Sharjah – MENA Herald: There are several equitable added values which are derived from the significant role which SMEs play to the strategic global economic development process. The Sharjah FDI Forum, organised by the Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq), in collaboration with Financial Times (FT) and the fDi magazine, has geared up its 2nd edition with a series of complete and comprehensive panel sessions, which include an address session highlighting the growing stature of SMEs in MENA and global economies, as well as reviewing the best global practices in starting, managing and sponsoring SMEs in the region.

Held under the patronage His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member of the UAE and ruler of Sharjah, the event, which is set to kick-start on 28-29 September 2016 at the prestigious Al Jawaher Reception & Convention Centre in Sharjah, will play an authoritative role in empowering the SMEs sector by providing an all-inclusive overview about the legislative reality to support this category of projects, inspired by some of the most renowned success stories globally.

The discussion panel, scheduled to be held on the first day of the forum, will address the following title “How important is global connectedness for SMEs?”, led by Humphry Hatton, CEO of Deloitte Corporate Finance and moderated by Jacopo Dettoni, Deputy Editor, fDi Magazine, Financial Times, will review the importance of such enterprises in UAE’s economic sector, and the role they play in connecting Eastern and Western markets. Hatton will also speak about cross-border expansion and how to seize opportunities and face challenges in this sector, as well as how to effectively compete with entrepreneurs on international level, especially in International Trade. Moreover, it will review the stature of Sharjah as a key starting point for some of the most successful SMEs in all sectors.

“Supporting SMEs in UAE is a result of our wise leadership’s vision that has adopted the policy of economic diversification, and has focused on non-oil sectors as the main source of profitability. As SMEs continue to contribute more than 90% GDPs of many countries across the globe, the UAE has always recognised that this increasingly dynamic sector can strategically integrate its economy to a new circular shift, allowing different emirates and the region to explore, discover and boost a series of sectors that diversify profitability and innovation,” said HE Marwan Bin Jassim Al Sarkal, CEO of Shurooq.

Al Sarkal added: “Sharjah has positioned itself as one of the essential hubs enabling SMEs a successful and practical start to their businesses locally, as well as a vast network for expansion plans regionally. Statistics from the Ministry of Economy indicate that the number of SMEs in the UAE exceeded 350,000 companies this year, representing 94% of the total number of companies operating in the UAE, and offering job opportunities to 86% of the total labour force in the private sector.”

He continues: “This underlines the great importance of this vital sector in accelerating local economic growth, what makes us more keen to improve the investment environment attracting SMEs, and to provide them with the support they need. The 2nd Sharjah FDI Forum will play a key role reflecting the successful economic results behind this initiative, and will highlight additional strategies on integrating our efforts with international SMEs.”

“We will also use the forum as a key communication tool to reflect on the successful results behind Sharjah’s keenness on strategically investing on its SME sector, with the recent launch of the Sharjah Entrepreneurship Center (Sheraa), an initiative launched in partnership with Shurooq, with the aim of supporting young citizens’ SMEs in Sharjah, and creating an attractive environment which is based on employing innovation, creativity and development, which facilitates entering the business world,” he concluded.

On his part, Mohammed Juma Al Musharrakh, Director of Sharjah FDI at Shurooq, explained: “According to the Khalifa Fund for Enterprise Development, Sharjah-based SMEs constitute 16% of the total number of SMEs in the UAE. This underlines the crucial role that Sharjah plays in supporting these kinds of projects, which constitute a considerable percentage of the overall GDP in the UAE, and key element to its economic diversification, which also continues to project the UAE’s unaffected position by the impact of fluctuations that the global economy is witnessing.”

Al Musharrakh added: “SMEs have continuously proven to be one of our major catalysts in Sharjah’s investment growth. The way Sharjah has positioned itself in this sector was tailored specifically to become an attractive business destination for investors, business owners and SMEs, as well as establish itself as a central platform for many start-ups and launches of new industry-leading projects on a local and MENA level. Thanks to these efforts, today Sharjah is home to more than 45,000 SMEs with future projections continuing to show a steady increase.”

Sharjah FDI Forum 2016 will provide an unparalleled opportunity to review investment prospects in the UAE and particularly in Sharjah, as well as potential opportunities in various economic sectors, with the participation of an elite group of decision-makers, officials and economic experts.