Enthusiasm and the dynamics of an entrepreneur

In defiance of slackening entrepreneurial trends in the midst of the economic downturn, the UAE stands out as a burgeoning centre of new private enterprise over the past year.

There has been much brainstorming about how to encourage young people to enter the private sector and play a more productive role in society. And there has been no shortage of agonising about the success of the Emiratisation programme, the poor representation of nationals in the workforce and perceived faults in the training of the younger generation. In many ways, a new study by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, which we report today, turns conventional wisdom on its head. In defiance of slackening entrepreneurial trends in the midst of the economic downturn, the UAE stands out as a burgeoning centre of new private enterprise over the past year. The UK-based study classified this country as one of the world's "innovation-driven economies" - a statement that could not more perfectly match national aspirations.
What may also come as a surprise is that men outstrip women in opening new enterprises by a factor of two to one. Because of their academic achievements, there are great expectations of the nation's young women. The study offers an opportunity to find solutions to help them to engage in entrepreneurship at the same level as their male peers. It is the interplay between Government-sponsored programmes and individual initiative that is perhaps most revealing. There can be little doubt that programmes such as the Khalifa Fund and the Mohammed Bin Rashid Foundation have been instrumental in encouraging young people to take up new enterprises. Helping to defray the start-up costs, and the risk, can help to determine whether a person's idea will come to fruition.
But the dynamo of entrepreneurship is still individual enthusiasm. Our case studies show that businesspeople, while crediting the Government's assistance, are inspired by the passion for the business. "We feel our contribution to the economy and society is significant because we bring a product that we truly care about," says Mohamed Parham al Awadhi, co-owner of the Wild Peeta restaurant. It is a heartening message for those concerned about the nation's future.
There is no need to sugarcoat the challenges that still lie ahead. The study also highlights the difficulties of commercialising new enterprises and the immaturity of economic institutions. While the dynamism of small and medium enterprises in economic terms is welcome, the emphasis on socially beneficial projects is a silver lining to the issue of commercialisation. The study praises the UAE, but that is not the victory. Each one of these entrepreneurs working day by day to realise their dreams is. The naysayers have a right to remain sceptical. But one small business at a time could prove them wrong.