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Ibrahim Al Mansoori, Chief Operating Officer of the Khalifa Fund for Enterprise Development, today inaugurated the SME Congress & Expo in Abu Dhabi.

Unlocking Middle East’s small business potential, SME Congress and Expo inaugurates

: Wednesday, December 18 - 2013 @ 12:00

The region’s top business leaders, successful entrepreneurs, and government officials will discuss the key challenges and opportunities facing Mid East small businesses at the SME Congress & Expo, which was today inaugurated by Ibrahim Al Mansoori, Chief Operating Officer of the Khalifa Fund for Enterprise Development.

The three-day event takes place until 18 December at Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre, featuring a strategic congress aimed at helping SME owners navigate the complex landscape of owning and running their own business, while a dedicated exhibition enables entrepreneurs to meet new partners and suppliers that will help their businesses expand.

More than 50 experts will share their knowledge and expertise on harnessing the potential of Middle East SMEs, which in most developed economies, represent between 60-70% of employment and more than 50% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), according to a 2012 Shell Foundation and Citi Foundation report. Today’s central theme covers SME policy framework, funding and finance, and the supporting services needed to create an SME market that contributes to the growth of the regional economy.

According to the Ministry of Economy, nearly 300,000 SMEs account for 92% of UAE companies, and employ 86% of the private sector workforce, while the global international development organisation, Spark, estimates that 19% of the world’s entrepreneurs come from the Middle East. Despite this, attracting important investment capital remains the largest barrier for regional SMEs and entrepreneurs to flourish. Experts at the SME Congress & Expo will look at the reasons why small firms struggle to gain extra capital, while imparting solutions to improve accessibility to investors, including searching for alternative sources of funding.

Chris Thomas, CEO and Co-Founder of ‘crowdinvesting’ firm, Eureeca, and a speaker at the SME Congress & Expo, believes one of the solutions for SMEs is to look at crowdinvestors. “The reality is the vast majority of small businesses, good or bad, have very little chance of raising money through traditional routes such as banks, venture capitals or angel investors,” said Thomas, whose company provides an online platform for small businesses and entrepreneurs to raise capital from a ‘crowd’ of registered investors in exchange for equity.

“No matter how good a business is, if it doesn’t tick the boxes, it’s not going to get funded via the ‘old world’ avenues. SMEs make up the bulk of an economy and with the lack of funding options available many of these businesses will fail. Crowdinvesting turns this on its head; it offers the chance for the business to syndicate a discussion with many investors that they couldn’t otherwise reach. Now, instead of having the same conversation individually 500 times, SMEs can have one conversation with 10,000 people all at once,” he added.

The inaugural SME Congress & Expo features more than 15 free-to-attend training workshops across all three days, where some of the region’s largest companies will provide invaluable advice to SMEs and entrepreneurs on how to successfully manage and grow their businesses. Leading figures from companies such Etisalat, Etihad Airways, Aseel Islamic Finance, Microsoft, National Bank of Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank, and Google Business Group will showcase innovative case studies demonstrating operational best practice from legal issues, accounting, intellectual property rights and sales, to capitalising on the internet, marketing, partnership agreements, and raising capital.

Meanwhile, ten of the region’s top SMEs and entrepreneurs will battle to become the first winner of the Pitch for Investment competition. Selected from more than 200 entries from across the region, the ten finalists will be split into two groups of five, delivering live presentations to a panel of judges today and tomorrow, with the ultimate winner to be announced on the final day of the event (18 December). Organised by Informa Exhibitions, the SME Congress & Expo is held in strategic partnership with the Abu Dhabi Department for Economic Development, the Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Khalifa Fund for Enterprise Development, and Dubai Internet City.

The powerful new platform takes place with the support of Strategic ICT Partner Etisalat, an organisation at the forefront of developing and delivering relevant innovative services and solutions to the small and medium segment in UAE for many years, enabling businesses to begin operations and grow their existing setup in the UAE as well as connecting them internationally. Official Carrier for the event is Etihad Airways, while Event Partners include Nexus and the Federation of UAE Chambers of Commerce and Industry. Sky News Arabia is Official News Broadcaster and Bayt.com Strategic Career Partner.

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Wednesday, December 18- 2013 @ 12:00 UAE local time (GMT+4) Replication or redistribution in whole or in part is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Mediaquest FZ LLC.

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