Op-ed by Hisham Al Gurg, CEO, Seed Group and the Private Office of Sheikh Saeed bin Ahmed Al Maktoum
An article published by the World Economic Forum last year stated, “Across the Arabian Gulf, countries have made bold plans to diversify and grow the economy. A common thread is a need to nurture small and medium enterprises (SMEs) as an engine of long-term growth, economic diversity, and social stability.”
At the heart of the Arabian Gulf, the UAE has emerged as a magnet for SMEs over the past few years. Such has been the enviable trajectory of this particular economic segment’s growth that the country has become one of the first choices of entrepreneurs from across all corners of the world.
In the UAE, SMEs represent more than 94 percent of total companies operating in the country, employing over 86 percent of the private sector’s workforce. The facts for the emirate of Dubai alone say that SMEs make up 95 percent of all its businesses, with 42 percent of employment opportunities and a significant contribution of 40 percent of the emirate’s gross domestic product (GDP).
Advancing its endeavors in this direction, the UAE government took an important step towards the end of 2022 with the announcement of the launch of the Future 100 Initiative in December.
Experts and leaders are hailing the new initiative, which was created to identify, honor, and recognize the top 100 start-ups in the country, as a turning point—something I strongly agree with. With this initiative, the country’s economy is expected to benefit in a way that will shape its future. According to reports, the program will inspire players in emerging sectors such as space, renewable energy, and emerging technologies to increase their impact on the nation’s economy.
I believe this is exactly what the country’s thriving SME ecosystem needs right now. As the world advances towards a future of high uncertainty and technology and innovations take over the business ecosystem, being prepared for it by strengthening the national economy with futuristic, far-sighted, and disruptive SMEs is perhaps one of the best directions to walk in. The initiative is reflective of the UAE’s ambitious plans to make it the best place to live, work, and visit in the coming years.
As developing digital ecosystems and nurturing digital talents and capabilities become increasingly important, the UAE government’s attention towards its SME landscape is nothing less than visionary and exemplary. The Future 100 initiative is poised to emerge as an important part of this journey—one that is worth tracking and learning from.
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