Is Emiratisation on a Collission Course with the success of Emirati Entrepreneurship?

The Team is thrilled to welcome Talib Al Hashimi as a Guest Writer in the Untitled Chapters Website. This piece really caught our eye with regards to the subject matter and is titled “Is Emiratisation on a Collission Course with the success of Emirati Entrepreneurship?” Enjoy ^^

I still remember “Moby Dick”, the famous novel written in 1851 which tells the adventure of the narrator ‘Ishmael’ who sails on a whaling ship under the command of Captain ‘Ahab’. Thinking he has signed onto a routine commission on a normal whaling vessel, he soon realises that Captain Ahab’s real intention is the pursuit of his life-long obsession; a specific whale known as Moby – Dick, a giant whale known to destroy whalers that seek him. Captain Ahab’s obsession had cost him his leg and a ship, and eventually also costs Captain Ahab his life and his crew in a final standoff against the whale in the rough high seas.

The story of Moby – Dick was in many ways an analogy of how I felt running our small Emiratisation consultancy in the summer of 2009. The high waves of the global recession had just hit us, ambitious projects and companies were swept away. I was already dealing with the prospects of letting go of half of our staff and had just shut down a recently launched waste-management business. As if that was not enough, I was also enduring the challenging experience of completing my Masters degree’s research paper. I suffered a ‘writer’s block’ for months and struggled to find a research topic for my paper. But one summer afternoon and while I was discussing my predicament over lunch at the canteen with a university professor who I held high regards for his advice, I suddenly had a ‘light bulb moment’; “why don’t you do a research paper about yourself” he asked. “Myself??” I asked with a puzzled expression on my face. Later that night it had dawned on me that what I really needed to write about was myself, the entrepreneurial journey I had embarked on especially as an Emirati entrepreneur. And just like ‘Ishmael’ who narrated the legend of ‘Captain Ahab’, I decided to narrate the escapades of our local entrepreneurs and the high seas they faced throughout this journey. And so, I decided the topic for my research paper would cover this much talked about topic of ‘Emirati entrepreneurship’ and the existing challenges that surround it.

During the course of my research I found that Just like knowledge had a number of factors that influence its contribution towards shaping an economy to become a ‘Knowledge Economy’, which academics later on defined as ‘Knowledge Capital’; so did entrepreneurship and it was to be known in academic circles as ‘Entrepreneurship Capital’. What I now refer to ‘Emirati Entrepreneurship Capital’ is really a series of factors which I believe that could potentially shape the UAE’s economy to become conducive to the creation of entrepreneurs. These factors can be narrowed down to: Entrepreneurship education, the current activity of bankers and SME support agencies in the market, the UAE’s society’s acceptance of entrepreneurial behaviour and the Emirati entrepreneur’s own character and capacity to take risks, innovate and create sustainable new businesses. The paradox lies in the fact that each of these factors are also at the same time challenges that face the Emirati Entrepreneurship Capital, yet to me the most significant paradox lies in the fact that Emiratisation and the manner it has been approached and driven so far could actually be harming the whole purpose of Emirati entrepreneurship. How is that you may ask? If you think of the resources and initiatives the government has invested in the last decade which has mainly resulted in graduating a generation of civil servants, you begin to wonder if the right message is being sent to the potential Emirati entrepreneurs either studying in schools and universities or just about to start their careers . The numbers speak volumes; 495,000 Emiratis are currently employed in the public sector while only 43,000 are in the private sector. That is the result of the Emiratisation drive so far. That is also why I believe that focusing only on training and finding jobs for Emiratis –which is the current definition of Emiratisation – does not serve the purpose of fostering an entrepreneurial society. This as a result is one of the hidden challenges that face the Emirati Entrepreneurship Capital.

So how do we begin to resolve this paradox? In my opinion, the possible solutions could lie in the answers to the following questions: High Impact entrepreneurs can only thrive in a setting which pushes them out of the security of their comfort zone, push them to innovate and become accountable and responsible of their performance; is the current Emiratisation drive addressing this in any form? Are there any government directed Emiratisation programs that also address Entrepreneurship in the same breath? Have we begun looking at Intrapreneurship as a potential root for Emirati employees with entrepreneurial potential inside and outside organisations? Are the corporate –and even government- policies conducive towards the creation of Intrapreneurs? The UAE attracts some of the leading global multinationals, but how involved are they in UAE’s dream to become a ‘knowledge economy’ and consequently produce Emirati global leaders? And finally, are the government led Emiratisation and Entrepreneurship agencies working together?

In my view, I believe it is high time policy makers have a deep look at each of the factors influencing the Emirati Entrepreneurship Capital, and in particular the current Emiratisation drive and seek pragmatic and long term solutions. If this is not done earnestly, I am afraid that like Captain Ahab’s delusional pursuit of Moby Dick in the rough seas, the whole Emirati entrepreneurship question will face the same tragic fate.

Author: Talib Al Hashimi

Find more of his articles in his Blog here

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