UAE launches updated programme to develop 8,000 SMEs and start-ups by 2030

Ministry of Economy's Entrepreneurial Nation 2.0 will feature co-operation with four countries

Minister of Economy Abdulla bin Touq and Minister of State for Foreign Trade Dr Thani Al Zeyoudi with investors at the launch of the Entrepreneurial Nation 2.0 programme in Dubai. Photo: Leslie Pableo / The National
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The UAE Ministry of Economy has launched an updated programme to drive the country's goal of becoming the top globally for entrepreneurship.

The Entrepreneurial Nation 2.0 initiative seeks to develop more than 8,000 small and medium enterprises and start-ups by 2030, Abdulla bin Touq, Minister of Economy, said at Gitex Global 2022 in Dubai on Thursday.

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 ($5.5m) 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.

Technology will be a key pillar for the initiative's second phase as new innovations spurring digitisation and smart services are empowering businesses and societies, as well as preparing them for the future economy.

The Emirates will also team up with other countries for the first time under the initiative, including Saudi Arabia, India, South Korea and Latvia, Mr bin Touq said.

“SMEs have always been a key integration of our economy, creating many jobs. They are a key aspect of the UAE,” he said at the launch.

“They are the front line of any economy and a health check of what is happening on the ground.”

The UAE government has a special focus on SMEs, as they are considered critical for economic diversification, employment and expansion.

About 95 per cent of all companies operating in the UAE are SMEs, employing almost 90 per cent of the private sector labour force and contributing more than 60 per cent to gross domestic product, according to the latest government data.

Local state-backed entities and strategies that support the sector include the National SME Programme, the UAE SME Council, Abu Dhabi's Khalifa Fund, Dubai SME and Operation 300bn, the 10-year strategy that seeks to increase the industrial sector's contribution to the country's gross domestic product to Dh300bn by 2031.

The start-up ecosystem 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.

Funding for start-ups in the UAE — one of the top destinations for venture capital investments in the Mena region — rose about 5 per cent in the third quarter to $148 million, from $141m a year ago, according to data from start-up platform Magnitt.

Companies in the country also raised $699m in the first half of the year.

Entrepreneurial Nation has been designed as a one-stop shop platform that unifies the UAE’s entrepreneurial ecosystem and brings together public and private sector entities to support entrepreneurs and SME development.

Its latest iteration will help UAE companies to gain access to new markets and investors, and potential new capital, and will catapult them on to the global stage, Mr bin Touq said.

International participation is also set to be expanded at a later stage.

The programme will be supported by other government entities, and regulations will either be created or updated to help companies experience more seamless development moving forward, Mr bin Touq said.

“We will ensure that the economy stays fit and ready for the future,” he said. “We will also ensure that our legislations and regulations will be very adaptable and adjustable.”

Updated: October 13, 2022, 4:54 PM