Here in the UAE, we are blessed with abundant natural resources – oil and gas – to help fuel the global economy. But, as we all know, these resources are finite, and we must also move towards more sustainable, renewable energy sources. While energy revenues have allowed the UAE to become an influential global nation, diversification has long been on the national agenda as we move towards an economy that thrives on a variety of industries.
And what underpins such an enormous shift is people – entrepreneurial people, that is.
The UAE has now become a globally renowned centre for entrepreneurs, attracted by the attractive tax regime, easy business set-up schemes, and government-backed incentives to encourage innovation.
The UAE attained the highest score of 6.8 on GEM’s National Entrepreneurship Context Index (NECI), making this the best country in the world to launch a start-up.
While there is still some reliance on oil and gas revenues, the UAE attracts globally-significant inflows of foreign direct investment. But real economic diversification needs more locally produced goods which can be exported.
To achieve this, the government is aggressively pursuing entrepreneurs. The UAE, and Dubai more specifically, are aiming to attract entrepreneurs with a raft of schemes, including:
A $100.73 million (AED 370 million) Venture Capital Fund for start-ups
This recently launched Dubai-government-backed fund aims to bolster Dubai’s economic growth, and strengthen its position as a global hub for financial technology (FinTech), innovation, and venture capital.
The fund is overseen by the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), which is a 15 per cent contributor. The AED 370 million aims to deliver capital to finance SME start-ups. It’s envisaged that the funding will help foster a stimulating environment for the establishment of similar funds or financing instruments.
What’s more, the fund is set to contribute around AED3 billion to the emirate’s GDP during its eight-year implementation period. It is expected to provide more than 8,000 jobs for emerging talents, underpinning Dubai’s position as a regional centre for entrepreneurship and financial technology, innovation and venture capital, and ensuring it draws in global investors and entrepreneurs.
Entrepreneurs might be more inclined to set up a longer-term business plan in Dubai and the UAE with the promise of a longer visa option. The rules around local work and residence visas are evolving. A recent development which will encourage longer-term investment in the UAE is the ‘Golden Visa‘ – a new five-year visa category exclusively available to entrepreneurs.
Applicants must be an “entrepreneur who owns an economic project of a technical or future nature, based on risk and innovation” and have received a letter of approval to apply for the visa from Dubai Future Foundation.
There’s also the chance for investors or company partners to apply for a Green Residence visa, which provides five-year residency for investors establishing or participating in commercial activities. Applicants must seek government approval of the investment and proof of investment to be eligible.
Emirates Development Bank’s $27.2 million post-Covid accelerator (Sanad) to support UAE SMEs
Emirati-owned and managed SMEs can benefit from easy-to-access flexible EDB loans, designed to rapidly accelerate post-pandemic businesses growth.
The AED100 million offering underlines the continuing focus the UAE holds on entrepreneurship, helping SMEs thrive under tough global economic conditions.
The initiative aligns with the UAE’s National Strategy and initiatives to support the small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the UAE.
Furthermore, EBD’s new credit guarantee platform – in partnerships with nine commercial banks – resulted in credit guarantees worth $90.38 million (AED332 million) to SMEs.
Venture Capital firm Shorooq Partners’ $150 million seed-stage fund for fintech, software, and digital asset start-ups
Another example of funding for ambitious entrepreneurs is Shorooq Partners’ new fund, which the company says will focus on firms in fintech, software, platform verticals and digital asset creation.
On announcing the fund, founding partner Shane Shin, said: “We believe Web 3.0 models like DeFi (decentralised finance), NFT (non-fungible tokens), Metaverse are going to be the key players in the next iteration of online business.”
I believe we will see more VCs like Shorooq looking for innovative start-ups, keen to tap into the region’s rapidly accelerating start-up ecosystem.
What makes a country truly great is its people. And we are blessed with a young, vibrant, educated and entrepreneurial population. But what makes the UAE even greater is our government’s unwavering commitment to a bold future, focused on successful SMEs, innovation and measured, sustainable growth.
Our entrepreneurial journey together certainly looks exciting.