x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Export promotion efforts can aid more than big firms

Even tiny family concerns can benefit from initiatives like the one just announced in Dubai.

Bkhita, from the small town of Sila in the Western Region, has been sewing all of her adult life. A 48-year-old widow, who was taught the skill by her mother, she has been weaving traditional patterns as a source of income for her family of five sons and a daughter. "This is the legacy of our ancestors and we should not stop," she says proudly.

Indeed, traditional crafts continue to flourish outside the big city centres of the country. They may not be mainstays of the national economy any more, but they are still valuable income earners and links to the Emirates' past.

As reported in The National yesterday, Dubai has launched a new scheme that will provide grants of up to Dh100,000 for local private sector companies to establish new export markets as the emirate looks to further boost trade after the global financial crisis. While the project is still getting off the ground, and focused on larger industries such as plastics and food products, it could be expanded to help brand and promote traditional industries as well.

Saed al Awadi, the chief executive of Dubai Export Development Corporation, said: "This service is the first of its kind in the GCC and through this initiative we are optimistic that more SMEs [small and medium-sized enterprises] will be involved in seeking out and developing the export sector by exporting local goods and services."

Local businesses, with the help of these grants, should be looking to manufacture products such as plastics and building materials. Further down the line, and with other export-promotion efforts, UAE companies could compete globally in everything from small arms to semiconductors.

It may not be in areas that everyone would expect. Already, the UAE is one of the world's leading exporters of dates, alongside Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Egypt and Iran, with more than 40 million palm trees and 16,000 farmers in the country. This competitive advantage is one the UAE has already cultivated and should build upon in its trade profile.

There is no point in counting the chickens before they are hatched. But export-promotion efforts have done so much to open markets for other countries, it is hoped that Dubai's initiative will benefit the country's SMEs, including Bkhita and the fabric of Emirati society.