Many industry leaders across the Middle East have been pointing fingers at Saudi Arabia, tipping it as the future entrepreneurial hub of the MENA region. While reasons vary, one of them is Saudi Arabia's effort in creating a more nurturing environment for SMEs. One example? Namaa Al Munawara, a SR1billion (US$226.5 million) non-profit organization recently launched by His Royal Highness Prince Faisal Bin Salman, Governor of Madinah. Namaa Al Munawara is the implementation arm of the Kingdom's Al Munawara Endowment. While the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of the Madinah province is its capital, the holy city of Medina, Saudi Arabia is doing its best to rev up business gears with this latest initiative. With Namaa Al Munawara receiving support from Saudi government agencies and the private sector, we can only expect it to make a huge impact and do exceptionally well alongside the rest of the region's startup accelerators.
How did Namaa Al Munawara come together, and what are the goals of this project?
Namaa Al Munawara was established as a non-profit organization for providing the required support to small and medium enterprises. SMEs, as a sector, is considered one of the most vibrant and important sectors in the Kingdom. It plays a key role through its goals of providing work opportunities and driving the economy forward, increasing national commercial activities, and reinforcing the spirit of business entrepreneurship Kingdom-wide, given that 90% of the local companies registered at the Ministry of Commerce and Industry are SMEs. Namaa's project will provide various job opportunities for Madinah residents, stemming from the fact that encouraging business entrepreneurship through supporting SMEs is one of the key development strategies in all developing and highly developed countries.
How has entrepreneurship changed in Al Madinah in recent years? It appears that Saudi Arabia as a whole is taking immediate action to nurture startups, SMEs, and entrepreneurial ventures.
Entrepreneurship requires individuals who have the capability to seize opportunities, evaluate them, analyze their feasibility, and possible returns. In Madinah, lots of various opportunities are available for everyone. These require people who have a sense of initiative and are proactive, knowing how to seriously interact with and delve into the process of entering new economic sectors through an innovative vision and by providing creative products or services.
What are some of Namaa Al Munawara's projects?
Namaa Al Munawara is the implementation arm for Waqf Al Munawara (Al Munawara Endowment), and it provides several initiatives for supporting small and medium enterprises for the men and women of Madinah. Initiatives include the Industrial City initiative for supporting retail sales, another for supporting Madinah-made products, in addition to manufacturing and creativity labs comprising fully integrated workplaces dedicated to the women of Madinah for nurturing women's employment and creative capabilities, and the One-Stop Shop, which aims at providing all the various governmental and consultancy services that entrepreneurs may need under one roof, helping to save time and effort, among other initiatives.
Which government agencies and private sector companies have been involved in supporting Namaa Al Munawara?
This is one of the leading projects provided by the Government of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques to the people, presented through non-project organizations to offer logistic and financial support, comprehensive consultancy services through one platform, and in close collaboration with several governmental parties and the private sector.
What do you think will make Namaa Al Munawara more effective than other startup accelerators in tHe Middle East?
There are many factors that contribute to the emergence of effective business accelerators in Madinah, including the current economic development and progress, population growth, the higher Saudi income per capita, the presence of a solid technology infrastructure, in addition to financial and logistic support for entrepreneurs in the region, given that Namaa Al Munawara is building the largest entrepreneurship investment platform in the Middle East. This will increase the success rate and success opportunities for the region's entrepreneurs, in addition to the collaborations between the public and private sector in the region for enabling small and medium enterprises to strongly compete in the business arena.
In Brief: Namaa Al Munawara
20,750m2 The size of Namaa Al Munawara's HQ. There will be "designated work areas, sale points, workshops, lecture halls, interactive showrooms for Madinah-made products, offices for Namaa's success partners and the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA), and an art gallery to exhibit Madinah's heritage and modern history."
SR700 million The amount provided by Saudi Credits and Savings Bank for the project.
100 The number of sites for "retail channels" to be delivered by Al Madinah Municipality within the next 12 months. The goal is to increase the number of these sites to 500 by the year 2020.
HRH Prince Faisal bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Governer of Madinah, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
"Al Madinah aims at strengthening socio-economic sustainability, given that it falls in line with Saudi Arabia's developmental renaissance, under the leadership of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz and HRH Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz. Waqf Al Munawara was established to reinforce this vision of development, with Namaa Al Munawara being its implementation arm. Namaa will support and empower the SME sector in Madinah as SMEs are the life blood of all economies and a vital component and a key vehicle for improving economic conditions and expanding job creation. They account for approximately 90% of the total local companies registered with the Ministry of Commerce and Industry. Given that implementation is usually considered one of the most challenging stages, we will ensure that the citizens of Madinah will feel Namaa Al Munawara's positive impact in the first quarter of next year, through our continuous follow-up, and dedication to the organization's activities."