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Sharjah FDI Forum Highlights Emirate’s Efforts to Boost SME Sector and Women in Business

Over two days of discussions held at the fifth edition of the Sharjah FDI Forum 2019, the emirate’s growing investment potential in real estate, efforts being made to boost the MSME sector, the increasing contributions of female entrepreneurs and the UAE’s economic resilience despite the global slowdown have been put in perspective for over 1,500 participants who attended. This happened at four smaller discussions hosted on the side-lines of the forum on November 11 – 12, 2019.

Investing in Sharjah Real Estate Projects
Speaking during a Sharjah Real Estate Department discussion titled ‘Investing in Sharjah Real Estate Projects’, held on the sidelines of the fifth edition of the forum in Sharjah, Alsuwaidi continued: “Sharjah wants to work with foreign investors and the government of Sharjah continues to ease the process for them. Now, several steps can be taken remotely, using our online platforms, including registering buyers and sellers to obtaining licenses, which means developers do not need to visit our department. This emirate is open to investment and we listen intently to our investors. We know investors are interested in being supplied efficiently with services, and here in Sharjah, we have invested heavily in services such as roads and infrastructure.”

Alsuwaidi added that developers and foreign investors in real estate needed to be aware of the legislation which has been put in place to regulate the industry and protect all involved. He highlighted the Executive Council Law 26 which allows for foreign nationals and companies owned by foreign nationals to own usufruct rights over vacant plots of land for a period of 100 years in Sharjah, and to register such usufruct rights with the Sharjah Real Estate Registration. The New Resolution also permits foreign developers to register projects and sell usufruct rights to investors subject to obtaining special approval from His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah.

The Role of Government in Supporting Entrepreneurs
Sharjah Entrepreneurship Foundation “Ruwad” also held a discussion titled ‘The Role of Government in Supporting Entrepreneurs’, highlighting that Sharjah was continually expanding to provide more opportunities for entrepreneurs in the UAE, as MSMEs are the backbone of national and regional economies. A six-member panel highlighted that the organisation was putting in more efforts to strengthen their support to SMEs and business, whilst also increasing interaction with government agencies supporting them.

Participants stressed the need for governments to encourage citizens to become entrepreneurs and start their own businesses due to the great impact of SMEs on the local economy. They discussed the impact of entrepreneurship in the economy and SMEs’ ability to navigate crisis through innovation, and relieve governments off the pressure that has been posed by the Emiratisation policies – a key performance indicator of the UAE Vision 2021 – by hiring national talents.

Speakers called for unlimited support for entrepreneurs and emphasised that stronger steps be taken to boost the performance of the SME sector in Sharjah and the UAE. They highlighted ways government can support the sector through financial incentives, providing them access to resources, and raising their share of sovereign projects, whether through contract execution or procurement of their products, in addition to facilitating official transactions and reducing taxes.

UAE, the biggest source of capital investment in the Middle East
The UAE was the biggest source of FDI to the Middle East region, contributing 24.1 percent of capital investment in areas such as real estate, construction and energy between 2018 and 2019, according to WAVTEQ, a company that specialises in attracting FDI and has assisted gaining investments of $50 billion in greenfield FDI.

During his presentation on the second day of the Sharjah FDI Forum 2019, Dr. Henry Loewendahl CEO of WAVTEQ, and SVP of fDi Intelligence, Financial Times, said that despite the global downturn since 2015, the Middle East region has seen a steady increase in FDI up until 2019.

Dr. Loewendahl added that following a survey of investors in 2017, the number one technique or best practice in attracting FDI to a specific location is through having an effective, informative and up to date website, with 74% of investors placing this as their number one. For 66% of investors polled, planned visits to see executives came in second followed by good media relations and publicity. Ultimately, he said, you need over a thousand leads to convert into 10 projects with an overall investment of $100 million and 2000 jobs.

Women in Business
The second interactive session on day 2 was titled ‘Women in Business’ and witnessed Emirati businesswomen and entrepreneurs sharing their success stories, urging women in the audience to pursue their passion in business and entrepreneurship.

As part of her work as a construction architect, Fatima Al Zaabi, Founder and Managing Director of studioD04, strapped her boots and put her safety helmet before entering a
male-dominated industry. “We had to prove our merit and show them our expertise, challenge them to gain their respect and establish our reputation as valuable professionals.”

She advised fresh graduates to get a job and follow their passion simultaneously. “Gain expertise, secure yourselves financially and venture out to pursue your passion. This way and you will have the best of both worlds. Once you make it in your business, keep your passion alive.”

To be successful in your business, Noura Al Serkal, Artist and Jeweller, said: “Don’t fear failure, even if you fail. Brush it off, and move on”. She started her business after selling 3,000 bead bracelets on Instagram before earning an MA in Arts for jewellery and metal design from the UK. “Don’t fear competition, set your pace and be unique. Success will be yours.”

The speaking businesswomen concurred about the UAE’s ideal environment for entrepreneurs to establish themselves and grow and shared their personal experiences of how this environment has helped them establish themselves successfully.

Held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council Ruler of Sharjah, the two-day Sharjah FDI Forum is organised by the Sharjah FDI Office (Invest in Sharjah), an affiliate of the Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq) with the support of the UAE Ministry of Economy (MoE). It is being held under the theme ‘Future Trends in Foreign Direct Investment’, at the Al Jawaher Reception and Convention Centre (JRCC).

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