The UAE aims to have 20 unicorns, or start-ups worth more than $1 billion, by 2031 as part of a program launched on Wednesday to attract and expand small and medium-sized businesses.
The Entrepreneurial Nation initiative aims to aid through a series of public-private partnerships that assist entrepreneurs in establishing themselves in the UAE, expanding their businesses, exporting their products, and tapping into online sales, according to Ahmad Al Falasi, Minister of State for Entrepreneurship and SMEs, at a conference in Dubai.
The UAE will also establish a Dh1 billion ($272 million) private equity fund to lend to SMEs based in the country and operating in strategic sectors.
“Our goal today is to transition from a regional to a global entrepreneurship hub,” said the minister.
Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are the backbone of the UAE economy, and the government is introducing economic assistance packages to help business owners weather the Covid-19 pandemic. It has also taken steps to make the environment more appealing for foreign investment by relaxing visa requirements, liberalizing company ownership rules, and updating laws.
“The UAE is amending laws, both federally and locally, because this is the most important factor in attracting capital and talent,” the minister told reporters on the sidelines of the conference.
The programs under the UAE’s Entrepreneurial Nation initiative will begin in the coming months.
The Entrepreneurial Nation is a unified destination for start-ups from inception to growth. It is divided into three stages or tracks.
The Skill-Up Academy is designed to provide participants with entrepreneurial skills and is appropriate for a wide range of participants, including students, recent graduates, employees, retirees, homemakers, and job seekers.
Its Start-Up track will target entrepreneurs looking to start a business and will provide incentives, products, and services to help start-ups and innovative businesses in the country. This includes a collaboration with Emirates Development Bank to open bank accounts in as little as 48 hours.
The Scale-Up programme will back fast-growing, revenue-earning companies that are more than three years old to expand and eventually become unicorns.
According to the presentation, the various tracks will provide services such as facilitating access to funding, providing a network of experts for mentorship, exporting to international markets, digitalization, and sourcing talent.
To assist entrepreneurs, Entrepreneurial Nation has partnerships with global companies such as Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Cisco, Huawei, and UPS, as well as local entities such as Etihad Credit Insurance and Khalifa Fund For Enterprise Development.
Mr Al Falasi told The National, “The Entrepreneurial Nation is a partnership and scalable platform with the private sector.”
According to him, the ministry is still debating whether the new Dh1 billion fund for start-ups and SMEs will be for early-stage or late-stage businesses.
“We will only intervene if there is a gap,” Al Falasi explained.
“So, when we launch the fund, we size it so that it does not overwhelm the market… At the same time, I don’t want to cannibalize or overburden VCs. So we’re taking our time to figure out how to best complement the sector.”