How UAE entrepreneurs are setting the pace for the country's next 50

December 29, 2021

By Mohammad A. Baker, Deputy Chairman and CEO, GMG

The latest UAE Golden Jubilee has been as much a celebration of the past as anticipation for all that lays ahead. In recent months, many of us in the UAE business community have been keenly following announcements on the 'Projects of the 50' in particular. With the first 50 years of the UAE's formation underpinned by remarkable achievements that have enabled us to thrive locally and expand globally, the 'Projects of the 50' continue this transformation journey.

As an increasingly global hub for knowledge exchange, the UAE has long fostered a spirit of entrepreneurship. Its success in this area has already been acknowledged internationally. Earlier this year, the UAE ranked first in the region and fourth globally in the Global Entrepreneurship Index (GEI) 2020. The UAE was also ranked first in the region by the World Bank in its Ease of Doing Business index. All of this was before the 'Projects of the 50' were even announced.

While each of the 'Projects of the 50' is impressive in its own way, some of the most exciting are those that facilitate entrepreneurship in the UAE and its contribution to our national goals.

For UAE citizens, the Project 5Bn will involve the allocation of AED5 billion to support Emirati projects in priority sectors. Not only will this help spur job creation across the society, but it will give Emirati entrepreneurs the means to test bold ideas, and to keep refining them even if they do not succeed at first. Such projects will in turn support the work of the Emirati Talent Competitiveness Council to create 75,000 private-sector jobs for Emiratis with incentives to gain the backing they need to thrive and prosper.

In addition to Emirati participation in the private sector, the importance of having the right visas to attract international talent cannot be underestimated. The new Green Visa scheme, for example, will attract investors, entrepreneurs, highly skilled individuals, top students, and graduates by offering them self-residency status. The federal Freelancer Visa will further attract self-employed workers based in the UAE and overseas in specialized fields. Both types of visas will enable us to build a pool of skilled individuals from diverse backgrounds who can help to build and transform UAE-based businesses.

Another of the significant 'Projects of the 50' for entrepreneurs will be the partnership agreements between the UAE government and global markets. No nation is an island, and the UAE owes much of its prosperity to strong economic links with the region and beyond. The UAE government's commitment to undertake comprehensive economic partnership agreements with eight key global markets will achieve an AED40 billion annual increase to the UAE's current trade volume with these markets. This will create incredible opportunities for UAE entrepreneurs with ambitions to go global.

Within these various projects, the UAE’s highly-developed Public Private Partnership (PPP) model has helped advance national goals for implementing a sustainable, competitive economy. Conversely, the UAE's private sector has benefitted immensely from new revenue models, while expanding its collective expertise in managing public projects in transport, education, health, and more.

Taking this all into consideration, there's never been a better time for individuals to explore new ventures in the UAE's private sector. Consider the retail industry as just one example. The recent 2021 Global Retail Development Index by Kearney not only ranked the UAE at the top spot of retail spending in MENA, but acknowledged the country’s booming e-commerce infrastructure, strong logistics ecosystems, and other factors that will provide a clear growth pathway for entrepreneurial success in the years ahead.

GMG is living proof of the country's entrepreneurial spirit. Evolving from a one-shop business in Dubai, today GMG is a thriving global conglomerate representing many of the world's leading brands—and creating many of its own. Through such activities, we can contribute to the diversification of the UAE's private sector while giving back to the country by supporting national goals such as food security, inspiring active living, and supporting good health.

More than ever before, budding entrepreneurs in the UAE are empowered to make a difference. They can take calculated risks, and pursue ideas with truly global impact. There are no constraints to what can be achieved in today's future-focused environment.