The crucial role that SMEs play in the UAE economy was highlighted during a closing session of the first day of Sharjah Foreign Direct Investment Forum (Sharjah FDI Forum 2016), which concluded yesterday (Wednesday) at the Al Jawaher Reception and Convention Centre in Sharjah.
‘How important is global connectedness for SMEs?’ was the title of the panel discussion moderated by Jacopo Dettoni, Deputy Editor of fDi Magazine – organiser of the forum in conjunction with the Financial Times newspaper and Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq).
Participating in the afternoon event was Robin Butteriss, Managing Director, Deloitte Corporate Finance Ltd and Najla Al Midfa, General Manager, Sharjah Entrepreneurship Centre (Sheraa). Among the issues examined by the panelists were how the SME sector was well entrenched in the UAE economic landscape thanks to its excellent banking, finance and regulatory structure and how ease of doing business was a factor associated with an economy’s high proportion of smaller businesses.
“SMEs diversify the economy, allowing greater job absorption and job creation. About 50 per cent of the GCC’s population is employed by SMEs in the UAE, which is higher than the proportion of people employed in this sector in the US and Europe. Ease of doing business and penetration of SMEs have a direct correlation, making the UAE and Sharjah stand out amongst its peers in the global index of doing business. Economic diversification, innovation, job creation and entrepreneurship are the key factors that have helped the growth of SMEs across the GCC,” said Robin Butteriss, Managing Director, Deloitte Corporate Finance Ltd.
“Ïnnovation is the driving force of SME success, in conjunction with hard work and perseverance. Sheraa was established as an initiative from Sharjah to provide an attractive environment which supports entrepreneurs of all nationalities, with a special focus on young Emirati men and women. Our aim through this venture is to allow aspiring business professionals to utilise their creative ideas and turn them into projects that achieve tangible benefits to the community. It aims to generate positive financial rewards that enhance the economic development of Sharjah, the UAE and the wider region,” commented Najla Al Midfa, General Manager, Sheraa.
Wrapping up the first day of Sharjah FDI Forum 2016 was an examination of the factors required for international business growth. Titled ‘Financing cross-border expansion,’ the session saw the participation of Ahmed Abdelaal, Regional Head of Corporate Client Coverage MENA and Head of Commercial Banking UAE, HSBC; Stuart Anderson, Managing Director and Regional Head Middle East, Standard and Poor’s Global and Kazim Ali, Head of Corporate Banking, Noor Bank.
This two-day Sharjah FDI Forum 2016 has been organised under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah. The region’s leading forum for foreign direct investment attracted corporate business leaders, public sector representatives and government officials from across the world. Established in 2015, the annual event is a platform for investment stakeholders and provides an analysis of the challenges and opportunities presented by the UAE economy, with a specific focus on Sharjah.