YOUNG GUNNERS

Ras Al Khaimah 2018 | ECONOMY & FINANCE | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Yousef Esmaeel, Chairman of the Supreme Committee of Saud Bin Saqr Establishment for Youth Enterprises Development (RAK SME), on incentivizing young people, working with local government to encourage entrepreneurialism, and the role of SMEs in the UAE marketplace.

Yousef Esmaeel
BIOGRAPHY
In addition to being chairman of the Supreme Committee at RAK SME, Yousef Esmaeel is a board member of the RAK Chamber and has over 30 years of experience in both the private and public sectors.

What are the challenges to further incentivizing Emiratis to become entrepreneurs?

The UAE government is enabling youth to become entrepreneurs by facilitating a number of services for startups that incentivize UAE nationals to begin their own SMEs. The challenge is to properly prepare our youth to become critical thinkers, innovators, and entrepreneurs. The SME sector is the driving force behind the UAE economy, and so deserves an exceptional regulatory and business environment conducive to broad and sustainable growth. For entrepreneurs, a robust business plan and relevant market research are required in a business environment such as the UAE, where an open free market and competition are a given for the future. If people are not smart, strong, and sufficiently well prepared, it will be hard for new businesses to enter the market successfully, even with a quality product or service. This is where we can help start-ups. When we build awareness in youth and demonstrate the significance and rewards of operating a business, they begin to believe they can start one of their own. We cannot force people to open a business, but we can explain where the opportunities are and show them the way.

How are companies growing from small to medium in Ras Al Khaimah?

SMEs account for more than 94% of the companies operating in the UAE. At RAK SME, we provide special services for UAE nationals, such as commercial license fee exemptions, economic and technical consultation, development, and training workshops. We extensively promote the SME sector by participating in various local and international events, and exposing local SMEs to international markets and best practices in order to discover new technologies and opportunities related to innovation. Recently, RAK SME launched a “Government Procurement Program” initiative in cooperation with local government authorities and departments in Ras Al Khaimah. There are 736 SMEs registered with us, and they are now entering tenders for government procurement. Something else we are doing to encourage people to develop more industrial companies is allowing those who are in that sector to be given support here in RAK SME until they establish themselves. They can remain with us as members and therefore use our facilities. If we find that they succeed and are financially sound, we allocate industrial and commercial plots for them. We have done this for about 50 entrepreneurs so far.

How would you assess SMEs' access to finance?

Since SMEs constitute over 90% of the market, financial entities should not neglect them. Instead, banks are rethinking their positions and talking about funding SMEs now, without which they will not be able to succeed. In our case, we signed an agreement with RAKBANK to support our members with special financial solutions. Indeed, Emirates Development Bank has been specifically created to support SMEs. From now through 2021, SMEs will have an increasingly important role to play in the UAE's marketplace.