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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 16 November 2018

Social media influencers covered by Abu Dhabi's new company licence programme

Emirati families running firms from home will also be eligible as part of newly expanded Tajer service

Dubai's commercial protection department wants social media users to think before they fall for the aspirational advertising of online influencers. Reuters
Dubai's commercial protection department wants social media users to think before they fall for the aspirational advertising of online influencers. Reuters

Paid influencers can secure a trade licence via the newly expanded Tajer service, allowing them to operate as an established business, the Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development said on Monday.

The department rolled out its latest licence package on Sunday,

which will be open to applicants from all GCC citizens and UAE residents with an Emirati partner. This includes influencers, who make money promoting brands, and Emirati families running small businesses from home.

“Yes, this applies to paid ‘influencers’, although they would still need to obtain an e-media licence from the National Media Council to operate,” Saif Al Hajeri, chairman of the department, told The National.

“The aim of Tajer Abu Dhabi is to allow businesses on social media to conduct themselves in the same way as established businesses, ensuring they have the same opportunities to grow and develop, such as importing and exporting, opening bank accounts and working with government entities."

Social media influencing has become big business for some UAE personalities, as those with a large number of followers on platforms such as Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram, in particular, can demand fees of tens or hundreds of thousands of dirhams for promotional posts.

Under new regulations rolled out in March by the NMC, intended to regularise and professionalise the industry, social media influencers were told they needed two licences to be able to operate commercially – a trade licence, which can now be secured via Tajer Abu Dhabi with the cost dependent on the sector, and an e-media licence, which costs Dh15,000.

“These businesses are an important part of our economy, now and in the future, and we want them to thrive,” said Mr Al Hajeri, adding that only new businesses can apply for the licence as the programme focuses on companies in the first two years of operations.

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Tajer Abu Dhabi is part of the three-year Dh50 billion stimulus package for the emirate unveiled in June by Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces. It is one of the seven strategic initiatives being implemented by the department to bolster growth in Abu Dhabi’s economy, attract more foreign direct investment, create jobs and ease business conditions for entrepreneurs and small-to-medium enterprises looking to set up in the emirate.

The expanded Golden Package of Tajer Abu Dhabi now includes commercial activities under seven categories, including business and contracting, commerce, services and operations and productive local families.

Mr Al Hajeri said this refers to Emirati families who produce a wide range of products including perfumes, woven products (Sadu), home accessories, henna, traditional medicines, embroidered clothing, traditional foods, spices, pickles and desserts.

“The aim is to promote local production and self-employment among Emirati families,” he said.

Tajer Abu Dhabi launched in July last year as a pilot programme, covering 30 business activities to service Emiratis wanting to set up a business without the need for a physical office space. By the end of last year, the number of business activities was expanded to 100 and the programme was opened to Saudi nationals.

“The initiative had a significant impact on encouraging UAE nationals to join the private sector by helping them set up their own business and obtaining an economic license. This is one of the reasons that we have decided to extend the scheme,” said Mr Al Hajeri.

In the latest expansion, 1,057 eligible commercial activities are now covered by the programme, which accepts three legal formats: one-person companies for Emiratis; one-person companies for GGC nationals and limited liability companies for UAE residents in partnership with Emiratis, where the Emirati owns 51 per cent of the business. Fees vary depending on the type of commercial activity the business applies; applicants can opt for a two-year licence that can be renewed annually, the department said.

“An example of a commercial activity previously restricted to Emirati nationals is car rental companies. This will be now open to non-UAE nationals, as Emiratis will be allowed to partner with non-UAE nationals to establish such companies,” said Mr Al Hajeri.

While the initiative does away with new ventures requiring office space, Mr Al Hajeri is confident this will not have an adverse effect on the sector.

"This initiative is designed to encourage the establishment and growth of new, innovative companies. We see this as being important to the growth of the economy as a whole. And, if the economy grows, then demand for all forms of property will grow, both residential and commercial," he said.

Mr Al Hajeri said increasing the number of entrepreneurs that can access the new licence system was “not about the volume of licences”.

“The key for us is to ensure that every entrepreneur out there who has an idea for a great new business in Abu Dhabi is able to follow their dream. We want to support a thriving and growing SME sector that continues to be a key engine of our economy,” he said.