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Dubai Business Forum spotlights SMEs as key drivers of economic growth

The forum also highlighted Dubai’s growing appeal in attracting foreign direct investments.

Dubai Business Forum spotlights SMEs as key drivers of economic growth
[Source photo: Dubai Business Forum | Anvita Gupta/Fast Company Middle East]

The UAE is home to thriving small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that play a vital role in the country’s economy, accounting for over 94% of businesses and employing over 86% of private sector workers. 

The UAE government has recognized the importance of SMEs. It has taken a number of steps to support its growth and development, which include providing financial assistance, offering training and mentorship programs, and creating a business-friendly environment.

The Dubai Business Forum, which brought together over 2,000 participants, discussed the critical role of SMEs in boosting economic growth and Dubai’s growing appeal as a destination for foreign direct investment.

The forum was attended by Sheikh Ahmed bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Second Deputy Ruler of Dubai, who said, “Dubai welcomes investment of all kinds, and we will continue to develop our financial and economic ecosystems as our way of bringing the world together.”

The forum highlighted the vital contribution of SMEs to Dubai’s economy and their ability to keep up with the pace of innovation.

In a panel discussion, Khalfan Belhoul, CEO of the Dubai Future Foundation, said: “The pace of innovation is changing by the minute, and Dubai keeps up with it – in turn, benefiting the business community. Today, new startups are matching the pace of innovation to drive the economy.”

“SMEs require a lot of skill building, and it takes effort to build up the ecosystem. Further, with high internet penetration, it is easier to digitize startups and small businesses. The beauty of the UAE is its diversity, with almost 90% of the population being expatriates,” said Shamsa Al Falasi, CEO of Citibank.

The topic of regionalization versus globalization was also discussed at the forum. Chief Economist and Head of Research at Emirates NBD, Khatija Haque, and Professor of Globalization and Development at the University of Oxford, Prof. Ian Goldin, agreed that countries cannot exist independently, and regional and global cooperation is essential for a thriving global economy. 

Haque emphasized that the GCC can benefit from trading with each other and sharing resources, such as the electricity grid that connects the GCC states. Despite global uncertainty and trade fragmentation, Dubai’s strategic location, trade routes, tax incentives, and policies have made it an FDI leader, setting an example for others.

Hadi Badri, CEO of the Dubai Economic Development Corporation, said that Dubai is a leading market for foreign direct investment, with one of the highest numbers of projects in the world. He praised the emirate’s leaders for being competitive, caring, and consistent in their vision for growth.

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