Facebook parent company Meta has announced a project to support start-ups and small and medium-sized businesses in the UAE, as the Arab world’s second-largest economy aims to become home to 20 unicorns, or start-ups valued at more than $1 billion, by 2031.
The new programme, called Boost with Facebook, was launched in partnership with The Entrepreneurial Nation, an initiative by the Ministry of Economy aimed at helping entrepreneurs to set up their businesses in the UAE, export their products and sell goods and services online.
“The partnership with Meta is in line with our vision to create a support mechanism for the UAE’s entrepreneurial ecosystem,” said Hassan Alsayegh, director of SMEs development at the Ministry of Economy.
“Meta is a key enabler of SMEs in the UAE and we look forward to continuing this strong partnership to empower the sector.”
Small and medium enterprises are the backbone of the UAE economy, and the government has introduced various economic support packages to help business owners weather the Covid-19 pandemic. It has also taken measures to create a more attractive environment for foreign investment by easing visa rules and streamlining company ownership laws and other legislation.
The Boost with Facebook initiative began recently with an online workshop. The session offered training to operators of small and medium-sized businesses on how they can activate their social commerce activities on Meta platforms and create online storefronts with Shops as well as ways to reach the right audiences with personalised advertisements.
“We are continuing those training efforts in partnership with the UAE Ministry of Economy, helping to further boost a burgeoning start-up ecosystem, to positively impact socio-economic growth in the UAE,” said Azzam Alameddin, public policy director for Middle East, North Africa and Turkey at Meta.
The Entrepreneurial Nation, a unified destination for start-ups from inception to growth, encompasses three stages or tracks ― the Skill-Up Academy, the Scale-Up programme and the Start-Up track.
The Skill-Up Academy is intended to equip participants with entrepreneurial skills and is suitable for a variety of participants, including students, recent graduates, employees, retirees, homemakers and jobseekers.
The Start-Up track targets entrepreneurs seeking to establish a business and offers incentives, products and services to support start-ups and innovative companies. This includes a partnership with Emirates Development Bank to open bank accounts as quickly as 48 hours.
The Scale-Up programme backs fast-growing, revenue-earning companies that are more than three years old to expand and eventually become unicorns.
The UAE is also planning to set up a Dh1bn ($272 million) private equity fund to provide financing for SMEs that are based in the country and operating in strategic sectors, Ahmad Al Falasi, Minister of State for Entrepreneurship and SMEs, said last year.