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Dubai SMEs will thrive in the digital economy

Dubai is going from strength to strength, and startups and SMEs are at the heart of government strategies to diversify its economy and expand non-oil sectors

Digital economy Dubai Chambers
The Dubai Chamber of Digital Economy focuses on unlocking the full potential of the digital economy and transforming Dubai into an international technology hub

Dubai has been on a relentless journey of growth and development for decades. We have seen the emirate go from strength to strength, and from one game-changing accomplishment to the next.

And if our performance in 2022 is any indication, 2023 promises to continue along the same path.

In the first nine months of 2022, Dubai’s economy registered a 4.6 percent annual growth rate, driven by strong demand recovery in a multitude of sectors, most notably travel and tourism, transportation, hospitality, and entertainment.

The emirate’s economy is projected to close 2022 with its strongest GDP growth rate yet, despite persisting global economic challenges.

One sector we expect to stand out in 2023 is startups and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The sector is at the heart of all government strategies to diversify our economy and expand non-oil sectors.

SMEs play an indispensable role in the national economy making up over 90 percent of businesses in the country.

Startups and SMEs are already spearheading our foray into the digital economy, which is expected to contribute almost 20 percent to the country’s GDP over the next 10 years.

Dubai is on a mission to become one of the world’s top 10 metaverse economies and the Dubai Metaverse Strategy aims to support Web3 businesses, projects and initiatives that would add $4 billion to Dubai’s economy within the next five years.

And as the digital economy grows, so, too, will SMEs.

In Dubai, the leadership has established a dedicated chamber – the Dubai Chamber of Digital Economy – focused on unlocking the full potential of the digital economy and transforming Dubai into an international technology hub.

With the restructuring of the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the creation of three specialised chambers, entrepreneurs – and aspiring entrepreneurs – in Dubai can look forward to unprecedented support from all relevant authorities in the year ahead. 

Supporting these efforts are business groups that represent economic sectors and activities in Dubai and country-specific business councils.

Business groups and business councils will work hand in hand to support ongoing efforts to boost Dubai’s non-oil foreign trade and create new channels of economic cooperation between business communities in the emirate and promising markets around the world.

The groups play a crucial role in facilitating mutual dialogue between government entities and the private sector on policy matters of importance to the business community. 

We have just announced the establishment of the new Fintech and Payments Business Group. This will play a pivotal role in supporting members and the emirate’s private sector to drive fintech growth and serve as a platform to leverage the vast opportunities in this vital sector.

Additionally, Dubai is focused on fast tracking its plans to become one of the world’s top business destinations. The Emirate is working towards ambitious targets and ultimately creating a vast talent pool to support the growing startup and SME community.

While we are mindful of the globally shared challenges of economic recession in Europe and the US, we know that with it track record of agility, as well as its proactiveness to push and explore foreign markets, Dubai provides a platform for traders to expand into new markets.

The increased momentum in domestic demand for travel and tourism, transportation, and real estate will further open new opportunities for SMEs growth.

Tying this all up is Dubai Global, an initiative launched by Dubai Chambers which aims to establish 50 integrated commercial representative offices for Dubai in five continents during the next few years.

The initiative is designed to attract multinational companies, SMEs, investors and international talent to Dubai to reinforce the emirate’s position as one of the world’s leading commercial hubs, while also enabling Dubai companies to expand their business in strategic priority markets overseas. 

Such efforts mean Dubai Chambers can create a worldwide network to drive business attraction and expansion. With strategic public and private sector partners, we are accelerating efforts to boost Dubai’s non-oil foreign trade from AED 1.4 trillion to AED 2 trillion by 2026, as part of the emirate’s five-year foreign trade plan.

We have a lot to look forward to in 2023, and as we continue to launch and expand targeted projects, we can safely say we are laying solid foundations for the next 50 years, and not just for 2023.

Mohammad Ali Rashed Lootah is president and CEO of Dubai Chambers