Dubai and the UAE have long made headlines because of perceived extravagance and grandeur. The Burj Khalifa, The Palm Jumeirah, The Burj Al Arab, and more, have given Dubai, in particular, a reputation as a city of big spenders and big projects. And yes, big business too. However, in the emirate of Dubai specifically, small to medium enterprises make up 94% of the economy , employing 42% of the workforce. In Saudi Arabia the number is even higher, with 98% being classified as SME.
To describe the reality of the UAE business landscape is to define the opportunity. The British Business Group Dubai & Northern Emirates was established in1987 with the mandate to enhance British business relations. Today it has more than 2,000 members drawn mainly from the burgeoning local business community, and it is not the only this business group that fares well on the back of the SME. Its sister group in Abu Dhabi and others like the American Business Council, the Canadians, Lebanese, French, Germans, Irish, and the plethora of non-nationality groups that operate here (BNI, for example), all flourish with tens of thousands of businesses on their books.
The UAE has an official population of 9.2 million, slightly larger than the City of London, and businesses region-wide use it as a hub for Middle East operations. Yes, there is a lot of opportunity in the UAE. And no, you don’t need to arrive as a billionaire to succeed (although we’d be pleased if you left as one!).