Interview : Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan

What initiatives are under way to create an ecosystem supportive of young entrepreneurs, start-ups, and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)?

SHEIKH MANSOUR BIN ZAYED AL NAHYAN: In the field of entrepreneurship, the UAE takes its obligation to provide support to young Emiratis very seriously, and does so through numerous means, most notably the youth business incubators that were first created over 15 years ago. These are unique platforms for training young entrepreneurs and expanding the SME sector for ambitious, young citizens.

The Ministry of Youth Affairs plays a prominent role in supporting youth entrepreneurship. It has established a Federal Youth Authority to promote capacity building through the launch of a dedicated portal for youth that facilitates young people’s knowledge of the business environment and raises their awareness about the incentives and facilities provided by the government.

Nationwide, numerous special funds and awards have been introduced to support young entrepreneurs through various institutions, particularly the Khalifa Fund for Enterprise Development, the Mohammed bin Rashid Award for Young Business Leaders, the Mohammed bin Rashid Establishment for SME Development and the Young Entrepreneurs Competition. We are very proud that we are starting to see the fruits of success from a number of our young entrepreneurs.

What were the motives for establishing the Arab youth opportunity platform in 2018?

SHEIKH MANSOUR: We launched the platform to provide a comprehensive and effective reference for all opportunities for Arab youth, including tailored awards, competitions, development programmes, events, incubators, scholarships, vocational training and volunteering. The database allows stakeholders to identify weaknesses in the opportunities available to young Arabs, identify urgent needs and develop plans and programmes that enhance the role that they can play in development. In addition, the platform facilitates the selection of initiatives according to the data available regarding the realities and goals of these youth.

How is the UAE working with other countries in the region and worldwide to reduce regional tensions?

SHEIKH MANSOUR: The UAE has adopted a comprehensive approach to addressing regional threats, primarily those posed by Iran. We are working to strengthen regional and international partnerships to address existing challenges and support political initiatives to resolve crises in Yemen, Syria and Libya. The UAE is contributing to counterterrorism efforts and helping with the ongoing reconstruction of Iraq.

The UAE also plays a role in providing humanitarian and relief assistance to impoverished areas affected by conflict and disaster, and it is recognised as a generous aid donor. The country is keen, too, to play a role as a regional peacemaker, once an opportunity for doing so presents itself. For example, the UAE contributed to peacemaking efforts between Ethiopia and Eritrea that ended 20 years of conflict between the two nations.

What are the UAE’s public spending priorities, and how has that investment begun to yield dividends?

SHEIKH MANSOUR: In the words of Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the people of the UAE are its true wealth. The federal and local government agencies consider the provision of the highest standards of living, well-being and prosperity to Emiratis to be their primary task. The UAE Vision 2021 stresses this by prioritising improvements in quality of life, the development of a good education system and modern health care, and ensuring environmental protection. These agencies are already making substantive achievements in these areas. The country has allocated 30% of total public expenditure, or Dh400bn ($108.9bn), to social welfare and housing. This is reflected in the UN’s “World Happiness Report 2018”, wherein the UAE ranked first in the Arab world for the fourth consecutive year and 20th globally.