500 experts for GCC entrepreneurs forum
The first GCC Future Entrepreneurs Forum attracted more than 500 delegates, well above the expectations of the organisers, prompting Bahrain Development Bank (BDB) to plan for a second edition next year.
“This has been a very important forum which will be a platform where entrepreneurs meet, hear what each of them have to say and build on shared ideas,” said BDB head of business incubator centres Shaikh Hesham bin Mohammed Al Khalifa.
“It will allow us to evaluate systems and integrate the entrepreneurial ecosystem to expand across the GCC. This will enable and encourage more cross-border business and allow entrepreneurs to strike deals. There is a need to look at cross-border laws and the ability to open offices in other GCC states,” he added.
“We invited 550 entrepreneurs from across the region and hoped to attract around 400 but by the opening of the forum, we had to go out and find more seats to accommodate people,” said BDB head of human resources Hassan Al Binmohamed.
“That shows the level of concern across the region about the need to develop entrepreneurial skills to play a major role in building the future regional economy. We have had a very positive response and that is why we want to make this an annual event.
“Given the number of people who travelled to the kingdom for the forum, it would make sense to bring it back here, at least for the second edition,” he added.
He said that the BDB had a long history of supporting small and medium enterprises and start-up businesses over 20 years and had never lost money on its operations.
“The problem for small businesses is that while commercial banks are prepared to lend to them, they are reluctant and I don’t know of any who have lent to start-ups. What we need is local commercial banks to start supporting and advising them.”
‘SMEs playing key role’
As the GCC celebrates its 30th anniversary, it is entirely appropriate that the first GCC Future Entrepreneurs Forum should be launched in Bahrain this year, said GCC secretary-general Dr Abdullatif Al Zayani.
“This forum falls within the GCC 2010 to 2020 vision,” he said in his opening keynote address to the forum.
“There are a number of entrepreneurs who have been successful in various projects across the GCC and it is important that future entrepreneurs should learn from this,” he said.
“There are three pillars which you need to build a business on. They are knowledge, encouragement and support. “We have to educate and encourage our children in these pillars and teach them to be enthusiastic about business so they can develop the economy at the family and the society levels for the good of the country,” he added.
“Many large projects just started with an idea that received support and succeeded. “By instilling these ideas we will find creative people who can create jobs for others.
“Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) play a major role in the GCC, accounting for 50 per cent of our GDP despite the fact that we are a resource- rich region.”
Finance Minister Shaikh Ahmed bin Mohammed Al Khalifa said the forum reflected the significant entrepreneurial role assumed by SMEs in building the economies of the GCC states.
“In order to fulfil this role, a proper mechanism needs to be created to promote SMEs as part of the GCC’s overall advanced and long-term development strategy within the ongoing efforts to enhance economic integration amongst its member states,” he added.
“This key forum is held amidst a growing global interest in fostering business pioneers as one of the essential and effective drivers achieving growth and development,” he said.
“Such pioneers can contribute to achieving major economic indicators such as the creation of added value to an economy, attracting foreign investment and improving trade balances.
“The forum symbolizes the Economic Vision 2030, primarily in enhancing the private sector as the sector of growth,” he added. “These kind of forums are very important in providing support through various channels. We need to learn from successful entrepreneurs and the challenges they faced to help young businesses going down that road.”
“This forum represents a very vital arena for differing views which can help people build the confidence to come forward with proposals and conclusions which will be landmarks in the region and make the GCC more internationally competitive,” he said.