Helping SMEs prosper

Unified GCC regulations and bankruptcy protection laws are key

A simplified GCC-wide regulatory environment and new bankruptcy protection laws are key components that can help regional Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) develop into profitable organisations, the head of Abu Dhabi’s Trade and Export department said today.

Dr. Adeeb Al Afifi, Director of Foreign Trade and Export at the Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development, said that regional governments have a crucial role to support SMEs by implementing consistent and transparent policies that help attract potential investors – a constant bane for SMEs across the region.

“There are some very basic ways that regional governments can provide support for SMEs, many of which they are already doing but some which could still be implemented,” said Al Afifi, a headline speaker at this month’s SME Congress & Expo, taking place from 16-18 December at Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre.

“One of these is harmonising regulations throughout Gulf countries that would uniform business practices and reduce the costs for businesses that operate across the region. This is important because one reason SMEs struggle to attract investment capital is because they tend to have a domestic market perspective only, which limits their growth potential – investors like growth.

“Governments also need to implement bankruptcy laws that allow those that make an effort to start a business, to recover and try again if they fail. Not all ideas will work. In the United States, most entrepreneurs fail an average of six or seven times before being successful.

“The reason they are able to keep on trying is because bankruptcy laws allow the individual or the company another chance to get it right.”

Held in strategic partnership with the Abu Dhabi Department for Economic Development, the inaugural SME Congress & Expo is being launched this year to provide an important learning platform for regional entrepreneurs and SMEs to successfully launch, grow and finance their businesses.

According to investment capital firm Envestors, around 60 per cent of investors reject projects from UAE SMEs in the first 30 minutes of evaluation, while a further 25 per cent are rejected within the first three hours.

Al Afifi said the reason is because a lot of SMEs lack the necessary fundamentals to entice investors.  He added: “Many SMEs do not have the right documentation, particularly financial documents needed by investors to make decisions. 

“To that end, governments should make some areas of business operations mandatory to improve corporate governance, such as maintaining financial documents – balance sheets, profit & loss sheets, and forecasting. This is currently not a regulatory requirement in the region.”

The three-day strategic conference and training workshops at the SME Congress & Expo are designed to help SME owners navigate the complex landscape of owning and running their own business.  A dedicated exhibition floor meanwhile will enable entrepreneurs to meet new partners and suppliers that will help their businesses expand. Exhibitors include, Etisalat, Microsoft, Aramex, Etihad Airways, Aseel Finance, Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank, Arab link, Eton Institute, Blu Intelligent Solutions, and Think Positive.

Al Afifi added: “Given the critical role that SMEs have, and will have, in the economic diversification of Abu Dhabi and the wider regional economy, the SME Congress & Expo provides an ideal platform to communicate with SME owners, entrepreneurs, management consultants, and other stakeholders that have insights in this exciting business sector.

“This is an important event to pass on what the Abu Dhabi Department for Economic Development is doing to support SMEs, but also to learn from those who own and work for small businesses.”

Organised by Informa Exhibitions, the first edition of the SME Congress & Expo was also held in strategic partnership with the Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and the Khalifa Fund for Enterprise Development.

A highlight this year was the Pitch for Investment competition, a unique platform where a shortlist of ten entrepreneurs and business people presented their ideas and current businesses to a panel of experts during the first two days of the event. 

The SME Congress & Expo takes place with the support of Strategic ICT Partner Etisalat, an organisation at the forefront of developing and delivering relevant innovative services and solutions to the small and medium segment in UAE for many years, enabling businesses to begin operations and grow their existing setup in the UAE as well as connecting them internationally.

Event Partners include Nexus and the Federation of UAE Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Sky News Arabia is Official News Broadcaster and Bayt.com Strategic Career Partner.

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