Call to encourage more woman entrepreneurs

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Call to encourage more woman entrepreneurs

Women entrepreneurship in the Arab world is still lagging compared to other emerging countries.

By Olivia Olarte

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Published: Thu 24 Nov 2011, 12:07 AM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 10:39 AM

ABU DHABI - Women entrepreneurship in the Arab world is still lagging compared to other emerging countries.

Soha Nashaat, senior adviser and board member, Barclays Bank; Alia Moubayed; Nadia Al Dossary, CEO, Al Sale Eastern; Rasha Nashat Hassani, chairman, Landmark Properties; and Salam Saadeh, during a panel discussion at the 3rd annual Women in Leadership Forum at Emirates Palace, Abu Dhabi on Wednesday.— KT photo by Shoaib Anwer

Evidence globally has shown that women entrepreneurship has been growing at a fantastically fast rate and it has been in many countries, particularly in emerging countries, a key driver of growth in our economy,” said Alia Moubayed, director and senior economist Middle East and North Africa (MENA), Barclays Capital.

Speaking during the third annual Women in Leadership Forum in the Capital on Wednesday, Moubayed cited a survey carried out by the World Bank two years ago of around 5,000 entrepreneurs, both men and women, from six countries in the Arab world.

“They found that only 13 per cent of those 5,000 companies were owned by women. The rest were owned by men, which showed that they are far behind the 30 to 40 per cent women ownership that we found in other emerging countries or the more advanced OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) countries,” Moubayed explained.

On the labour force, over the past two decades, women’s rate of participation is around 10 to 15 per cent in the early 80s to reach around 25 to 60 per cent on an average across the region.

Comparing this to Asia and Latin America, Moubayed pointed out that between 60 to 70 per cent of women in these countries work in the private and public sector.

Gender discrimination in the Arab world is a major obstacle that hinders women’s participation, according to Moubayed citing inheritance, access to capital, labour laws, and pension and insurance.

“Women should have the rights for pension,” she said noting not allowing them to be on the same platform as men or compete equally puts them at a disadvantage.

Salam Saadeh, founder and CEO of Active-M Investments LLC, a small to medium enterprises (SME) consultant in Dubai, underscored the social and economic benefits of having women entrepreneurs.

“In microlending, studies have proven that women provide more return on equity. They are better at protecting their investments (and) they don’t have as much default as men,” she stated.

For this reason, the banks are becoming more open to providing funding support.

In the MENA region where 24 is the median working age, governments are challenged to create jobs for the new generation.

“Spurring entrepreneurship to make it on their own,” is the way forward, she added.

She noted the many new government initiatives and more funds being created in the region for this purpose.

This year alone, from January to August, “48 new investments were made in technology-based start-ups,” she said.

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