Crowdfunding is the practice of funding a project by raising money from a large number of people through licensed online platforms. Examples of crowdfunding platforms in the UAE are Beehive and Eureeca. Dubai Government launched DubaiNext, a digital crowdfunding platform to support SMEs. In March 2022, the UAE Cabinet approved crowdfunding activity for both the public and private sectors.
DubaiNEXT is a digital crowdfunding platform from Dubai Government. It was launched to facilitate Dubai-based individuals and companies who have creative projects to start a campaign through the platform and ask the UAE’s community to fund their business idea and turn it into a venture.
DubaiNEXT is based on the ‘All-or-Nothing’ model, where a campaigner sets a fundraising goal, but keeps nothing unless the goal is achieved. After the campaigner meets his funding goal, the amount will be released to him through Dubai SME. If the campaign does not reach the funded goal, the contributed amount will be refunded to the contributors.
The campaigner will get to keep full ownership of his project. Contributors can choose from a variety of unique rewards offered by the campaign owner.
The ‘Dubai Next’ platform aims to encourage youth and start-ups to obtain community support through crowdfunding. It envisions to empower a generation that is capable of innovating to succeed in a competitive commercial environment, thus reinforcing the fundamental role of SMEs in economic development.
Read FAQs relating to starting a campaign and contributing to a project.
In the UAE, fundraising activities for charities and social causes are regulated and done through state-based registered channels. However, fundraising for loans and investments, or debt-based funding is a new concept which is currently applied on a narrow basis and yet to be regulated and introduced at a wider level. In the UAE, the following entities regulate financial services or activities:
Data provided by Khalifa Fund shows that approximately 50-70 per cent of the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) applications for funding are rejected by conventional banks. Loans to SMEs account for just 4 per cent of the outstanding bank credit in the UAE, below the MENA average of 9.3 per cent.
Conventional lenders are sometimes unwilling or unable to support SMEs given their limited assets or lack of a proven record of company operations. This makes it difficult for SMEs to do business and finance provisions can be expensive or inflexible.
Yet, SMEs contribute nearly 60 per cent of the UAE’s GDP and this is estimated to grow to 70 per cent by 2021. Hence, crowdfunding is needed in the UAE to support SMEs.
Recently, Dubai Financial Services Authority (DFSA) launched a regulatory framework for loan and investment-based crowdfunding platforms, which is considered the first framework in GCC. The introduction of the regulation intends to license, organise and protect the rights and obligations of all parties involved in specific crowdfunding activities which provide finance solutions for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the UAE.
The regime forms part of DFSA’s regulatory roadmap to create an innovation-friendly ecosystem, in line with the UAE Government’s National Innovation Strategy. DFSA crowdfunding regulations intend to accelerate growth in the financial technology (FinTech) industry in the UAE and the region by targeting the specific requirements of crowdfunding platforms. The regulations ensure clear governance for FinTech businesses and provide appropriate protection for their customers. They also formalise DFSA’s approach to regulating crowdfunding platforms which had operated through interim arrangements since 2016.
According to Ministry of Economy, the SMEs sector represents more than 94 per cent of the total number of companies operating in the country and provide jobs for more than 86 per cent of the private sector's workforce. In Dubai alone, SMEs make up nearly 95 per cent of all companies, employing 42 per cent of the workforce and contributing around 40 per cent to Dubai's GDP.
The UAE Government has an ambition to enhance the contribution and performance of the SME sector. It is taking a major role in establishing initiatives and programmes to help with sources for funding SMEs. Initiatives include:
Crowdfunding is the practice of funding a project by raising money from a large number of people through licensed online platforms. Typically, crowdfunding consists of three parties:
Common types of crowdfunding include:
Examples of crowdfunding platforms in the UAE are: