UAE has world's most export-focused SMEs

New study says quarter of SMEs in the UAE expanded export operations in past year
SMEs in the Emirates also said they would look to an increase in exports in the next twelve months.
By Neil King
Tue 08 Oct 2013 03:58 PM

Small and medium sized enterprises in the UAE are the most export-focused in the world, according to a new study by insurance company, Zurich.

The study, entitled Challenges, Risks and Opportunities for Small and Medium Enterprises, surveyed more than 3,250 SMEs across twelve countries, including 250 businesses in the UAE.

A quarter of the UAE respondents (26 percent) said they expanded their exporting activities during the past year – the highest figure across all surveyed countries and double the global average of thirteen percent.

Domestic growth was also key for a lot of UAE SMEs, with 30 percent saying they expanded their activities to target new domestic customers, compared to the global average of 23 percent.

SMEs in the Emirates also said they would look to an increase in exports in the next twelve months, with 28 percent saying expansion into international markets represented the biggest opportunity for their business. This figure was double the global average of fourteen percent.

The study also asked what SMEs believed to be their biggest threat. High competition was by far the most common answer in the UAE, with 42 percent citing this issue compared to cybercrime (six percent), natural catastrophes (four percent), and fire (three percent).

Brian Reilly, chief executive officer of Zurich’s General Insurance business in the Middle East, said: “Zurich’s findings illustrate a sense of real ambition and confidence among SMEs in the UAE to grow their businesses overseas, at a time when other global small businesses are far more cautious about international expansion.

“This represents good news for the economy as SMEs are a vital economic growth engine for the UAE.

“The findings in our SME research highlight the strength of the UAE as key global trading hub, which benefits from a low business risk perception that encourages small businesses to invest in expanding their operations and seek international growth opportunities.”

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