consider the UAE.
1. The UAE is ahead of the game
The UAE offers greater gender equality than any other country in the region.
The Emirates pledged $50m to the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative fund in 2017, and by 2018, had closed 64 per cent of the overall gender gap in the UAE workforce. In fact, 33 per cent of the female-owned firms surveyed in the UAE were generating revenues at or above $100,000 – well above the other countries surveyed.
The trend is very much in the right direction as female ownership of limited liability companies in the UAE continues to rise.
What this means for you
The time is now to act. Foreign nationals need only to look at successful entrepreneurs such as: Becky Balderstone, founder of Ripe that specialises in organic produce; health and wellness expert Andrea Debellis, founder of NYLA House; and Ambareen Musa who started the highly-successful financial services comparison portal.
These women, and thousands more like them, are genuine examples of the opportunities available to female entrepreneurs in the UAE – regardless of where you come from. All you need is a great idea and the determination to see it through.
2. Various government initiatives aimed at women
The UAE government is driving initiatives to directly address gender equality in the workforce. It is in fact one of the government’s declared sustainable development goals, as it aims to become one of the top 25 countries in the world for gender equality by 2021.
In addition, there are a number of initiatives to help female entrepreneurs succeed. Before you start investigating these, decide which area of your business requires help. This will enable you to narrow your search.
How to take advantage of this
Initiatives to consider include the Dubai Business Women Council (DBWC). Originally part of the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry, this non-profit organisation provides education, training and funding opportunities to aid the career aspirations of UAE-based businesswomen.
If your business idea is very new, you should consider the Abu Dhabi Business Women Council (ADBWC)’s Integrated and Innovative Business Incubator. It is designed to help women identify their latent creative potential and translate ideas into productive projects. It offers technical support, provides advice and guidance and even has some funding available.
Another longstanding initiative, The Dubai Women Establishment (DWE), hosts an annual Women Leadership Exchange Programme, which provides guidance on sustainable leadership practices and offers great networking opportunities.
3. Added support through company partnerships
Private companies regularly form partnerships with UAE government agencies and charities to increase the depth of training and capital that can be provided to women.
Look out also for the Women Entrepreneurship Summit MENA which is a strategic platform aimed at women entrepreneurs across the Middle East and North Africa region. Womena is another interesting outlet – a media company that produces content that is focused towards female founders that also functions as an accelerator and network.
The partnership between JPMorgan Chase Foundation and the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women was another high profile initiative, offering Emirati women business training. These partnerships come and go, so you need to keep your eyes and networks open.
To seize these opportunities, you need to be on the ball. Initiatives pop up all the time, but sometimes only last a year or so.
Your radar needs to pick up on new avenues of support as soon as they appear, giving you the chance to plan out applications well before the deadlines. It can be upsetting to find the perfect opportunity but then realise that the programme finished a month ago.
4. Availability of female-only setup package
In theory, freezones are a perfect place to start a business in the UAE. They offer streamlined setup processes, customisable offices or workstations and one-stop resources for government services.
Keeping costs down is as important as setting up in a premier location.
The time is right
The UAE business environment is one that is committed to driving equality in the business world. We would go so far as to say there has never been a better time to be a female entrepreneur in the UAE.
For both Emirati and expat women – if you have the drive, vision and ambition, you will be rewarded based on your skills, and you will be encouraged along the way with a great deal of support at the government and business-organisation level that will further strengthen you on your road to success.
Maryam Almesafri is the ‘one-stop shop’ director at Ras Al Khaimah Economic Zone (RAKEZ)