Technology is an enabler; it helps create jobs, break down barriers to entry and barriers to scaling up
The Middle East’s reliance on oil for its wealth can hardly be overstressed. In pursuit of a sustainable long-term economic development, diversification for the region is a highly desirable aim – but how can it be achieved? One key requirement is innovation, and one of the vehicles to achieve it is the growing contribution of small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) and micro-enterprises to Middle East and North Africa’s (MENA) national and regional economies.
According to statistics from the World Bank, SMBs generate revenue and GDP six times faster than larger businesses and create jobs four times quicker. In fact, more than 100,000 new SMBs have been established in the UAE in the past three years, and the sector has the potential to add US$100 billion to regional GDP and generate up to two million jobs in the GCC in the near future. This presents a strong case for MENA to start thinking about these businesses as the real key to harnessing economic disruption for the good of all.
Spearheading change and the local economy is not an easy feat– but, as with so many of the challenges we face today, a large part of the puzzle can be solved through technological innovation. SMBs are required to be much more nimble, agile and responsive than larger businesses; these qualities have defined their appeal and success. Yet one of the impediments to any business incoming into this dynamic market is the challenge of addressing digital transformation. Continuous digitization of multiple aspects of business, intensified competition, discerning customers, and increasing need for high quality talent is disrupting the way SMBs operate. In a global study of more than 3,000 SMBs conducted by analyst firm IDC, 39% of respondents said active participation in the digital economy will be essential to their company’s survival.