What's Hindering the Growth of SMEs in Jordan?

Published July 9th, 2018 - 09:20 GMT
Panelists discuss issues facing scale-up small-and medium-enterprises in the Middle East and North Africa during a meeting organised by Endeavor Jordan and Strategy & Middle East in Amman, on Sunday. (Jordan Times)
Panelists discuss issues facing scale-up small-and medium-enterprises in the Middle East and North Africa during a meeting organised by Endeavor Jordan and Strategy & Middle East in Amman, on Sunday. (Jordan Times)

“The Jordanian market has the right talent and infrastructure to scale up, but the economic ecosystem is still not sophisticated enough to unleash growth,” according to analysts from Endeavor Jordan and Strategy & Middle East (formerly Booz & Company).

The remarks came during a joint meeting held by both organisations in Amman on Sunday, where stakeholders discussed the issues facing scale-up small-and medium-enterprises (SMEs) in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region with a focus on how to build an entrepreneurial ecosystem in Jordan. 

The session saw the attendance of several representatives of the government, international organisations concerned with supporting SMEs, investors and key players in the entrepreneurial and investment ecosystem in Jordan. 

“Economic growth in Jordan is a huge challenge and the current legislative framework is hindering the expansion of the present scale-up SMEs in the Kingdom,” Chairman of Endeavor Jordan Walid Tahabsem said during his welcoming speech, expressing hopes to “kick-start a national dialogue on the importance of accelerating the growth of scale-ups, which create quality jobs and generate high wages — and thus contribute to sustainable economic growth”. 

Tahabsem’s remarks were followed by a joint presentation on the entrepreneurial and investment ecosystem across the region by Director of the Ideation Centre in Strategy & Middle East Alice Klat and centre fellow Melissa Rizk, who exposed the different challenges involved in scaling up in Jordan and the MENA region. 

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“The entrepreneurial ecosystem in the region has vastly improved over the last 15 years, with governments across the MENA region increasing their focus on entrepreneurship programmes and policies,” Klat said during her intervention.

“However, the ecosystem for scale-ups — which are SMEs with the potential to create a higher economic impact — has not yet developed,” the expert continued, warning that Jordanian scale-ups are in need of access to customers, markets and finance along with a more predictable regulatory environment.” 

For her part, Rizk stressed that “focus should be put on scale-ups in order to enable the economic ecosystem to grow”, highlighting that between 2010 and 2013, scale-ups accounted for only 9 per cent of the SMEs in Jordan, but contributed with a 53 per cent of the new jobs created in the Kingdom during the same period. 

The meeting continued with a panel discussion on the main external challenges facing scale-up SMEs, with references to the future of access to finance in Jordan and the regulatory and legislative changes needed in order to facilitate the companies’ operation and scale-up processes. 

In addition, the discussion addressed the issues on accessing talent at all levels, the expenses related to hiring and dismissing employees, and the internal challenges faced by scale-up SMEs in the fields of governance, finances and human resources. 

Moderated by Managing Director of Endeavor Jordan Reem Goussous, the panel featured Director General of the Jordan Loan Guarantee Corporation Mohamed Al Jafari, founder and Partner of Foursan Group Nashat Masri, Partner in the Sanad Law Group in Association with Eversheds Sutherland Nadim Kayyali, CEO of ZenHR Solutions Yousef Shamoun and founder of Nestrom Yousef Wadi.

Overall, the panel identified the importance of having a “champion” that would take the lead on supporting the growth of scale-up SMEs in Jordan, and the need for a partnership between the public and the private sector to advocate for this agenda in the upcoming years. 

By Ana V. Ibáñez Prieto


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