Search on for the new entrepreneurs

Akoun Initiative to promote entrepreneurship among Emirati university students extends to all seven emirates this year.

Khalifa University students, L-R, Sara Bani Hashem, 20, a civil engineering student, her sister Yusra Bani Hashem, 19, foundations student who plans to enter biomedical engineering, and Salma al Jaberi, 21, a biomedical engineering student, applaud a presentation during Akoun Workshop, an initiative that aims at inspiring local youth into entering the world of entrepreneurship on March 20 at the Khalifa University of Science, Technology and Research in Abu Dhabi.Silvia Razgova / The National
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A competition to find the next generation of entrepreneurs now includes UAE national students from all the emirates, organisers said yesterday.

Last year, it was held only for those in the Abu Dhabi, Al Ain and Al Gharbia regions.

As part of the Akoun Initiative, organised by the Abu Dhabi Council for Economic Development, winners of the student business plan competition receive funding to help to bring their ideas to reality. The four-month competition started in February.

Last year there were nine prizewinners, three each from the Abu Dhabi, Al Ain and Al Gharbia regions. This year 27 winners will be chosen in a competition in which the first prize in each category is Dh25,000 (US$6,806). Second prize is Dh15,000, and the third prize Dh10,000. The Khalifa Fund will provide training for finalists and funding.

There has been an 80 per cent jump in the number of applications the programme received over the past four years. In the first year of the competition in 2009, Akoun received 23 applications. Last year, it received 113 submissions.

The programme includes workshops with UAE entrepreneurs and partners. More than 1,700 students are expected to attend the workshops at 16 universities by May.

Last year, Salama Al Muhairi, a Zayed University student who wants to open a company to promote sports among women, particularly football, whether as coaches, players or referees, was the winner from Abu Dhabi.

Aysha Abboud Al Ameri from UAE University in Al Ain, who teamed up with her brother in a project called direct credit, topped the list from there.

Through machines similar to ATMs, direct-credit users could recharge phones for a Dh1 fee and for an unlimited amount of credit.

"I need at least Dh600,000 for the company," says Ms Al Ameri, who graduated recentlywith a degree in mechanical engineering.

Two students from the Higher Colleges of Technology in Ruwais, Maitha Ali Mohamed Al Mansoori and Mariam Obaid Al Mansoori, who proposed a shop called M Sweets were ranked first from Al Gharbia region in last year's competition.

"Entrepreneurship is an increasingly attractive option for Emirati youth," said Fahad Saeed Al Raqbani, the council's director general. "We are also looking forward to growing the programme further in future years as a result of more and more local students actively pursuing careers as entrepreneurs."

Details about the initiative are available at