9th UAE Conference on Small & Medium Enterprises discusses sector development focused on smart technologies
The 9th UAE Conference on Small and Medium Enterprises & Innovation was held in Dubai in the presence of H.E. Eng. Sultan bin Saeed Al Mansoori, UAE Minister of Economy and Chairman of the UAE SME Council; H.E Nasser bin Thani Al Hamli, Minister of Human Resources and Emiratisation; H.E Hessa Bint Essa Buhumaid, Minister of Community Development; H.E Mariam Bint Mohammed Saeed Hareb Al Mehairi Minister of the UAE for Food Security, H.E Pat Breen, Minister of State for Trade, Employment and Business and EU Digital Data Protection Market in the Republic of Ireland, also attended this year’s edition of the Conference as Ireland’s guest of honor.
The conference themed ‘SME’s Competitiveness: Smart Technologies & New Market’ was attended by H.E Eng. Mohammed Bin Abdul Aziz Al Shehhi Undersecretary of Economic Affairs in the Ministry of Economy and senior officials from the Ministry of Economy, federal and local government authorities involved in SME development, universities and private sector institutions. International participation in the Conference featured representatives of government and private sectors from Ireland, Finland and Sweden, in addition to a large number of UAE entrepreneurs.
H.E. Al Mansoori emphasized that the UAE’s progress in accelerating the establishment of a robust SME sector according to highest standards stands out at both regional and international levels. This is achieved through building strategic partnerships with developed countries and establishing strong partnerships with the private sector. The support offered to small and medium-sized entrepreneurs enables them to succeed and contribute to the competitiveness of the national economy at the global level.
He added that the conference aims to facilitate sharing of experiences, identify best practices followed by the participating countries, and discuss the best solutions for SMEs that target new market by focusing on smart technology solutions in trade finance, services, production and marketing . These efforts are in line with the objectives of the UAE Vision 2021 to build a diversified competitive economy based on innovation and knowledge led by competent nationals. This objective also aligns with the goals set under the UAE Centennial 2071 for the future development.
He pointed out that the contribution of the SME sector to the GDP of the country is constantly growing. In 2019, it is estimated at 53 per cent, up from about 49 per cent in 2019 according to the Federal Competitiveness and Statistics Authority’s report. The federal government aims to increase this rate to around 60 per cent by 2021, underscoring the importance of this contribution in supporting the country’s economic diversification.
H.E. Al Mansoori reaffirmed the Ministry’s and the UAE SME Council’s commitment to follow up the efforts during the next phase to support the entrepreneurs and SMEs. He further emphasized facilitating access to facilities and incentives granted by the law and by government laws, the most important of which is citizens’ easy access to financing. While the allocation of 10 per cent of the procurement contracts and services is required by federal agencies and companies, the government bears more than 50 per cent of the fee for SMEs in order to support them. The facilitation and acceleration of financing processes, increasing incentives, intensification of training programs and external partnerships, building of fruitful partnerships for entrepreneurs with various promising markets were also highlighted.
Furthermore, the Minister underscored the importance of the contribution of the private sector in supporting these efforts, and in providing opportunities for fruitful partnerships for entrepreneurs in the fields of innovation, R & D and smart technologies, and in employing them commercially in various vital fields, particularly food security and production, agriculture, renewable energy, infrastructure, water solutions, transportation, tourism, health care, and education.
H.E Pat Breen, delivered a speech highlighting the importance of economic relations between the Republic of Ireland and the UAE. He emphasized his country’s keenness to build channels of cooperation between companies and business enterprises in both countries, especially SMEs in order to discuss partnership opportunities and possible commercial activities in various fields of shared interest, particularly in the fields of services, information technology, scientific research, industry, education, engineering areas, infrastructure and food.
Breen further added that the SME sector is a key, productive area that complements economic growth. Ireland is home to many of the world’s leading companies in various fields, especially in terms of modern technologies, ICT, innovation and scientific research. He emphasized that this opens up doors to a wide range of entrepreneurs and SMEs in the UAE to explore the opportunities for cooperation and partnerships with the Irish business sector, especially because it is an important gateway to European markets.
H.E. Nasser Thani Al-Hamli said during his speech that the UAE has adopted important measures to enhance the competitiveness of the SME sector as it is a priority for the government, which encourages integration of roles and partnership between different entities to ensure an ideal incubator environment for entrepreneurship. H.E highlighted the strategic partnership between the Ministry of Economy and the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation to promote and implement the national policy, which aims to boost entrepreneurship and self-employment and in order to increase the number of citizen entrepreneurs and to attract investors from outside the country.
H.E. Maryam bint Mohammed Saeed Hareb Al Mehairi, delivered a presentation on the new economic opportunities offered by agricultural production technologies, modern technologies and advanced technological solutions that are being developed. She explained how they can complement the vision and policies of the country’s food security and the opportunities for SMEs in this important field.
H.E Al Mehairi discussed the most important determinants of the National Food Security Strategy 2051, which aims to support the country’s transformation into a leading global center for food security based on innovation, its main objectives and the most important challenges faced by the country’s agricultural production. H.E explained that through cooperation between government and academic entities and the private sector, a new initiative has been launched to support the adoption of modern agricultural technologies through 10 initiatives to accelerate the growth of this vital sector. The most notable among these are initiatives that finance modern agriculture, standards for building agricultural facilities, measures for food security data and others. she further emphasized the vital role that SMEs and entrepreneurs are capable of playing in these areas.
H.E. Hessa Buhumaid, during her speech, shed light on the government’s active efforts to promote UAE society and enhance its productive capabilities through constant development and empowerment. Rather than relying on care and support, entrepreneurs of small and micro enterprises are encouraged, motivated and provided with all support needed to achieve success in their businesses.
H.E Buhumaid explained that one of the most important initiatives under the supervision of the Ministry of Community Development in this regard is ‘ALSANAA’ , which supports productive families and helps them raise their productive capacities and opportunities in terms of promotion, marketing and access to various new markets at local and regional levels..
The conference also featured two interactive sessions. The first one discussed smart technologies and the UAE-international cooperation. Speakers included H.E. Khalfan Belhoul, CEO of Dubai Future Foundation; Mika Loutanala, Head of International Cooperation for Innovation at the Finnish Trade Council; and Nile McVoie, Consultant for the Development of Emerging Companies of the Irish Council for Trade and Technology. The session witnessed discussions on the most prominent experiences and initiatives, which contribute to the development of the sector in light of the developments in the modern economy; link SMEs in areas of artificial intelligence and advanced technologies; and strengthen international partnerships through them.
The second session discussed new markets and opportunities for SMEs with speakers Tim Brooks from the Swedish Agency for Economic and Regional Growth – the Competitiveness of SMEs; H.E Abdulla Al Darmaki, CEO of Khalifa Fund for Enterprise Development; Dr. Adeeb Al-Afifi, Director of the National Program for SMEs in the Ministry of Economy. The session focused on the relevance of innovation to entrepreneurship and emphasized the significance of harnessing the potential of modern technologies in enhancing the competitiveness of SMEs.