Entrepreneurship is the future of UAE economy

Entrepreneurship will serve as the infrastructure of UAE’s post-oil economy



Delegates and guests at the 5th Sharjah Entrepreneurship Festival. — Supplied photos
Delegates and guests at the 5th Sharjah Entrepreneurship Festival. — Supplied photos
Bodour Al Qasimi, chairperson, Sheraa, exchanging views with the guests at the festival.
Bodour Al Qasimi, chairperson, Sheraa, exchanging views with the guests at the festival.
by

Muzaffar Rizvi

Published: Mon 22 Nov 2021, 7:50 PM

Last updated: Mon 22 Nov 2021, 10:55 PM

The UAE’s strong focus on innovation and the substantial opportunities open to aspiring founders a

Najla Al Midfa, CEO of Sheraa, reiterated Sheraa’s goal to nurture the brilliance in every individual to enable them to pursue and fulfil their dreams and thrive.
Najla Al Midfa, CEO of Sheraa, reiterated Sheraa’s goal to nurture the brilliance in every individual to enable them to pursue and fulfil their dreams and thrive.

t every stage of growth has cemented its status as a vibrant startup hub in the region, according to the experts.

At the 5th Sharjah Entrepreneurship Festival, industry leaders, executives and young entrepreneurs held insightful discussions on the nation’s vision for the UAE’s entrepreneurial ecosystem over the next 50 years and reposed full faith in the government’s policies in this regard.

Changemakers from different sectors asserted that 50 years down, entrepreneurship will serve as the infrastructure of UAE’s post-oil economy, and hailed the nation’s business environment that is attracting creative talents from around the world and supporting the growth of businesses seeking efficient solutions to pressing global challenges.

“Having the required skills and confidence in one’s abilities and a growth mindset are factors that form the basis of entrepreneurial success. Therefore, here in Sharjah, we seek to inspire the next generation of founders by spotlighting the unique challenges, journeys and stories of success of leading entrepreneurs from the UAE, the region and the world,” said Bodour Al Qasimi, chairperson, Sheraa.

She said entrepreneurship serves as a wellspring of sustainable and diversified economic growth. “It champions innovation and celebrates new, path-breaking ideas that carry a promise of the kind of change that truly serves the needs and aspirations of one and all in our ever-changing societies,” she said.

“The SME sector is distinctive in the way it has been serving as a primary economic driver and trendsetter in society, especially in the UAE’s, and here in Sharjah, we are paving the way for the next phase of local entrepreneurial growth,” she added.

‘Entrepreneurial spirit in the UAE is thriving’

The festival opened with an insightful discussion on the role of entrepreneurship in securing the progress of the UAE for the next 50 years and beyond.

Dr Ahmed Belhoul Al Falasi, UAE Minister of State for Entrepreneurship and SMEs, said the UAE is open to entrepreneurs, and investments into the key sectors have doubled in the past four years.

“The ministry has set an aspirational target of having 20 unicorns by 2031. Our overarching goal is to work with entrepreneurs to help them overcome barriers and ensure their progression across different stages of the journey. We work to enable entrepreneurs make the transition from micro to small or small to medium enterprises to maximise their potential,” the minister said.

Reinvest in ecosystem

Fadi Ghandour, executive chairman of Wamda Capital and founder of Aramex, said entrepreneurial ecosystems are about funding, government support, ease of doing business, open borders, and more – and the UAE’s ecosystem is bubbling and changing the face of the economy. He opined that in the UAE’s post-oil economy, the right infrastructure has been established successfully.

“The startups here are building the future of the country’s next 50 years, but there are entrepreneurs in the government too – individuals who are challenging the status quo, looking at ways of doing things better. The existence of a Ministry of Entrepreneurship in the UAE testifies to this,” he said, and adding that the investors should reinvest in the ecosystem to develop it further.

Magnus Olsson, co-founder of Careem – the Middle East’s first unicorn, said that the basic entrepreneurial infrastructure in the UAE has improved so much that “entrepreneurs can now focus on the problem they are solving, and not have to build the rails underneath”.

“There is a shift in mindset and entrepreneurs are now seen as rockstars. We call ourselves unicamels – as we are born of the desert!”

Olsson, who moved to the Middle East in 2006, said the startups here are taking on the challenges of solving local problems and very soon, the UAE will be the hub that finds solutions to address global challenges.

“There is the potential for every type of businesses to be built here – especially as the region moves online, creating half-a-trillion-dollar opportunity to tap into. The UAE has today become the preferred remote place to work and successfully kept its people safe from Covid, and by attracting new talent, limitless opportunities abound in this ecosystem,” he said.

Alper Celen, founder, Enhance Ventures, who moderated the session, stressed that many founders chose to move to the UAE to set up new ventures because of the exceptional business environment and the opportunities for growth.

Sheraa – Nurturing the dreams of founders

Najla Al Midfa, CEO of Sheraa, reiterated Sheraa’s goal to nurture the brilliance in every individual to enable them to pursue and fulfil their dreams and thrive.

“We are not a business incubator; we are a talent incubator,” she said, emphasising the collective responsibility of the ecosystem to believe in the dreams and ideas of aspiring founders.

“In a world of doubters, let us be the first believers. As a community, we don’t fail when a business ceases to exist. We fail when we stop believing in our entrepreneurs,” she added.

Sharjah Entrepreneurship Centre (Sheraa) organised the two-day festival at the Expo Centre Sharjah. More than 4,000 young entrepreneurs and future founders, regional and global investors, thought leaders and innovators attended the first-day sessions to meet and network to drive meaningful impact and foster positive change in the entrepreneurial ecosystem of the UAE and the region.

—muzaffarrizvi@khaleejtimes.com


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