The Government of Sharjah aims to award 10 percent of all digital transformation projects to start-ups and SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises), according to an announcement made at the inaugural Sharjah Entrepreneurship Festival (SharjahEF) by the emirate’s Department of Government Relations.
Organised by Sheraa, the Sharjah Entrepreneurship Centre, SharjahEF took place on November 21st and 22nd at the Sharjah Golf and Shooting Club. The festival drew together 1,500 youth, entrepreneurs, government partners, potential investors and industry veterans from the global business community to celebrate entrepreneurship, exchange knowledge about the UAE’s start-up ecosystem and make new business contacts. SharjahEF also introduced The Seffy Awards, a set of nine entrepreneurship awards.
SMEs have been recognised as critical to the United Arab Emirates’s development at a federal level, with the passing of Federal Law No. 2 of 2014 on Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises and Projects, which aims to boost the contribution of local SMEs to the UAE economy.
Sharjah’s economy has long been a favourite for SMEs and provides an excellent example of how governments can encourage global and local SME investment. Sharjah has launched a raft of new initiatives over the past five years, from offering a one-stop-shop for investors setting up businesses to launching new programmes and facilities for entrepreneurs and start-ups.
Sharjah Entrepreneurship Centre (Sheraa) was launched in January last year by Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq) and American University of Sharjah (AUS) to help support and develop the emirate’s entrepreneurial environment. Sheraa now runs an incubator programme for entrepreneurs and a variety of initiatives focusing on innovation, creativity and development.
Meanwhile, the Government of Sharjah announced two new free zone developments to help encourage knowledge-focused ventures earlier this year: Sharjah Media City and the AUS Research, Technology and Innovation (RTI) Park.
According to new research announced by MENA Research Partners (MRP) during the Sharjah Entrepreneurship Festival, the SME sector in the GCC region represents a potential of US$920 billion by the year 2022. The sector is expected to top 150 percent growth over the next five years, with employment swelling to 22 million jobs.