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Tomorrow’s leaders – celebrating entrepreneurs and SMEs

Tomorrow’s leaders – celebrating entrepreneurs and SMEs

Large-scale efforts are being made in Dubai and the United Arab Emirates to help nurture future business talent – Essa Al Zaabi writes

There is a close link between small and medium-sized enterprises and entrepreneurs. Both occupy a very important position in a dynamic economy such as Dubai. The emirate provides a level playing field for all entrepreneurs to develop their ideas because we believe that entrepreneurial energy, creativity and motivation are essential for innovation.

Entrepreneurs are the foundation for SMEs and contribute to social, and economic, development by creating new markets and jobs. This, therefore, leads to an increase in the real productivity of an economy. These new jobs then lead to a more equitable distribution of income in society, allowing people more purchasing power and a better standard of living.

Entrepreneurs serve the new business needs of an economy and are the true beacons of ‘innovation’, which is very close to Dubai’s heart. Recently, we have seen a surge in the number of entrepreneurs entering the digital economy sector with creative and innovative ideas. This goes to show that entrepreneurs are always pushing the boundaries and filling the niche gaps.

There is no denying that SMEs are the backbone of our economy. They represent 95 per cent of the businesses operating and account for about 42 per cent of the total workforce – and 40 per cent of gross domestic product – of the emirate. This vital sector is a major source of innovation, products and services as well as new markets and business models.

We know that SMEs contribute an estimated 45 per cent of nominal GDP here. Hence, the government of Dubai has made promoting entrepreneurs and SMEs a top priority in its social and economic development agenda, and a key pillar of its regional and global competitiveness approach. Dubai is a gateway to new markets and an ideal destination for entrepreneurs to set up a business.

There are numerous initiatives in place to support such entrepreneurs and SMEs in order to deal with the challenges of creating and growing businesses. These issues include access to finance, lack of collateral and much more. Also, SMEs sometimes find it difficult to identify new market opportunities and clients; and struggle to monitor the competitive environment and adjust the strategic direction of the company accordingly.

Tejar Dubai, an initiative by Dubai Chamber, has been instrumental in filling this gap. It provides guidance and support to Emirati entrepreneurs. Set up in 2013 with the aim of promoting entrepreneurship and innovation, Tejar Dubai offers a customised experience tailored to the needs of a particular entrepreneur.

The process of selecting the entrepreneurs is transparent, with an eminent panel of experts, and the candidate is given feedback at every step.

Once a candidate is selected, he or she is appointed a mentor and all the legalities and paperwork required for setting up their business are taken care of by Tejar Dubai. The initiative also provides both conventional and Islamic funding options to its candidates.

Not only does the initiative provide the youth with access to an extensive development programme including classroom learning, on-site training, mentoring and business advice but candidates also get networking opportunities with local and international business leaders, and access to investment capital.

Tejar Dubai has also partnered with INJAZ to promote entrepreneurship among the youth and more than 3,000 students will be provided with the necessary mentoring and training support for them to learn business skills. Programmes and activities will cover a wide range of students from middle and high schools to universities – and also those up to the age of 24. The initiative has signed a memorandum of understanding with Youth Business International to act collectively in supporting young people, who are seeking to start and expand their own business.

In June 2015, the Tejar Dubai Youth Council was formed to promote the contribution to the process of economic growth and development by young Emiratis.

There is no doubt that entrepreneurs will play a key role in the future development of Dubai and the achievement of the United Arab Emirates’ vision. These entrepreneurs are the future for SMEs. It is clear that there is considerable opportunity for many stakeholders to contribute to the potential of the SME sector. It is the future of the country and wider region.

Essa Al Zaabi is senior vice-president of the institutional support sector at Dubai Chamber and general coordinator of Tejar Dubai

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