ROGER J. NASNAS
Small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are a prime necessity in countries suffering from a high rate of unemployment. This is even truer in Lebanon, which suffers from high emigration, while having a solid bias toward entrepreneurship. SMEs have become a necessity for all countries in the world, and not just for developing countries. It is estimated that more than 70% of national output in developed countries is provided by companies with fewer than 50 employees. A favorable policy for SMEs has been developed in our publication Emerging Lebanon toward an economic and social vision. It details the challenges of Micro and Small Enterprises (MSEs) and not SMEs, as this segment faces unique hurdles. Financing that is provided first by donors might be the last thing that a micro enterprise needs. Additionally, micro enterprises cannot be competitive while facing larger concerns; they cannot face the same taxes and social burden. Finally, the essential support we can provide to MSEs is to help them to grow and achieve better productivity.
Lebanon has a large number of brands and concepts. We do not want to be just an operator for only international brands. We want to develop our companies as Lebanese, as Arabs, and as Mediterraneans. This is why we developed the Mediterranean Franchise Federation, which we are leading. This is a federation in Greece, but Lebanon has the presidency. It is a 14-country group of associations and similar organizations, the purpose of which is to develop the franchising model throughout the Mediterranean area and to exchange know-how and culture and do business throughout the region. Lebanon is a hub between the Mediterranean and the Middle East. We have a role to play, and we know franchising is the best way to do that. It is less susceptible to risk because it is a tested and proven format. During the international crisis two years ago, while all the sectors were shrinking, franchising worldwide was growing by 15% to 20% per year. There is a big appetite for banks to give credit to tested and proven concepts with track records and high brand equity. The quality assurance that brands find through franchising creates safer investments and ways of doing business. A lot of the successful companies here in Lebanon are still in a family business format. There is a big move now toward more corporate structures, and everybody is looking for strategic partners that can take them to a higher level of development and internationalization.
DR. ANTHONY GHORAYEB
One of the chapters that has been identified as a Lebanese prerogative is education. Because of our political system of freedom and openness we have a good level of education. I believe our qualified human resources are our best export. We can help in improving the productivity and management of our counterparts in other countries. In addition, most Lebanese can speak more than one language, and soon Turkish will become more common. Speaking different languages is very important to properly share ideas. With our knowledge of foreign business models, we can be successful in various countries. There is also a lot to be done in terms of private equity development between the public and private sector. A lot of investments will come from abroad to increase the volume of production, and at the same time to make sure that a lot of products manufactured in neighboring countries can be produced at a cheaper cost here and at the same level of quality. We must start looking into value-added and high-tech niches because we have the culture and the education. Another area we can improve a lot on is in the field of alternative technology. A project we are working on is a communication and information system. This is a very concentrated industry that does not need a lot of space, and we have a lot of room to export from this area. Our role is to foster research and high technology.
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