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Cultivating Local, Homegrown Entrepreneurship in the UAE and Ras Al Khaimah

Citing the need to diversify the economy and engage youth to be more active participants in society, the promotion of entrepreneurship, especially among youth, has been a prominent feature of the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE’s) national development vision, goals, and ambitions in recent years. In fact, entrepreneurship has not only been greatly valued in the UAE as a tonic for economic and demographic challenges but also as a way forward. Top-down promotion of entrepreneurship towards a national vision for development and innovation has laid the foundations for constructing an entrepreneurship ecosystem and sector. Organizations have played a key role as enactors of an emerging entrepreneurship ecosystem. In particular, entrepreneurship support organizations (ESOs) have been functioning as intermediaries and facilitators between the entrepreneur, entrepreneurship ecosystem, and the state.

This paper finds that ESOs reframe their purposes to culture and mindset shifting towards entrepreneurship, highlighting the number of participants and training programs delivered as measures of success over the number of start-ups launched in the face of barriers to homegrown entrepreneurship development. Additionally, these organizations do not limit their participant pool to local, national populations. Rather, they open their programs to all in the effort to fill the gap with globally sourced talent, resulting in a bifurcated entrepreneurship ecosystem that in some ways excludes young entrepreneurs, contributing to youth disillusionment of the hype around entrepreneurship promotion.

The policy paper offers the following recommendations: (1) Move beyond mindset shifting and culture building around entrepreneurship for local, national populations by providing more tangible opportunities for young, aspiring entrepreneurs to address relevant industry and/or societal challenges through their entrepreneurial endeavors; (2) Foster and create learning opportunities such as internships for young, national entrepreneurs with more mature global start-ups who are a part of government-sponsored incubator/accelerator programs to develop national entrepreneurial capacity; and (3) Provide greater access to entrepreneurial opportunities for non-national youth who consider the UAE their home and are engaging in entrepreneurial activities but find that they are excluded from local opportunities and resources.

Recommended citation: Lee, S. (2022). Cultivating local, homegrown entrepreneurship in the UAE and Ras Al Khaimah (Policy Paper No. 55). Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi Foundation for Policy Research.


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