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Dubai takes roadshow to Africa, India and Europe to court startups

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Dubai Chamber of Digital Economy explores global roadshows to boost the growth of digital economy sectors
  • SMEs represent 94% of companies in UAE and 50% of GDP
  • $100m of VC for startups to attract global talent
  • Government developing alternative financing like crowdfunding 

Dubai Chamber for Digital Economy has launched a new roadshow series in Africa to attract global startups to the city, with plans to expand the initiative to India and Europe.

The first roadshow took place in Ethiopia and Kenya where a delegation from the Chamber met with 20 promising African scaleups specialising in advanced technologies and digital business solutions, in the fields of fintech, healthtech, mobility and agricultural technology and e-commerce.

With a target of attracting about 300 digital startup companies within two years, the roadshow series will grow with several events planned in India and Europe.

The Chamber’s move comes as SMEs represent 94 percent of the total companies and institutions operating in the UAE and contribute more than 50 percent to the country’s GDP.

In April Dubai Crown Prince Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum approved a $100 million Venture Capital Fund for Startups as part of the city’s determination to attract entrepreneurial global talent.

Khalid Al-Jarwan Al Shamsi, executive director of Dubai Chamber for Digital Economy, said that the roadshow aims to elevate Dubai’s position as a global digital economy hub and make the emirate a preferred market for promising digital companies.

Raghu Mandagolathur, CEO of Marmore Mena Intelligence, told AGBI: “Accelerator programmes and incubators help startups at different stages of the business cycle, by providing them with advisory, networking and administrative support services.

“Their primary objective is to produce financially viable companies that can survive on their own. Conducting roadshows will help in projecting the UAE as an attractive destination for startups.”

Business incubator supports young people

Separately, the Mohammed bin Rashid Establishment for Small and Medium Enterprises Development (Dubai SME), one of the agencies of the Department of Economy and Tourism (DET) in Dubai, has announced the launch of Concept +, a new business incubator focusing on digital technology and supporting young people to develop their creative ideas into successful projects.

From attracting innovative ideas in emerging technologies and sectors to incubating them into commercially viable projects and guiding them through early-stage challenges, Concept + will provide a full range of support.

This includes feasibility studies, legal and development consultancy, training and employment, co-working spaces, as well as access to investors, service providers, and partners until the project attains the maturity to sustain growth.

Abdul Baset Al Janahi, CEO of Dubai SME, praised the role of specialised business incubators and the private sector in supporting the economy and developing a new system that meets the needs of the next phase of entrepreneurship.

“As a critical partner and chief engine driving commercial activity in Dubai, the private sector should continue to strengthen its role in overall economic development,” he said.

Unlocking opportunities for SMEs

“Particularly in developing small and medium enterprises, the public and private sectors need to be aligned in unlocking opportunities for innovative enterprise through facilitating access to new markets and financing”.

Al Janahi added: “The government is developing systems and frameworks to promote startups and alternative financing options, like crowdfunding. Creating new business opportunities and directing entrepreneurial talent to emerging sectors are particularly important as the UAE seeks to build a prosperous future for its young generations through investing in humans as well as in advanced science and technology.”

Mandagolathur agreed: “SMEs are generally the backbone of an economy as they foster innovation, entrepreneurship and create large-scale employment opportunities.

“Their strategic importance is apparent in the UAE, with SMEs accounting for 53 percent of the national GDP and 60 percent of the employment. Strong regulatory support and the involvement of private sector stakeholders are of paramount importance to create a conducive environment budding for SMEs to thrive.”

Retail giant launches accelerator programme

Majid Al Futtaim, the Dubai-based retail giant, has also announced an accelerator programme aimed to attract startups and SMEs in strategic sectors to turbo-charge growth plans and support economic development. 

Majid Al Futtaim Launchpad aims to accentuate the company’s role as a collaborative partner in supporting entrepreneurs and startup businesses in the UAE and MENA region.

In partnership with AstroLabs, a technology ecosystem builder in the Mena region, Majid Al Futtaim Launchpad focuses on delivering diverse benefits to programme participants.

These include unrivalled access to business growth incentives, mentorship programmes, and a vast innovation ecosystem to strengthen the commercial viability of startups and SMEs across the region.

The new initiative focuses efforts on supporting core growth areas, including homegrown brands, health and beauty and proptech.

Joe Abi Akl, chief corporate development officer at Majid Al Futtaim – Holding, said: “Our new Majid Al Futtaim Launchpad programme aims to facilitate state-of-the-art solutions and services while inspiring, nurturing and growing the startup and SME ecosystem that exists today.

“The new programme brings a host of significant benefits for consumers, employees, business owners, investors and governments across the region. 

“Our long-term ambition is to foster entrepreneurship and knowledge sharing to accelerate economic growth throughout the region.”

Founded in 1992, Majid Al Futtaim owns and operates 29 shopping malls, 13 hotels and four mixed-use communities, with further developments underway in the region.

Mandagolathur added: “These measures from Dubai SME, Majid Al Futtaim and Dubai Chamber will definitely help in supporting the development of SMEs in the UAE.”

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