Investment in SMEs is crucial for Oman’s economic growth

The $5.2 billion Future Oman Fund is expected to play a vital role in Muscat's diversification efforts

Muscat, Oman – 21st June 2017: DAMAC International has been chosen by the Government of Oman to develop its Port Sultan Qaboos into a world-class, waterfront mix use destination through a joint venture with Omran, the government’s investment, growth and development arm. ‘Mina Sultan Qaboos Waterfront’ is being redeveloped into a USD1 billion integrated tourist port and lifestyle destination that includes hotels, residences, as well as a dining, retail and leisure offering. Courtesy Damac *** Local Caption ***  bz22ju-Mina-Sultan-Qaboos.jpg
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The world is at an interesting juncture, with nations around the globe working hard to boost economic activity and empower citizens to lead the way towards more secure and stable futures.

Political, social, technological and environmental factors have brought forth rapid changes in lifestyles, consumer habits and business practices. However, there are various opportunities to view these changes with optimism and create new avenues for development that support long-term development goals.

Earlier this year, Oman Investment Authority launched a fund valued at $5.2 billion to encourage investments in the private sector and small and medium enterprises. It is called the Future Oman Fund and is expected to support sectors such as tourism, manufacturing, green energy, maritime resources and technology.

This is an important move to support economic diversification goals. It is, after all, encouraging to have growing industries with further potential being brought to light and entrepreneurs – both existing and aspiring – receiving financial support as well as a boost in confidence.

SMEs are said to be the backbone of the economy and powerful drivers of social development, creating close to 70 per cent of jobs and gross domestic product worldwide, according to data published by the World Economic Forum in 2022.

However, SMEs are more profoundly affected by hurdles such as inflation and rising costs. Indeed, even the slightest shifts in supply chain or market demand will significantly affect revenues. Also, given that they typically have small numbers of employees, they will instantly see a slowdown in productivity if there are talent shortages or high staff turnover rates.

It is encouraging to have growing industries being brought to light and entrepreneurs receiving financial support

Expansion, competition and the securing of funds are all challenging for SMEs, which is why strategic approaches to recharge them – as we are currently seeing in Oman – are crucial.

Beyond funding, there are various initiatives that support the growth of SMEs. Workshops for budding business owners led by seasoned entrepreneurs, mentorship programmes and an increased focus on entrepreneurial education by educational institutions can all help drive this objective.

Industry consortiums and business networks can allow entrepreneurs to tackle common challenges pertaining to rising costs, employee retention and market demand together.

Omani entrepreneurs have an excellent opportunity to tap into the global conversations that are challenging international brands that have monopolised several markets internationally. Shopping local brings forth a series of benefits that include reducing carbon footprint, using locally available sources, better and more personalised service, and growth in local jobs, production and revenue.

Home-grown businesses have the highest levels of connection with their market and can engage more easily with consumers to ensure that market demand is met most efficiently.

Further, local businesses enhance the tourism landscape of any country, as travellers are interested in engaging with brands and experiences that reflect their destination’s culture, heritage and natural resources.

Of course, this does not mean that SMEs must be limited to the local market – we must encourage entrepreneurs to expand beyond their borders, across the region and internationally. There is plenty of potential in the tourism industry, especially to partner with regional players as well as international businesses and offer package deals that allow visitors a variety of experiences.

SMEs must also be encouraged to adopt AI technology in innovative ways to deliver more personalised experiences than ever before. Augmented reality can overlay digital experiences in the physical world by adding more interactive elements in digital spaces, offer gamified experiences such as treasure hunts, use virtual reality to elevate user experience, and cut travelling time.

There is enormous potential for tech firms and operators in the tourism industry to collaborate and innovate together, taking elements from Oman’s celebrated tourism offerings to create technology that makes for new, improved and more accessible experiences.

Oman has some further work to do in terms of greater economic growth and diversification, but it must remain strong and united. The nation’s leaders, government, private sector and citizens have come a long way owing to unity and a vision for a prosperous future.

It must make the most of its available resources to keep developing its talent, plan strategically and rise to the best of its capacity. I do not doubt that our nation will not only meet its goals but also establish itself as a global benchmark for growth and resilience.

Published: March 12, 2024, 7:00 AM