Interview: Mohamed Helal Almheiri
Through which initiatives is ADCCI encouraging the development of local entrepreneurs?
MOHAMED HELAL ALMHEIRI: Entrepreneurs and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are the backbone of any economy, and Abu Dhabi is no exception. Support for entrepreneurs and SMEs is therefore a priority for ADCCI, which has worked to encourage youth to transform their ideas into businesses. This is part of an overall effort to stimulate the economy through the promotion of SMEs. ADCCI launched the SME Award to promote excellence among smaller firms, and recently held its first cycle in its drive to provide an integrated program for the qualification, guidance and assessment of start-ups and SMEs in the knowledge economy, as well as make them aware of best practices that will enable them to thrive.
To what extent are Abu Dhabi’s SMEs embracing innovation as a means to boost competitiveness with regional and international peers?
ALMHEIRI: Like ADCCI, the governments of Abu Dhabi and the UAE place great importance on developing SMEs. In 2014 UAE Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum launched the National Innovation Strategy, recognising innovation as a cornerstone of social and economic development. While Abu Dhabi has traditionally been reliant on oil revenue for income, the strategy reinforced the need to diversify and encourage sustainable economic growth. In terms of the Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030, the emirate is on track to reach its economic diversification targets, and SMEs are an integral part of this process.
ADCCI actively studies and consults with the private sector to understand its challenges and continuously works to create solutions. We also work with the government to ensure the private sector in general – and SMEs specifically – receives the support it needs to thrive. SMEs face numerous impediments in their operations, including financing, liquidity, competition and internal operational efficiency. ADCCI has also developed programmes such as the SME Award to foster innovation and alleviate some of the challenges they face. Innovation is the key to our future.
How is ADCCI utilising technology to improve service provision to its members?
ALMHEIRI: ADCCI has been a pioneer in providing online and digital services that support both the private and public sector. We have embarked on a digital transformation journey centred on the needs of members that will see the complete automation of all of our services, including the issuance of certificates, legal services, businesswomen services and member outreach. This will give the private sector the tools and information necessary to support growth. Some of these projects have already been launched, including the digitalisation of the certificate of origin. Our approach consists of 25 projects over five years to transform the private sector’s business experience.
What are the most important developments related to economic diversification?
ALMHEIRI: In line with the Economic Vision 2030 and after careful consideration of market conditions, in early 2019 the government launched the Dh50bn ($13.6bn) Ghadan 21, or Tomorrow 21, stimulus programme, which includes initiatives aimed at stimulating the economy in these turbulent times. In the first quarter of 2020, 16 initiatives were launched under Ghadan 21 in order to support the private sector and SMEs. These include exemptions through to the end of 2020 on commercial vehicle registration, tolls, and individual and commercial real estate fees; Dh5bn ($1.4bn) in water and electricity subsidies for startups; and a Dh3bn ($816.8m) SME credit programme, among other initiatives. The private sector must play a role in diversification as well. Private firms need to understand the plans for diversification and modify their business plans and operating models accordingly.
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