UAE ranks as most entrepreneurial nation in MENA region

UAE tops new global entrepreneurship index thanks to enabling policy and infrastructure environment

The inaugural Ashish J Thakkar Global Entrepreneurship Index, an in-depth study of entrepreneurial environments around the world, has ranked the UAE as the most entrepreneurial country in the MENA region, and 16th globally.

Co-developed by Mara Foundation – the social enterprise of Ashish Thakkar’s US$100 million company Mara Group – and independent consultancy Opinium Research, the report is among the most extensive of its kind, assessing 85 countries against a thorough set of criteria. It offers “a powerful insight into various elements that impact entrepreneurship globally,” according to Rona Kotecha, Executive Director of Mara Foundation.

By assessing five key pillars – Policy, Infrastructure, Education, Entrepreneurial Environment, and Finance, the report creates a clear picture of the state of global entrepreneurship.

The UAE scored highly across the majority of indices, ahead of global powers like Germany and Japan. Its infrastructure scores are particularly impressive – with resilient and sustainable urban developments such as buildings and transport, and good access to electricity and energy, the Emirates, the report notes, provides remarkable resources for local innovators.

The UAE is also a leader on digital infrastructure, with 80.6 per cent of the population owning a mobile phone. According to the Index, “the growth of digital infrastructure is key to entrepreneurial growth”, which places the UAE in a leading position globally.

Entrepreneurs transform lives and communities – by creating jobs and income, and inspiring others to
lead change. But they need the right environment to thrive. Through this index, the Mara foundation will show which regions do this well and why

Mark A Weinberger, Chairman & CEO, Ernst & Young

Additionally, the nation scored high on policy, perhaps due to its National Innovation Strategy, which aims to make the UAE one of the most innovative nations by 2021.

The government is taking huge steps to provide support for its community of local entrepreneurs. Projects like Dubai 100 – a pre-accelerator programme for digital health start-ups – give young innovators a head start by providing them with industry awareness and entrepreneurship mentorship. Such initiatives are fully supported by the government, fostering a keen culture of entrepreneurialism.

A serial entrepreneur himself, Ashish Thakkar is an expert in the field. He claims, “our entrepreneurs are our future”, with new businesses and initiatives key to fostering innovation and generating jobs.

However, he also highlights the challenges. “Having started my own business at the age of 15, I have experienced first-hand the many obstacles that face entrepreneurs trying to build a business from scratch – from securing finance and basic infrastructure, through to building a team and expanding into new markets.”

Topping the entire index this year is Singapore, which boasts a groundbreaking education system that has repeatedly been named the best in the world. Coupled with strong governmental backing, with schemes like the Early Stage Venture Investment Fund, the country is leading the way for young innovators with its national entrepreneurial spirit.