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UAE - High Rents Hurdle for Women Entrepreneurs

A survey of 110 businesswomen in the UAE, of both Emiratis and other nationalities, has revealed that exorbitant rents in the emirates was one of the major challenges in running their businesses. The findings of the report, "Women Business Owners in the United Arab Emirates", which is a part of a regional project focusing on other countries like Bahrain, Jordan, Lebanon and Tunisia, were disclosed at an event yesterday at Dubai Women's College (DWC).

The survey, which was conducted between September and October 2006, also noted that the business women surveyed, aged 25 to 44 years, in the UAE were well-educated and optimistic about their future.

Dr Monica Gallant, Business Department Chair at DWC and UAE research partner, said, "They run small, technology-enhanced, mostly service type businesses that tend to have international connections and are generally self-funded."

At least 73 per cent of them were well-educated and held post-graduate degrees. Of the surveyed women, 47 per cent were Emiratis and rest Europeans, Lebanese, South Africans and Americans.

Dr Gallant said the challenges faced by these women entrepreneurs included, "high costs of rent, finding and keeping good employees, balancing work and family, access to start-up capital, access to technology and being taken seriously as they were women."

Raja Easa Al Gurg, President of Dubai Business Women Council (DBWC), a subsidiary of the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI), explained that 44 per cent of the women-owned businesses in the UAE are small and only 2 per cent are medium-sized.

The survey results identified that one of the main challenges facing women-owned businesses is access to capital. Two new initiatives have been launched in the UAE to address the needs and to encourage businesswomen to invest in funds that are run by recognised banks and highly recommended investors. For example, Forsa is a fund that caters to wealthy women who aim to invest amounts over Dh1 million. Enmaa is a fund for investors from the business community who wish to invest amounts starting from $1,000.

About 45 per cent of the women felt that one of the three most important areas for the government to address was to create special loan funds or loan guarantee schemes to help business women with financing. As much as 32 per cent favoured the development of a special government advisory board for women's business development issues.

Thirty-seven per cent reported that one of the three most important issues was the reduction in the amount of money it took to register a business and 35 per cent highly desired a change in employment laws to increase business flexibility for hiring and replacing workers.

Gurg emphasised the importance of providing independent studies and precise statistics dealing with different issues and fields concerning the UAE and its women, in particular, and regional and global societies, in general, because of the benefits for decision makers since it helps them set future strategies and plans based on right scientific rules and parameters.(via Khaleej Times)

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