x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Entrepreneurship will help the nation

A wider range of locally owned SMEs will help achieve national objectives

The national project of Emiratisation in the private sector is moving beyond getting more Emiratis to work in established private companies towards encouraging people to explore opportunities to set up their own businesses. As The National reported yesterday, the director general of Dubai Municipality, Hussain Lootah, has called on Emiratis to consider entering the world of entrepreneurship instead of depending on public-sector jobs. During a session on the potential of public-private partnerships as part of the Government Summit in Dubai this week, Mr Lootah also said that government departments should encourage small to medium enterprises (SME) by allocating 5 per cent of their annual budgets to support them.

There are already examples of small Emirati businesses that began in private homes with entrepreneurs starting from scratch, learning basic skills and enjoying great success. Several Emirati women have established businesses selling homemade cupcakes, cookies and cakes, first to their small circle and then expanding with the help of social media, allowing them to advertise their products and communicate with new customers. Some of them have gone further, opening their own shops, even branching out to other emirates and other countries.

But there are several challenges facing these business people that the government can help address. The main obstacle is high rental fees for commercial premises, preventing many young entrepreneurs with small budgets taking the first step. Then there is the difficulty of engaging in the tough and competitive commercial world, requiring a high level of knowledge and skill, and substantial risk-taking.

Existing initiatives to help entrepreneurs include the Khalifa Fund, which has been supporting small businesses since it was established in 2007. Dubai Municipality has also allocated Dh1 billion for private sector partnership projects. This kind of partnership is an important part of the diversification of the UAE’s economy away from its dependence on oil and gas.

A wider range of locally owned SMEs will help achieve national objectives. With the assurance of continued government support, many more people will feel comfortable enough to take the risk, and the UAE will be the better for it.