Dubai – MENA Herald: His Excellency Engineer Sultan bin Saeed Al Mansouri, Minister of Economy, today inaugurated the Sixth UAE Conference on SMEs and Innovation at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Dubai.
In his opening address, Al Mansouri emphasized that SMEs are the key driver of the UAE economy and represent more than 94% of the total number of companies operating in the country. Of this percentage, 73% SMEs are engaged in the wholesale and retail trade sector, 16% in the services sector, and 11% in the manufacturing sector.
The Minister of Economy pointed out that some 350,000 companies in the UAE fall under the SME category and provide jobs for more than 86% of the private sector’s workforce. They also currently contribute over 60% of the country’s GDP. The sector is projected to strengthen its contribution to 70% within the next six years in line with the National Agenda of the UAE Vision 2021.
Al Mansouri reiterated the UAE’s commitment to creating a distinct legislative environment to regulate the evolution of its national economy, noting that the issuance of Federal Law No.2 of 2014 on Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises and Projects was a quantum leap towards empowering the owners of such projects.
On the important issue of funding, Al Mansouri pointed out that the loans granted by banks to SMEs in the country form about 3.8% of their lending portfolio, which is a nominal percentage and is not on par with the actual potential of the sector and its large number of employees.
Al Mansouri also discussed the significance of implementing innovation across SME operations, not only as a symbol of excellence, but because it has become a fundamental necessity for countries seeking to strengthen their economic position on a global level. The Minister said that the federal government of the UAE will spare no effort in enhancing the capabilities of the SME sector and empowering them to achieve greater results, particularly in the field of innovation.
The Sixth UAE Conference on SMEs and Innovation drew the participation of His Excellency Saqr Ghubash, Minister of Labour, and His Excellency Mariam Al Roumi, Minister of Social Affairs, as well as several senior government officials, private sector representatives and international SME experts.
Following the Minister of Economy’s opening address, session one of the event also included keynote speeches by Her Excellency Mariam Al Roumi, His Excellency Saqr Ghubash, Her Excellency Charlotte Brogren, Director General of VINNOVA, the Swedish innovation agency, and Her Excellency Baek Woonmann, Director General of BMB and SMBA at the Republic of Korea, in addition to a recorded message by Her Excellency Ilse Treurnicht, CEO of MaRS Discovery District, a leading innovation center located in Toronto, Canada.
Titled ‘Effective Financing for SMEs’, the second session was headlined by His Excellency Abdul Baset Al Janahi, CEO of Mohammed Bin Rashid Establishment for SME Development, Her Excellency Charlotte Brogren, Director General of VINNOVA in Sweden, and His Excellency Rashid Mosabah, Acting CEO of Emirates Development Bank.
The Third Session titled ‘Empowering SMEs by Applying Innovation’ drew the participation and key insights of experts including His Excellency Baek Woonman, Director General of BMB and SMBA at the Republic of Korea, His Excellency Jan Claesson, Trade Commissioner UAE at the Swedish Trade and Investment Council, His Excellency Ali Salem Al Mahmoud, Board Member of Sharjah Entrepreneurs Supporting Establishment ‘Ruwad’, His Excellency Abdulla Khamis Al Suwaidi, CEO of Saud bin Rashid Al Mualla Programme for Youth Projects, and His Excellency Yousef Mohammed Ismael, Board Member of Ras Al Khaimah Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Chairman of Saud bin Saqr Programme for Young Business Leaders.