Interview: Ebrahim Mohammed Janahi

What can be done to entice large companies to continue investing in Bahrain?

EBRAHIM MOHAMMED JANAHI: All businesses look for growth and development opportunities, regardless of their size. For large international companies, options are evaluated based on the location of their investments to ensure that they return adequate growth. As such, they generally look for well-developed economies that have a high probability of returning good value on their investment. To encourage businesses to invest in Bahrain, the kingdom has undertaken various efforts to create a business-friendly environment, including the formation of Tamkeen. By supporting businesses and individuals, Tamkeen makes Bahrain’s market more attractive, and creates an entrepreneurship economy that increases the long-term stability of the market.

How is Bahrain encouraging entrepreneurship?

JANAHI: While large businesses constitute the majority of economic activities in any modern economy, entrepreneurs are the ones who come up with creative solutions to meet developing demands of the marketplace. It is important that these ideas have the platform and the means to be integrated into the value-creation process of the economy. At Tamkeen we work with businesses in all stages of development, from start-up to maturity. One of the biggest hurdles facing entrepreneurs is getting their projects off the ground, in most cases due to either lack of funding or expertise.

Through our Tamweel scheme, formerly known as the Finance Scheme, we partner with banks to provide loan guarantees for selected entrepreneurs. Of the 7000 enterprises that have benefitted from the scheme to date, 83% are classified as small businesses and 16% are considered medium-sized firms, with 60% of all firms classified as start-ups. We also help entrepreneurs who have successfully managed to grow their business by providing them with funding for expansion plans. Our Business Development programme is a co-financing solution where we work with a business to formulate a plan that includes key performance indicators, goals and time-bound objectives before providing them with financial support. The grants cover 50% of approved items and services with the potential to reach up to 80% if the enterprise achieves the growth parameters in place by the end of the contract period. In 2015 approximately 1022 firms benefitted from the development programme, 34.5% of which are considered start-ups.

Throughout our 10 years we have found that a big portion of businesses, especially start-ups, require just as much advisory support as financial support, so we launched an advisory services support package that provides these businesses with coaching or mentorship from industry veterans.

In what ways can the education system be better integrated with employer needs?

JANAHI: It’s important that Bahrain build a solid foundation with the necessary expertise, knowledge and most importantly, the attitude to pursue new ideas. Intelaaq is one of Tamkeen’s initiatives that targets university students in their senior year or recent graduates who are about to enter the labour market. This is a critical phase of an individual’s life and is when a person selects a career or field that lasts a lifetime.

Through the programme, Tamkeen aims to help students transform their academic knowledge, which usually applies to general, standard global practices, to match Bahrain’s business marketplace and practices. The programme does this by allocating the students to work with established businesses in Bahrain, study their operations, their strategy, and attempt to provide consultancy services to them. In some cases, businesses have expressed interest in implementing student ideas in their businesses, which have impacted their operations. Students leave the programme with the knowledge of how businesses work and the ability to implement that knowledge in their own careers.