x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

SME project waters the roots of Emirati entrepreneurship

A Government venture has generated more than 1,000 businesses and 6,000 jobs, as it brings back the national entrepreneurial spirit.

DUBAI // A Government venture has not only generated more than 1,000 businesses and 6,000 jobs - it is also bringing back the Emirati spirit of entrepreneurship. In its eight-year history, the Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Establishment for Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) has helped fledgling firms develop to earn hundreds of millions of dollars. Its goal is not only to build a more stable and diverse economy for the emirate, but to restore the ways of prior generations to the business culture.

Abdul Baset al Janahi, the chief executive of the SME, said: "We are traders, all of us come from trading families, being businessmen comes naturally to us." The desire to forge one's own destiny was long inherent in Emirati culture. But when the national economy exploded thanks to the development of oil, the public sector needed more and more Emiratis to steer their country towards the future. In effect, entrepreneurship skipped a generation.

Mr al Janahi said the SME venture was working to encourage an intellectual shift in the next generation of nationals to return to their entrepreneurial roots. "The biggest obstacles are not structural, they are mental and social," he said. "Thanks to God, the Government has been generous with funding and now what we aim to do is foster the spark within individuals to make them have the courage to do it themselves."

Since the SME began in 2002, it has helped 1,050 businesses get off the ground, drawing on Dh850 million in contracts from the government and private sector and creating 6,000 jobs. The establishment was created under a decree from Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, the Ruler of Dubai, to get Emiratis involved in the new wave of economic development that has happened over the last decade and to encourage self -employment. Mr al Janahi said the SME was essential for maintaining a stable long-term economic future. "The value of helping people become self-employed goes back into the economy," he said.

"We help with funding and consulting but ultimately we are encouraging our young people to become self sufficient. That is invaluable." Mr al Janahi said his department was working to encourage an intellectual shift in the young generation of nationals to accept entrepreneurship. Pointing to Mohammed Saeed Harib, the creator of the Freej cartoon, and Ahmed and Rashid bin Shabib, who founded The Shelter and Brownbook magazine, as notable examples of the department's success, Mr al Janahi said he was always looking for the next one. "We have the structure in place," Mr al Janahi said. "We have an award system and programmes in high schools to help them see self-employment as an option from early on. @Email:aseaman@thenational.ae Brothers, page a2 "The value of helping people become self-employed goes back into the economy," Mr al Janahi said. "We help with funding and consulting but ultimately, we are encouraging our young people to become self-sufficient. That is invaluable."

"We want to show them if they want to do something for themselves not to wait for the government or for someone to do it for them, just to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty." aseaman@thenational.ae