Government-led strategies, enabling policies, a strong regulatory framework, and a supportive local ecosystem have led investors and VCs to tap into a flourishing startup community, experts said
The UAE has been ranked first globally as the best ecosystem for startups and entrepreneurs in 2022, ahead of the Netherlands, Finland, Saudi Arabia, and Lithuania, according to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor’s (GEM) 2022 report, and experts have emphasised that the ranking is well deserved.
The GEM report captures the perspectives of more than 2,000 relevant experts – at a minimum of 36 per country – across the 50 participating nations, to rank them in terms of their ability to encourage startups.
“During the last 20 years, the UAE has seen a dedicated drive to cultivate a globally competitive business ecosystem attracting entrepreneurs and investors, which are essential components to support economic diversification and innovation,” Majed Al Suwaidi, the managing director of Dubai Media City, said on behalf of in5, TECOM Group’s enabling platform for entrepreneurs in tech, design, and media.
“Government-led strategies and enabling policies have enriched the landscape of opportunities available here across diverse industries, and the support of business incubators like in5 play a pivotal role in earning the UAE its leading position in this year’s Global Entrepreneurship Monitor report.”
The UAE attained the highest score of 6.8 on GEM’s National Entrepreneurship Context Index (NECI), making it the best country in the world for startups.
Responding to the ranking, the CEO and co-founder of Starzplay Arabia, Maaz Sheikh, said: “I’m not surprised.
“At Starzplay, we have experienced first-hand the supportive local ecosystem that entrepreneurs can benefit from. This system has only grown stronger in the years since our launch in 2015. Factors such as advanced telecom infrastructure, business opportunities, and a strong regulatory framework helped the UAE achieve a high score in all axes of the index, not to mention the success of Expo 2020 Dubai.”
“I’m proud to be in their company and I look forward to seeing what the next generation of innovators has in store for the region, and the world,” Maaz Sheikh added.
Fellow homegrown UAE success story Mohamad Ballout, CEO and co-founder of unicorn Kitopi, paid his tribute.
“Thanks to the UAE government’s ongoing efforts to promote entrepreneurship and innovation in the country, the UAE has one of the most attractive startup ecosystems today, with benefits ranging access to multiple funding channels, to conducive regulatory frameworks, to diverse talent pools and beyond.
“I can say without reservation that Kitopi’s growth has largely been made possible by the ecosystem we operate in, and the choice of setting up Kitopi in the UAE, over any other parts of the world, has been one of the best choices we have made for the business.”
Of the 35 countries that participated in the GEM’s National Entrepreneurship Context Index (NECI), one of the highest score increases were noted in Saudi Arabia (from 5.0 in 2019 to 6.1 in 2021) and the UAE (from 5.8 to 6.8).
Experts have stated that this growth is expected to continue, with the UAE expected to maintain its top ranking for startups in the years to come.
Al Suwaidi concluded: “Investors and VCs are tapping into the flourishing business community in the UAE, which is why we introduced a dedicated space for them to access our start-ups and reaffirm our country as a leading destination for business.
“There is no doubt our continued focus on the future and adapting our policies to changing demands will help us maintain our ranking in this list, and consolidate Dubai’s competitive economy.”