Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak has called on local entrepreneurs to think of the bigger picture.
Their products should include a global dimension that supports expansion of their businesses into international markets, he said.
The statement from the Minister of Culture, Youth and Community Development came as policymakers and entrepreneurs yesterday discussed the need to push forward initiatives that support the growth of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in a bid to boost and diversify the UAE economy.
“We need to encourage ventures to respond to the requirement of our times and globalisation,” Sheikh Nahyan said at the Abu Dhabi Entrepreneurship Forum yesterday.
“This includes the necessity to follow those markets, variations and everything that’s happening in these markets.”
Policymakers are banking on smaller businesses to play an important role in the development of the Emirates, which explains the push to help to develop local entrepreneurs.
A new law to support the sector was currently being “finalised”, said the Minister of Economy, Sultan Al Mansouri, yesterday. It has been recently approved by the Federal National Council and is expected to receive final clearance soon.
The law is expected to provide increased government support to SMEs, and encourage Emiratis to start and run their own businesses. One provision of the law requires government institutions to etch out 10 per cent of their procurements to SMEs.
“The state is fully committed in providing a general environment that encourages entrepreneurship, innovation and creativity in order to realise the growth and determination of the people of the UAE,” Sheikh Nahyan said.
“We have to start differentiating between different types of ventures and focus on those that serve the objective of economic growth faster and more efficiently and those that absorb a lot of jobs and workers,” he added.
SMEs currently account for 92 per cent of total companies operating in the UAE and 86 per cent of the workforce in the private sector, according to the Ministry of Economy. Nearly 300,000 companies in the country can be classified as part of the SME sector, ministry data showed. The UAE is considered a hub for entrepreneurship in the region by creating a world- class infrastructure and attracting companies and innovative ideas in different sectors.
The government-backed Khalifa Fund for Enterprise Development has financed 582 projects, investing Dh900 million so far since its inception, said Hussain Jassim Al Nowais, the chairman of the fund, at the opening of the Abu Dhabi Entrepreneurship Forum on Monday. Of the total finances, women received 28 per cent.
The agency has also organised more than 350 training programmes, reaching 5,000 nationals across the UAE. About 58 per cent of them are women.
“If we look at global economy, we will see how different countries have developed policies and incentives to support SMEs,” said Mr Al Nowais. “In the UAE, we have not been as successful [from a policy standpoint].”
The average age of the Khalifa Fund-backed entrepreneurs was 25 to 30 years.
“They are full of excitement and vision and they need that extra helping hand and that’s what Khalifa Fund is trying to give,” Mr Al Nowais said.
But to succeed, young Emirati entrepreneurs needed to be hands-on, said Mr Al Nowais.
“You can’t sit back and tell other people to work,” he said. “You need to know your suppliers and buyers. Once you grow, then you can delegate.”