According to a recent study by NAMA Women Advancement and UN Women, 77.6% of women-owned businesses (WOB) in the United Arab Emirates are run by people under the age of 40.
The fact that 48.8% of the 1,000 female business owners who participated in the survey were CEOs and 61.4% were single proprietors shows that Emirati businesspeople, especially young women, are having a significant impact on the GDP in emerging economic sectors.
This survey was a part of the report ‘Women-Owned Businesses in the United Arab Emirates: A Golden Opportunity’, published by NAMA Women Advancement in partnership with The Economic Empowerment Section of the UN Women, which addressed the realities and prospects of Emirati women’s contributions to the UAE’s comprehensive development, enhancing the sustainability of economic sectors and diversifying sources of national income.
Strong business ecosystem
The study praised the UAE’s robust and sustainable entrepreneurial ecosystem and highlighted the significant efforts made by the country over the past ten years to ensure female parity through a number of institutional, legal, and policy changes, including the ease of access to financing. According to the 2021/2022 Global Entrepreneurship Mentorship (GEM) report, the UAE tops the list of nations for convenience of doing business.
According to the report, Sharjah wants to create a sustainable economy by supporting young entrepreneurs and emerging tech-driven sectors, boosting competitiveness, and expanding MSMEs’ access to markets. As a result, there has been a steady rise in the number of new companies.
Rise in the number of women-owned businesses
The report revealed that the number of female entrepreneurs is rising significantly, with 25,000 Emirati women entrepreneurs owning 50,000 trade licences valued at AED 60 billion in 2021 compared to 23,000 Emirati women running businesses worth AED 50 billion in 2019 and 11,000 Emirati businesswomen running businesses worth AED 12 billion in 2010.
The respondents stressed the significance of finding funding sources while expressing confidence in their plans for company expansion. They emphasized the significance of involving women in organizations that offer complete assistance to entrepreneurs through networking, education, and consulting.
Additionally, respondents indicated a need for training and capacity-building in business skills, including understanding of making proposals in response to bids and tenders, financial accounting, and digital marketing. The study also noted that 13% of WOBs are co-owners with more than 51% of the shares and 25% are business leaders with less than 51% of the shares, and that 72% of WOBs are micro-, small-, and medium-sized businesses.
The report also provides a comprehensive overview of the realities of small and medium WOBs, and the possibilities of securing financing, in addition to suggestions and recommendations on ways to achieve them and advance businesses, pointing out the massive strides the UAE has undertaken to ensure gender parity through a series of legal, policy and institutional measures over the past decade, in both public and private sectors.
Main legislation driver
According to the study, the country’s businesswomen councils were the primary forces behind national business legislation supporting women’s participation in entrepreneurship through microbusinesses. In order to commence their entrepreneurial journeys with the least amount of setup requirements, both Emirati and non-Emirati women were encouraged to succeed.
It also stressed that significant women-focused initiatives for SMEs and home-based activities gave access to thousands of women entrepreneurs to set up their businesses, including the launch of Badiri Education and Development Academy and Irthi Contemporary Crafts Council by NAMA in Sharjah, ‘Sougha’ and ‘Mubdi’ah’ by the Abu Dhabi Businesswomen Council, and ‘Intilaq’ by the Dubai Chamber of Commerce.
Opportunities, challenges, and needs
A UN Women–NAMA research titled ‘Women-Owned Businesses in the UAE: Opportunities, Challenges and Needs’ indicated that 41.2% of female business leaders stated that the main challenge they face in the UAE is the lack of access to markets; 38.8% noted access to finance, while 33.5% noted high market competition.
HE Reem BinKaram, Director of NAMA, commented on the report and study, saying: “This report reflects an unquestionable proof of women’s role as a significant component of development in the UAE. We are working to form a comprehensive ecosystem that nurtures women’s great results that contribute to the national economy, which is a pillar on which institutions under NAMA were established under the directive of Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, wife of the Ruler of Sharjah and Chairperson of the SCFA. We seek to create an environment that cares for women, and provides them with opportunities to engage in comprehensive development, whether she is an at-home mother or grandmother taking care of her children, or an entrepreneur or a business owner that provides opportunities for advancing the local economy, and strengthen women’s status as a key player in bolstering the UAE’s standing.”
For her part, Dr. Moza Al Khayal, Director of the UN Women-UAE Liaison Office for the GCC, said: “Despite the challenges facing women entrepreneurs, the continuous governmental support has provided opportunities to gain extensive expertise through training initiatives organised around the country that helped establish a comprehensive ecosystem that guides women towards a bright future and accomplishments that the report has highlighted.”