As of mid-2020, there were 350,000 Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in the UAE. They:
- represented over 94 per cent of all companies operating in the country
- 73 per cent operated in the wholesale and retail sector
- 16 per cent in the services sector
- 11 per cent in the industry sector
- employed over 86 per cent of the labour force in the private sector and made up over 60 per cent of the GDP.
View the interactive table on classification of SMEs, based on annual returns and number of employees.
Scroll down on the link above to find an infographic on the number of SMEs in each emirate, further divided into sectors and size, and number of men and women working in that emirate. For example, the table below shows the number of SMEs in the trade sector in the emirate of Abu Dhabi with a further classification of size of the businesses. It also shows number of men and women working in that selection.
SMEs for Vision 2021
Under the theme of Competitive Knowledge Economy of Vision 2021, the UAE aims to increase the percentage of contribution of SMEs to the non-oil GDP from 53 in 2018 to 60 by the year 2021.
The UAE believes that entrepreneurship plays a key role in unlocking the potential of nationals and enables them to be a driving force of the UAE’s economic development through small and medium enterprises in the private sector. It strives to instil an entrepreneurial culture in schools and universities to foster generations endowed with leadership, creativity, responsibility and ambition. This will allow the UAE to be among the best in the world in ease of doing business, innovation, entrepreneurship and R&D indicators.
Entities supporting SMEs in the UAE
Khalifa Fund, a not-for-profit entity mandated by the Abu Dhabi Government has been supporting SMEs since 2007. It started with a capital of AED 300 million, which increased to AED 2 billion and now covers SMEs across the UAE.
Services of Khalifa Fund
Khalifa Fund helps aspiring Emirati businessmen with the following services:
- Business counselling
- Financial support and financial advice
- Business monitoring and support for funded projects
- Technical support and guidance
- Participating in Khalifa Fund marketing campaign and network
- Government support and exemptions
- Training and skills development
- Support services for members (existing companies (PDF, 500 KB).
Become a member of Khalifa Fund.
Funding from Khalifa Fund
The table below shows the various programmes under which one can seek funds. Click on the image for a larger view of the text.
Apply for fund
To apply for fund, send an eMail to firstname.lastname@example.org for steps on registering on the Khalifa Fund Gateway or log on to the Smart Khalifa Fund portal.
View your journey from applying for membership to starting your business (PDF, 500 KB).
Refer to the FAQs relating to application, loans, memberships etc.
Download the Business Plan template (Docx file, 350 KB).
Refer to Abu Dhabi SME Hub for additional resources on launching a business.
Dubai SME supports GCC nationals to establish small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the emirate of Dubai. Established in 2002, it was created as an integrated division of the Department of Economic Development (DED) and as a resource for support, information and outreach for the growing small and medium enterprise sector.
Services of Dubai SME
Dubai SME helps in all aspects of business: planning, launching and growing.
Under planning, Dubai SME offers guidance and training to aspiring entrepreneurs. For seeking guidance, GCC nationals must provide the following documents:
- a copy of the passport
- a copy of the National ID Card
- a copy of the business plan/model canvas.
How to apply
For guidance, apply to Dubai SME by writing to email@example.com.
For training, apply to Dubai Entrepreneurship Academy.
Dubai SME exempts start-ups from licensing-related fees for five years from the start of the business. It also helps in issuing the Intelaq licence for Dubai residents who wish to run a business from home. It also provides funding options for launching the business.
Funding from Dubai SME
Dubai SME offers a loan on the seed capital to a maximum of 1 million AED to reduce initial costs of starting up a business project.
Terms and conditions
To seek funding from Dubai SME, the following conditions must be met:
- the enterprise must be 100 per cent owned and managed by UAE national(s)
- it must be located in the emirate of Dubai
- the applicant shall personally implement and develop the business plan
- he/she should devote time and efforts to manage the enterprise
- the age of the entrepreneur shall not be less than 21 years and more than 65 years at the time of payment.
- For new entrepreneurs, the enterprise should meet the requirements and be economically viable
- The minimum financial contribution of the applicant to the funding shall be 20 per cent, depending on the type of activity and the degree of the risk therein, and shall be paid in advance.
- An operation manager and an accountant shall be appointed with the consent of the Fund before starting the enterprise.
How to apply
Log on to TheFund.ae to apply for funds. Read about the application process.
Dubai SME helps SMEs to grow their businesses by:
- providing entrepreneurs the opportunity to participate in the most prominent exhibitions and events at competitive prices to sell, display and market their products or services directly
- building their capacities as a contractor to meet the needs and requirements of the government, semi-government and private entities
- providing a comprehensive view of the enterprise performance within a set of financial and non-financial evaluation criteria
- providing various continuing funding solutions.
Get all eServices from Dubai SME.
Ministry of Finance - MoF
MoF offers digital solutions to create a business-friendly environment for SMEs.
Ministry of Economy
Read about the National Programme for Small and Medium Enterprises which aims to enable Emirati entrepreneurs and SME owners to establish and develop their businesses.