The Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development has launched a programme to help small and medium enterprises secure procurement opportunities from big private and public sector companies.
The Abu Dhabi SME Champion initiative will serve as an accelerator that will provide training and mentorship programmes to SMEs and start-ups and help them to compete in procurement pitches, the department said on Tuesday.
Procurement opportunities worth Dh30 million have already been committed by four major Abu Dhabi companies — Etihad Aviation Group, Aldar Properties, Emirates Steel Arkan Group and Ittihad Papermill — in the programme's first phase.
Each company has offered opportunities worth Dh7.5 million.
The initiative will also enable these companies to scale up their businesses and play a greater role in Abu Dhabi’s economy, apart from complementing other initiatives and programmes aimed at enhancing the role of SMEs, said Sameh Al Qubaisi, director general of economic affairs at Added.
“Abu Dhabi is focusing on developing a knowledge-based, innovation-driven economy,” he said.
“To this end, we champion SMEs and start-ups as drivers of a vibrant, private sector-led economy.”
SMEs and start-ups play a key role in a digital economy and the UAE government has set up several initiatives to support their growth.
They make up a significant portion of businesses in the UAE and are key to the Emirates' goal of becoming the top nation globally for entrepreneurship.
The latest government data shows SMEs represent more than 94 per cent of all companies operating in the country, with 73 per cent in the wholesale and retail sector.
In Abu Dhabi alone, the sector represents more than 90 per cent of businesses and 39 per cent of the workforce, and contributes 32 per cent of non-oil GDP, said Mouza Al Nasri, executive director of the SMEs sector at Added.
“Based on global metrics, we believe there are huge potentials to further develop the sector,” she said.
Meanwhile, the start-up industry received a further boost in October when the Ministry of Economy unveiled its updated Entrepreneurial Nation programme, which seeks to develop more than 8,000 SMEs and start-ups by 2030.
The Emirates also aims to be home to 20 unicorns — start-ups with a valuation of $1 billion and above — by then, double the number initially planned.
Start-ups across the Middle East, Africa, Pakistan and Turkey raised $7.2 billion through 1,473 deals last year, despite macroeconomic and geopolitical uncertainty, according to a January report by data platform Magnitt.
Abu Dhabi SME Champion will also collaborate with the public and private sector to raise their awareness of the capabilities of small and medium businesses as trusted suppliers, Added said.
This would also result in large organisations creating their own “champions” to boost their businesses.
The four companies that have pledged to offer procurement opportunities under the first phase will also nominate specialised teams that will work with selected SMEs during workshops and trainings, it said.
More big companies and government-related entities are expected to join future cohorts of the programme.
“As part of our efforts to ensure continuous improvement, we have studied the main factors to support SMEs and enhance its role,” Ms Al Nasri said.
“The Abu Dhabi SME Champion is part of our efforts to provide suitable environment for SMEs to enhance [their] role in the diversification strategy by increasing non-oil GDP and creating jobs.”