By Mohamed Al-Kinani / Arab News
JEDDAH: Ninety-nine percent of the Saudi private sector consists of small and medium enterprises (SMEs), the secretary-general of the National Entrepreneurship Initiative (NEI), Omar Bafeel, said at its annual meeting on Tuesday.
The meeting was attended by Prince Faisal bin Muqrin, businessmen, entrepreneurs, and officials from the Ministry of Labor and Social Development, the Ministry of Commerce and Investment, and the General Authority of Small and Medium Enterprises (Monsha’at).
Bafeel said SMEs “are the backbone of the economy as they represent 99 percent of the private sector. Moreover, they’re absorbing some 70 percent of the country’s workforce.”
The NEI is “intended to be a platform for all entrepreneurs to exchange views and experiences, through holding regular meetings to benefit from the latest local, regional and global developments,” he added.
Such meetings will result in cooperation and partnerships between members of the initiative, he said.
The NEI conducted a meeting with the former minister of labor and social development, Ali Al-Ghafees, during which they discussed the challenges and difficulties facing young entrepreneurs in doing business, Bafeel added.
“We drew up a work plan with the then-minister and agreed to hold regular meetings to see how we, together, could put our views into practice,” he said.
“There will also be cooperation with other organizations in the coming period,” such as Monsha’at and the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, he added.
Abdulrahman Alim, NEI founder and executive officer of the Mubadara Business Development and Investment Co. Ltd., told Arab News: “As entrepreneurs are a big addition to the Saudi economy, we’re trying to help SMEs, small businesses in particular, compete globally.”
He said: “Commercial and marketing concepts now depend much more on … automation, digitalization, IT and technology communication, so we’re trying to introduce these new concepts.
“Moreover, we’re trying to support young people to professionally manage their businesses in order to enhance performance.”
The NEI came about when a number of entrepreneurs showed their desire to find an official entity where they could cooperate and exchange experiences, he added.
“The initiative has developed to include commercial, financial, marketing, industrial, services and information fields,” Alim said, adding that it is nonprofit and was set up for a national purpose.
“We’ve created a work environment where entrepreneurs and owners of SMEs can cooperate to make their businesses successful,” he said, adding that the NEI has conducted workshops to discuss obstacles facing entrepreneurs in the Kingdom.
“In 2018, we formed an advisory committee that reviewed some of the labor market-related issues in relation to SMEs,” he said.
“The committee came up with some recommendations and suggestions that we submitted to the Labor Ministry,” he added.
“We have to realize … changes and challenges, and prepare to deal with them positively. We also need to have solutions to ensure continuation of commercial work.”