On 18-19 March, the second version of the SME World Summit took place at Jumeira Beach Hotel in Dubai organized by the Dubai Economic Council, and partnering with the SPI Group. The summit assembled 3500 attendants composed of government officials, business influencers and economic and financial experts. The experts discussed the plans and strategies concerning SMEs and that are going to be implemented after the achievement of the Dubai Plan 2021.
The objectives of the summit, as declared by his Excellency Hani Al Hamli Secretary-General at Dubai Economic Council (DEC), are to help local UAE SMEs access financing, improve their performance and boost their competitiveness in the local and global markets. With the support of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, the summit aims at encouraging SME start-ups in Dubai and entrepreneurship. Al Hamli also pointed at the momentous roles of SMEs in the economy as the Emirate’s percentage of SMEs lies at 95% and provides 40% of Dubai’s GDP. SMEs create many job opportunities, employing 42% of the labor force, and explore new and innovative facets through new and creative business ideas.
Unfortunately, SMEs are restrained by a few obstacles. SMEs have to haggle with constrained financial access as banks prefer to stay on the safe side and invest their money in projects that are less likely to fail: as the figures show, only 4% of total loans in the Emirates flow into the SME branch. Also, their size and unsteady internal infrastructure represent hurdles that SMEs need to overcome. That is why the summit strives to offer SMEs the ground for their businesses to thrive through an interactive space that allow the participants to exchange their opinions, discuss innovative ideas, spread awareness on the difficulties faced by SMEs and find solutions together.
One of these solutions would be to recognize the fact that giving startups a chance means running the risk of losing money in case of failure. Yet, it is of utmost importance to allow these businesses to dare tread on unsteady grounds to explore new opportunities and eventually fail and learn.
His Excellency, Al Hamli stated during his opening speech that the concrete solution for further support of SMEs will be the proposal for a fund to help startups and already settled SMEs. Domestic corporations should be the main source for funds. Ali Tawfik Al Sadik, the council’s senior economist, states that this proposal is but an idea for now. He adds that “we need to talk to the big corporations, and also do a study of how much capital the fund would have.” This solution would bear its fruits on the long-term and aims at boosting economic development in the next five years.
Dubai’s government is keen on increasing the SME branch from 7% to 10% until the realization of the Dubai plan in 2021 and endorsing special support in core sectors as light industries as Abdulaziz Istaitieh, a DEC economic counselor explains.