Empowering the private sector

We will have started down an exciting path when we think it’s hip to be an entrepreneur

Emirati nationals peruse the exhibition near the Daman stand, checking out and applying for possible jobs at Tawdheef, a job fair open to UAE citizens only. Silvia Razgova / The National
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From Silicon Valley internet ventures to nimble Berlin start-ups, there is a noticeable interest in entrepreneurship among young professionals across the globe. Perhaps it is the allure of finding the right formula for the next big app or the fact that entrepreneurs are simply more visible these days – think of the bigger-than-expected IPO of garage start-up, GoPro cameras – but entrepreneurship has become hip. Our society is increasingly drawn to a similar entrepreneurial spirit, which has propelled the UAE to its current position as a focal point for international aviation and commerce. Therefore, it makes good sense to look to entrepreneurial ventures as the right way forward to empower the local workforce.

As The National reported, a survey conducted at the Young Emirati Forum this week revealed a marked interest in joining the private sector. Twenty per cent of the sample wanted to become entrepreneurs. But a major psychological shift will be needed if newly minted professionals are to pick the private sector over the comfort and security of a public sector job. Many of those surveyed had reservations about private sector employment – it offered less job security and fewer benefits and meant longer hours. But while this might be true in the short term, it doesn't always have to be the case.

Driving tech innovation are tech incubators. In Jordan, for example, one incubator, Oasis 500, has made the country into a hot spot by enticing young visionaries to Amman and providing assistance – both technical and financial – to ensure their projects take off. The result is that multiple Arab applications and internet ventures have come to the attention of global internet giants such as Google and Yahoo. To be sure, many tech incubators have taken root in the UAE but there is significant room to grow the industry with Emiratis leading the way.

Until entrepreneurship takes off here among young people, it’s fair to assume that public sector employment will remain the preferred option. The architecture exists for this model to facilitate the required psychological shift.