Governments need to reform policies with a view to optimising the SME contribution to growth said Mr. Essa Kazim, Director General, Dubai Financial Market, urging government departments to offer local suppliers preferential conditions and price support.
Speaking at the opening session of the International Conference and Exhibition for Small and Medium Enterprises, Mr Kazim said: “With over seven million people entering the Arab workforce annually, the development of national entrepreneurship is a matter of crucial importance. The private sector can play a significant role in SME development by directing a considerable part of its outsourcing towards local SMEs and creating mutually beneficial partnerships leading to greater control on product quality and pricing,” he added.
He said that small firms dominate the UAE’s economic activities, representing about 94.3 per cent of the country’s economic establishments, while medium firms represent 4.6 per cent. In addition, small firms employ about 42 per cent of the country’s workforce while medium size establishments absorb about 20 per cent. In Dubai alone, SMEs account for about 70 per cent of the total business organizations and contribute to about 75 per cent of the Emirate’s GDP.
The conference took off to a great start with international figures calling for greater focus on SMEs from both private and public sector organizations.
The opening session included addresses from Sheikha Hissah Saad Al Abdulla Al Salem Al Sabah President of the Council of Arab Business Women, Mr. Essa Kazim, Director General, Dubai Financial Market, HE Ahmed Al Tayer, Chairman of Emirates Bank and President of Al Tomooh Programme, Dr. Arun Agrawal, Secretary General of the World Association for Small and Medium Enterprises (WASME) and Ms. Simona Marzetti, Secretary General International Networking for Small and Medium Enterprises (INSME).
Focusing on Arab Women entrepreneurs, Sheikha Hissa said: “Arab Women are moving ahead with drive and enthusiasm and showing great interest in becoming self-reliant. There is no dearth of ability and knowledge among Arab women today and they are keen to utilise their talents in setting up and managing their own businesses, becoming financially independent and contributing to the development of society.” She hoped the conference would lead to greater connectivity, especially for Arab women.
“Emirates Bank Group recognized the need early on to provide support to entrepreneurs and hence set up the Al Tomooh Programme which has funded local small business projects to the tune of AED 50 million in the last three years,” said HE Ahmed Al Tayer. “The private sector also has an important role to play in activating such programmes and needs to work closely with the Government in order to give a boost to the SME segment, which will eventually lead to greater economic growth,” he added.
“Dubai enjoys the reputation of being a forerunner in conceiving and implementing several innovative programmes and projects. Therefore, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that it is also taking the lead in the direction of promoting entrepreneurship and small business development through a series of well-directed government supported and private sector led initiatives and programmes,” said Dr. Arun Agrawal, adding that Dubai offered an excellent model for regional countries to emulate.
Ms. Simona Marzetti expressed her admiration for the fact that a majority of the participants at the conference were women and lauded the Arab World for leading the way for SMEs in this regard.
Mrs. Hessa Al Ossaily, CEO, Seagull Conferences and Exhibitions organising, the conference organiser laid down five steps to follow for further development of SMEs in the region. These included creating an umbrella for small business owners, networking and technology transfer, creating awareness of SME projects and encouraging the new generation to set up their projects.
The two-day conference and exhibition being held at the J W Marriott hotel in Dubai will conclude on February 1, 2005 while the exhibition will remain open till Feb2, 2005.