The number of small and medium-sized enterprises operating in the UAE reached 557,000 at the end of last year, state-owned news agency Wam reported on Thursday
The UAE aims to increase this number to one million by the end of 2030 as it seeks to boost the contribution of SMEs to the economy, Wam cited Abdullah Al Marri, Minister of Economy, as saying.
SMEs account for 63.5 per cent of the non-oil economy, Mr Al Marri said.
The ministry’s role in creating an investment environment that supports citizens who own SMEs is in line with its vision of establishing a globally competitive, knowledge-based economy led by UAE citizens, he said.
The government intends to foster an ecosystem that attracts investment and ensures competition among SMEs, as well as protects consumer rights and increases foreign direct investment, Mr Al Marri added.
Developing the sector and accelerating the growth of the start-up ecosystem are priorities for the UAE government under its development strategy for the next 50 years.
The UAE government has launched various programmes and initiatives to support the ecosystem.
In October, the Ministry of Economy unveiled the Entrepreneurial Nation 2.0 initiative, which seeks to develop more than 8,000 small and medium enterprises and start-ups by 2030, with a focus on technology.
The first Entrepreneurial Nation initiative was set up in November 2021, with 10 programmes backed by digital tools and financing solutions, and about Dh20 million ($5.5 million) provided by private-sector partners.
The programme also has a goal of creating 20 unicorns, or start-ups with a valuation of $1 billion and above, by 2031.
Meanwhile, Emirates Development Bank, founded in 2011 after a merger between Emirates Industrial Bank and Real Estate Bank, also provides direct and indirect financing to start-ups and SMEs, along with larger corporates.
It has set aside Dh30 billion for direct and indirect lending to more than 13,500 companies in five priority sectors such as manufacturing, infrastructure, advanced technology, food security and health care, by 2025.
The start-up ecosystem in the UAE has received a strong boost in recent years as entrepreneurs tap into innovation to address consumer needs.
The sector's growth has risen in tandem with the increase in digitisation in key sectors such as retail, services, e-commerce and government.