His Excellency Abdul Baset Al Janahi, CEO, Dubai SME, talks policies in 2017 that will boost the SME economy, and highlights fundamental aspects of the prolific Mohammed Bin Rashid Fund for SMEs.
What is your strategic vision for the growth of the sector?
Supporting up and coming businesses is the primary objective of the Mohammed Bin Rashid Establishment for Small and Medium Enterprise Development. Through its varied initiatives, it looks to provide the necessary support to young citizens in all steps of setting up their business, from planning and financial resources to simplifying the formal procedures and expansion. The Mohammed Bin Rashid Establishment for the Small and Medium Enterprise Development was created to help business owners through the hardest parts of their journey, and provide them with the necessary support at every stage. This has remained a top priority for us and we will continue to do so. One of our main goals is to strengthen the spirit of innovation and leadership across the SME sector. Therefore, we strive to help you translate your ideas and creativity into tangible achievements and successful businesses.
Tell us about the Mohammed Bin Rashid Fund.
The Mohammed Bin Rashid Fund (MBRF) is a non-profitable authority providing loans and financial guarantees to business ventures owned and managed by Emirati entrepreneurs. MBRF actively monitors the supported businesses and the commitment of the benefitted entrepreneurs to ensure their performance by the standards specified. In addition, MBRF supports UAE entrepreneurs in all phases of their development, including planning finances, simplifying official procedures and helping establish their businesses from start to finish. The Fund is based on the fixed assets and financial liquidity of up to 600 million.
When was the Fund established? What are its objectives?
The Fund was established by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, under Law No. (11), in the year 2012.
The objectives of the Fund are:
- The development of investment and entrepreneurship among citizens.
- To diversify and develop the local and national economy.
- Encourage young citizens to enter the entrepreneurial sector.
- The establishment and ownership of projects that provide jobs for them.
- Provide financial support to existing projects undertaken by the citizens of the state.
- Provide technical expertise in various fields to support entrepreneurs.
“To put it simply, our goal is not just to provide funds, but to prepare a generation of entrepreneurs!”
How would you describe the state of the SMEs in Dubai – and the UAE in general?
The SME sector is continually evolving – I think the current state is that of growth. There are a lot of aspiring entrepreneurs in the market that want to start something new. It is great to witness the younger generation of the country come forward and take interest in the sector. We will continue to encourage them and provide them with adequate support, as required. There is also a growing awareness of the support mechanisms available today – right from funding and licensing to mentorship and marketing. This can only mean that the sector will move upward and onward.
What benefits does the Fund offer to existing and aspiring entrepreneurs?
The Fund provides support at every stage of the entrepreneurial cycle. Some of its functions include –
- Assist in the preparation of economic feasibility of projects, investment and initiatives submitted by members, and provide technical expertise to the owners in the financial, economic, marketing, administrative and organisational aspects, helping them to complete deliverables.
- Partner with relevant authorities to market the products of these entrepreneurs.
- Facilitate a healthy exchange of knowledge and experiences between entrepreneurs.
- Provide direct loans for projects and provide financial guarantees through partner financial institutions.
- Create a database of entrepreneurs that receive support from the Fund, and the types of support provided to them.
- Assist in the selection of appropriate business type and licensing.
- Provide vocational training programmes through our academic arm – Dubai Entrepreneurship Academy.
- Embrace projects through Hamdan Innovation Incubator.
- Encourage entrepreneurs to participate in tenders for government institutions – and provide necessary assistance.
- Work on the expansion of distribution channels for products backed by young people.
What are the most popular sectors among entrepreneurs?
The food and beverage sector is quite popular. Others include: education, health and beauty, tourism and public services.
Looking back to 2016, what were some of the biggest challenges that SMEs faced?
The biggest obstacle continues to be bank financing – only 3.2% of SMEs have access to bank loans.
Do you provide training and assistance on the administrative side of running a business?
Yes, we are providing vocational training programmes through Dubai Entrepreneurship Academy – the academic arm of the Mohammed Bin Rashid Establishment for Small and Medium Enterprise Development. Along with entrepreneurial flair, it is critical to learn the fundamentals of running a business in order to be successful.
What is on the horizon for 2017?
We will continue to look for innovative funding solutions for SMEs and alleviate their challenges as much as we can. We are committed to the promotion and development of SMEs in line with the larger vision for the country. Our focus is also towards building know-how in areas such as automation, smart solutions, robotics and cloud computing. Finally, we want to encourage projects that help save energy and reduce carbon emissions as well as those that specialise in the field of space exploration.