As of mid-2022, the number of small & medium enterprises in the UAE was 557,000. SMEs contribute as much as 63.5 per cent to the non-oil GDP. It is forecasted that there will be 1 million SMEs in the UAE by the year 2030.
Steps taken to boost SMEs in the UAE
Some of the steps taken by the UAE to boost SMEs are as follows. The UAE:
- issued Federal Law No. 2 of 2014 on Small and Medium Enterprises to protect, promote and regulate SMEs
- launched National SME Programme for developing the general frameworks and guidelines which will provide expertise, training, and technical and administrative support in various fields to promote and develop SMEs
- established The UAE SME Council – its role is to develop strategic plans and policies for SMEs, set the necessary rules and regulations to enhance coordination between the National Programme for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises and participating bodies and promote sustainable economic development
- launched Operation 300bn, the UAE’s industrial strategy – under which Emirates Development Bank will contribute to financing 13,500 SMEs
- launched Ministry of Possibilities – its Department of Government Procurement aims to make government procurement faster and more accessible, especially for SMEs
- approved National Cybersecurity Strategy 2019 – its aim is to implement a comprehensive legal and regulatory framework that will cover all types of cybercrimes, secure existing and emerging technologies and protect SMEs against most common cyber threats.
Future Industries Lab
The Future Industries Lab, run by Ministry of Industry and Advanced Technology (MoIAT) is designed to enhance the technical skills of SMEs and provide young Emiratis with knowledge in quality control and product development. Its ultimate goal is to build up the capacity of these industries for the future.
The Lab offers innovative training programmes that explore future industries in collaboration with leading organisations and business groups in the UAE. This programme enables national industries to align their priorities and objectives with cutting-edge technologies and it elevates the competitiveness of SMEs and individuals.
Related links from
Entities supporting SMEs in the UAE
Ministry of Finance
Ministry of Finance has introduced advanced digital solutions aimed at creating a business-friendly and supportive environment for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). These solutions include:
- Business opportunities and contracts for companies - SMEs can easily register their businesses in the Federal Supplier Register and apply for all government bids and tenders proposed by federal government entities.
- Funding solutions and guarantee schemes - SMEs with innovative projects can access funding solutions and guarantee schemes through Mohammed bin Rashid Innovation Fund.
- Customised support and accelerator services - SMEs can benefit from customised non-financial support programmes, designed to help innovators excel in their businesses.
- Entrepreneurial UAE Nationals - The UAE Government allocates 10 per cent of total federal purchases to SMEs owned by UAE citizens to ensure that they obtain a share of government business opportunities.
- Incentive packages for SMEs - These incentives include:
- 50 per cent discount on first-time registration in the Federal Supplier Register
- free registration renewals
- exemption from paying registration fees for the first two years from the establishment date
- 10 per cent price preference to SMEs
- free tender booklet.
- New digital solutions - SMEs can benefit from new digital solutions such as Government Procurement Platform to increase their business prospects.
Read more about Ministry of Finance’s support to 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.
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).
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.
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.