The Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce and Industry has signed three preliminary agreements with leading local and regional organisations that aim to help small and medium enterprises and start-ups boost their contributions to the food sector and stimulate economic growth in the UAE capital.
The agreements were signed with Emirates Development Bank (EDB), the Abu Dhabi Agriculture and Food Safety Authority (Adafsa) and the Arab Authority for Agricultural Investment and Development (AAAID), with the goal of strengthening the contribution of the private sector to the economy, the chamber said in a statement on Thursday.
The accords, signed as part of the chamber's participation at the Abu Dhabi International Food Exhibition, will help companies launch projects and give them the required guidance to scale at local and regional levels, said Mohamed Al Mheiri, director general of the Abu Dhabi Chamber.
He said: "The chamber ensures supporting private companies from different sectors and scales ... to launch their business and achieve operational success, particularly for SMEs, which play a key role in driving the emirate’s economic development."
SMEs are considered the backbone of an economy and have played a critical role in the private sector, making up a significant portion of businesses. They are responsible for more than two thirds of employment and gross domestic product worldwide, the World Economic Forum says.
Globally, the value of SMEs is expected to hit $55.6 trillion by 2027 at a compound annual growth rate of 27.4 per cent, from an estimated $13 trillion last year, data from US-based research firm Imarc Group indicated.
They are also key in the UAE's goal of becoming the top nation globally for entrepreneurship. SMEs represent more than 94 per cent of all companies operating in the country, with 73 per cent in the wholesale and retail sector, latest government data show.
The UAE's start-up ecosystem has boomed in recent years as entrepreneurs tap into innovation to address consumer needs.
Funding for start-ups in the UAE — one of the top destinations for venture capital investments in the Mena region — rose by about 5 per cent in the third quarter to $148 million, according to start-up platform Magnitt.
The industry continues to receive further boosts. This week, the UAE launched Future 100, a programme aimed at supporting and honouring the top 100 start-ups each year, while in October, the government unveiled its updated Entrepreneurial Nation programme, which seeks to develop more than 8,000 small and medium enterprises and start-ups by 2030.
Global food prices, meanwhile, started to rise in 2020 when businesses shut down after the onset of the coronavirus pandemic and this strained supply chains, Deep Knowledge Analytics said in a recent report.
High food prices — exacerbated by Russia's war in Ukraine — have exposed communities around the world to hunger, according to the UN's Food and Agricultural Organisation.
In particular, more than 141 million people in the Arab world face food insecurity, the International Monetary Fund said in October.
The Abu Dhabi Chamber's agreement with EDB will help companies access investment opportunities in food security sectors, as well as in manufacturing, advanced technology and health care.
EDB will also provide financing packages for the chamber's members, plus an online platform that offers free training courses to help companies develop their strategies.
The accord with Adafsa, meanwhile, aims to boost co-operation in finding solutions to current food security challenges, along with developing economic policies and legislation for the agricultural sector.
Awareness campaigns on investment opportunities and promoting the emirates agricultural sector are also in the pipeline to attract more investment from private companies.
On a broader scale, the Abu Dhabi Chamber and AAAID will join hands to establish integrated agricultural projects to help achieve food security both in the UAE and the Arab world.
Both organisations will work on preparing feasibility studies for these projects, introducing available investment opportunities.
"These agreements mark the beginning of a new phase of co-operation with leading entities," Mr Al Mheiri said.