The Small and Medium Enterprises Forum and Exhibition, held alongside 10th edition of the Annual Investment Meeting (AIM 2020), slated to at Dubai World Trade Centre from 24 to 26 March, will put a spotlight into the future of SMEs in light of the global changing landscape in the digital era, and the need to look for new finance options and sources to support the SME sector.
Organised by the National Programme for Small and Medium Enterprises of the Ministry of Economy, the executive arm of the UAE SME Council, the SME Forum and Exhibition is one of the six main pillars of AIM 2020, held under the theme “Investing for the Future: Shaping the Global Investment Strategies”.
The 2020 edition of AIM will be held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, with the participation of a stellar galaxy of government leaders and officials, policymakers, economists, major international companies, top-tier regional and international investors from over 140 countries from across the world.
The SMEs event will focus on the rapidly changing SME ecosystem due to the digital revolution and underline the importance of supporting empowering SMEs, by helping entrepreneurs seeking new tools and sources of finance to start new projects or expand their business, thereby increasing SMEs’ contribution to the global economy.
It will help entrepreneurs explore new finance options and more flexible sources of finance, especially with SMEs moving away from traditional sources of finance, amidst the global changing landscape.
The SME agenda will examine new trends, with more SMEs are turning towards alternative sources of finance, prompting lending and financial institutions to produce innovative and interactive finance tools, to keep up with the shifting global trends in investment.
The forum seeks to narrow the credit gap for SMEs by providing a global platform for them to promote their products and services to real investors, especially as SMEs are the backbone of the global economy, where they make up 90 per cent of the business and contribute up to 50 per cent of total workforce worldwide, according to International Finance Corporation (IFC) reports. This indicates that 65 million SMEs in developing countries continue to suffer annually from inadequate funding, estimated at $5.2 trillion each year.
Since SMEs face greater financing obstacles than larger firms, enjoy less access to external finance, face higher transactions costs and higher risk premiums, AIM 2020 will highlight why SMEs are looking to prioritise flexibility and ease when it comes to access, repayment options, and processing fees.
The event will help SMEs seeking finance to find their suitable finance options through an array of engaging sessions with expert speakers providing valuable insights on these matters.The SME Pillar will give a review of new market trends and opportunities for SMEs with a focus on the relevance of innovation to entrepreneurship and the significance of harnessing latest technologies in enhancing the competitiveness of SMEs.
Dr. Adeeb Al Afeefi, Director of the National Programme for Small and Medium Enterprises said: “With innovation, modern technology and sustainability dominating the global economy, SMEs need to look beyond traditional financial aspects and take advantage of new markets such as digital technology, innovation, and knowledge-based economy.”
He stressed that SMEs, which are concerned with integrating sustainable investment into their operations and taking into account environmental, social and corporate governance standards, or other standards based on ethical or moral values to achieve long-term returns, are receiving attention from investors seeking to finance SMEs that address social and environmental concerns and make a positive impact on society, the environment, or the economy as a whole.
Dr. Al Afeefi said: “Through its SME pitching competition, AIM offers an extraordinary platform for entrepreneurs and SME owners to connect directly with leading local and international companies seeking investment opportunities in the UAE market. Top SMEs will be shortlisted to compete in the competition, and winners will get a premium opportunity to present their project ideas, business value and competitiveness to investors, explaining their products, target markets and the type of investment needed.
“We know that growing a business from the first seed of an idea is not a smooth linear journey, and economy cannot be bright without support and empowerment of SMEs, which are of high importance for boosting our national economy, enhancing its competitiveness and diversification, thus promoting sustainable economic development in our country and the wider globe,” he added.
Dr. Al Afeefi said: “As SMEs are a backbone of the national economy, given that their contribution to growth, innovation and job creation, it is highly imperative to ensure they are empowered with the right tools and support. The UAE launched several initiatives and programmes to enhance the contribution of the SME sector, most notably the Emirates Development Bank Dh100 million ‘Credit Guarantee Scheme’ for SMEs across the country.
The AIM 2020 agenda also includes Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), Start-ups, Future Cities, Foreign Portfolio Investment (FPI), and the Chinese “One Belt, One Road” initiative, as well as two fundraising events to support the least developed countries.