Supermodel Tyra Banks explores Abu Dhabi business opportunities

Entrepreneur will be among a group of visiting US female tech founders seeking to scale their businesses in Middle East

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Supermodel-turned-businesswoman Tyra Banks will visit Abu Dhabi later this month as part of a delegation of female US technology entrepreneurs who will share their insights and explore the emirate as a gateway for global expansion of their companies.

The Women of Web3 delegation will be hosted by Access Abu Dhabi, an initiative powered by the Abu Dhabi Investment Office (Adio) and Maven Global that aims to help US companies led by women and minority entrepreneurs to expand in Abu Dhabi and serve as a gateway for the wider Middle East market, Adio said in a statement on Thursday.

Ms Banks will also headline the inaugural session of the Access Granted talk series on Thursday, May 26 in Abu Dhabi, where she will be joined by Mohammed Al Shorafa, chairman of the Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development, the government entity overseeing Adio’s activities.

“With abundant opportunities for innovative businesses in Abu Dhabi, Adio is committed to supporting companies seeking growth in and from the emirate,” Mr Al Shorafa said.

“Access Abu Dhabi provides a gateway for entrepreneurs from all backgrounds to plug into an empowering, enabling ecosystem for business expansion to the Middle East.”

The programme is part of the emirate's strategy to convince global companies to set up their regional bases in Abu Dhabi. Its ambassador will be businessman Kevin O'Leary, the star of the business reality show Shark Tank.

Small and medium enterprises are the backbone of the UAE economy, comprising 98 per cent of the total companies operating in the country.

As of 2018, there were 54,234 SMEs in the UAE capital, of which 33,760 were micro, 18,945 were small and 1,529 were medium enterprises, according to the Statistics Centre Abu Dhabi.

The emirate’s recent steps to further enhance the economic climate and stimulate private establishments include reducing the number of requirements to start a business by 71 per cent and slashing business set-up fees by more than 90 per cent.

Abu Dhabi is focusing on using advanced technology to develop its non-oil sector and reduce its reliance on hydrocarbons. Adio is enabling private sector participation in the broader economy through public-private partnerships and by helping to attract foreign investment.

Ms Banks, a former fashion model, is now a media and business pioneer whose portfolio includes the production company, Bankable Productions, which has made shows such as The Tyra Banks Show and America’s Next Top Model.

Access Abu Dhabi is a programme powered by the Abu Dhabi Investment Office that aims to support global women and minority-led companies seeking expansion to the Middle East through the UAE’s capital city. Nick Fewings / Unsplash

Her latest business venture, premium ice cream brand Smize Cream, is gearing up to expand globally.

“The UAE has been really impressive when it comes to investing in innovation,” the former model said.

“I’m thrilled to be here to share my entrepreneurial journey, discuss strategy and explore how Abu Dhabi can be a part of its next big chapter.”

Ms Banks will discuss the opportunities and challenges that exist for women in business and technology, and how she plans to incorporate Web3 into her business model.

Speakers at the Access Granted event will also discuss opportunities for women in business in Abu Dhabi, the Adio statement added.

The delegation of female leaders in cryptocurrency, blockchain and other Web3 technologies will talk about the challenges, opportunities and future of this space, according to the statement. They will also meet cryptocurrency, blockchain and Web3 business leaders, and business set-up service providers to explore Abu Dhabi’s opportunities, Adio said.

As part of the Access Abu Dhabi programme, curated delegations of notable Americans will gain an insider's experience of Abu Dhabi’s advanced infrastructure, hyper connectivity, competitive talent pool, lifestyle and business opportunities.

These crucial groups will help to spread the word of the emirate’s advantages among their respective communities back home, Adio said.

The UAE and US have enjoyed strong ties for decades. The Emirates has been the top export market for US goods in the entire Mena region since 2009, with a value of $14.75 billion, according to the UAE Embassy in Washington.

Updated: May 20, 2022, 3:30 AM