UAE SMEs to make their pitches as Adnec event begins

SME Congress & Expo starts in Abu Dhabi today to help small businesses network and gain access to markets.

Funds and feedback represent the two major requirements for small businesses, say government officials spearheading the SME Congress that kicks off today.

The three-day SME Congress & Expo, which is running at Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre, is expected to return to the emirate next year.

“The SME Congress & Expo is the place where SMEs [small and medium enterprises] from across the Middle East meet to source everything they need to grow their businesses,” said Hayete Jemai, exhibition director at the SME Congress, organised by Informa.

The congress will feature a “Pitch for Investment” competition in which entrepreneurs can submit their business ideas for funds.

Judges have shortlisted 10 entrepreneurs who will present their plans today and tomorrow.

The winner will be announced on the last day of the event. The winning prize includes a management training course worth US$5,000 provided by the event organiser and training provider IIR Middle East and two business class flights from Etihad Airways.

Among the shortlisted candidates are Search in Mena, an online company offering advertising services to SMEs, and, an e-commerce supplier of school and office supplies.

The UAE improved its global standing by three notches in the latest World Bank’s Doing Business report – rising to 23rd out of 189 economies.

But it fell 13 positions in in ease of starting a business and by four in ease of getting credit – both crucial for small start-up businesses.

In its Abu Dhabi Vision 2030, the Government has highlighted the need to grow productive SMEs as being crucial for economic diversification.

It is also hoped that the SME sector will create better quality jobs for Emiratis as the population grows.

“The Government’s efforts to diversify the economy and move away from dependence on the oil sector are bearing fruit,” Karim El Solh, chief executive of the Abu Dhabi-based investment fund Gulf Capital told The National last month.

“Early last decade, non-oil sectors accounted for just below 60 per cent of the economy; now they account for nearly 70 per cent.”