Khalifa Fund launches first accelerator to help SMEs harness e-commerce

Companies that will display a 'high level of expertise' will be invited for a special eight-week course extension

Alia Al Mazrouei, CEO of the Khalifa Fund for Enterprise Development. Photo: Khalifa Fund
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The Khalifa Fund for Enterprise Development has launched a programme designed to enable small and medium enterprises leverage e-commerce technologies to help them to grow their businesses.

The inaugural E-Commerce Acceleration Programme is a training initiative that will help entrepreneurs to develop their e-commerce platforms, with experts from the sector providing mentorship, the Abu Dhabi agency said on Wednesday.

Participants in the programme will be given the opportunity to demonstrate the solutions they would develop. Those who show a "high level of expertise and scaleability" will be invited to a special eight-week course extension, Alia Al Mazrouei, chief executive of the Khalifa Fund, said.

"Understanding digital has become a prerequisite to entering the market, whereas in previous times it was only for a select few of innovative businesses," she said. Ms Al Mazrouei added that the entity will "equip entrepreneurs with digital resources and industry insights" through such programmes.

E-commerce grew exponentially during the Covid-19 pandemic and that growth has continued as consumers tap into its convenience and the variety it offers.

The UAE's e-commerce sector is forecast to grow by 60 per cent to more than $8 billion by 2025, from 2021, according to a recent report by Euromonitor International.

Globally, the market is expected to hit $55.6 trillion by 2027 at a compound annual growth rate of about 27.4 per cent, from an estimated $13tn in 2021, data from US-based research firm Imarc Group showed.

SMEs, meanwhile, make up a significant portion of businesses in the UAE. Latest government data shows that SMEs represent more than 94 per cent of all companies operating in the country, with 73 per cent in the wholesale and retail sector.

The growth in earnings of UAE SMEs is almost on par with the global average of 46 per cent, up from 39 per cent last year, with two-thirds of them saying they have recovered to pre-pandemic levels, the Euromonitor study found.

Applicants to the Khalifa Fund's new project, a five-day programme that will start on September 21, will be required to meet strict criteria to be accepted. These include enterprise size, product type, previous experience with e-commerce and overall business expertise, among others.

Registrations are currently open and will be accepted until September 14.

The programme will help participants to deliver real results that affect their bottom line, generate profit, expand brand exposure and boost customer engagement, the fund said.

"The retail space has seen substantial changes in recent years, with the evolution of digital technologies and their integration into the retail market," Ms Al Mazrouei said.

"It’s now essential for entrepreneurs to understand how to apply e-commerce practices to their businesses."

The Khalifa Fund was created in 2007 and is an independent, non-profit economic development agency of the government of Abu Dhabi to support SMEs.

Its has also been reaching out beyond the borders of the Emirates. In August, the Khalifa Fund announced that it will provide $30 million in financing to SMEs in Kenya, as part of efforts to support the capital Nairobi's programmes to boost the economy and create jobs.

Other Abu Dhabi agencies have also rolled out initiatives to help entrepreneurs. Last month, Group 42, the artificial intelligence and cloud computing company backed by sovereign wealth fund Mubadala, launched a $10bn fund that will invest in emerging technologies.

Updated: September 07, 2022, 5:33 PM