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Here's Why Entrepreneurship Is A Viable Graduate Career Choice In The UAE Universities are now dedicating facilities and financial resources to promote and develop entrepreneurial graduates through business creation among their students.

By Dr. Naveed Yasin

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Even until the last decade, the closest match a student in the UAE or the MENA could find to a modern-day entrepreneurship course would have been a small business management course. Unfortunately, this is not what entrepreneurial students were seeking at universities. But since then, there has been considerable progress, as entrepreneurship courses are increasing in popularity, and they are being embedded in undergraduate degree programs across more universities around the region than ever before.

Universities are now dedicating facilities and financial resources to promote and develop entrepreneurial graduates through business creation among their students. But is building a startup really a viable career choice for fresh graduates in the market? I believe with the right attitude, the right support structures, and the right idea, the answer is yes!

The entrepreneurial attitude Today's youth have an innate sense of curiosity and creativity. Reaching adulthood at a time when the world is facing some of the biggest challenges that humankind has ever seen, this is injecting the desire to explore new ways to tackle societal and commercial challenges, which is the very essence of entrepreneurship education. Generation Z have grown up as global citizens in the age of mobility, which means they are also culturally educated and aware, which is another important characteristic of a successful entrepreneur, particularly in a diverse region like the MENA.

Entrepreneurial ecosystem and policy One of the biggest advantages for UAE graduates is being based in a vibrant and dynamic entrepreneurial ecosystem, supported by the entrepreneurial vision of the country's leadership, alongside opportunities to work with the world's leading companies and brands in the Emirate of Dubai. The UAE has demonstrated its firm commitment to driving entrepreneurship across all sectors of its economy, and this has played out through knowledge transfer programs, financial and legal assistance, and access to the required social capital. This impressive transformation has led the UAE to become the host of the largest share of startups within the region, accommodating 35% of all startups across countries in the MENA.

Infrastructure and resources The introduction of free zones as a strategy in the UAE has provided the business infrastructure to promote entrepreneurship by offering a more streamlined set-up process, customizable as well as flexible working environments, tax exemptions, and 100% business ownership. The government is also providing resources, with the Khalifa Fund being one of many notable initiatives in the UAE that is proactively boosting entrepreneurship. Since 2019, the Fund has invested AED1.32 billion in loans, and it has offered over 900+ workshops to promote entrepreneurship.

Hands-on training Universities are adopting a proactive approach to embed creativity, entrepreneurship, and innovation across the curriculum, and often, this comes in the form of mandatory courses in innovation and entrepreneurship. These courses develop the "hands-on" knowledge required for students to effectively create new products and services and take them to market, meaning that graduates are well-prepared to initiate a startup, or to be employed within one.

Delivering entrepreneurship and enterprise education at a university that offers mandatory courses, both in social and commercial entrepreneurship, and adopts state-of-the-art facilities, cutting-edge technologies, and a creative working environment, we see graduate entrepreneurs emerge across all programs. We equip students with the entrepreneurial and enterprising skills using the most contemporary and effective toolkits through a synergetic combination of both theoretical and practical approaches. This enhances the students' ability to recognize their strengths, reflect on improving developmental areas, visualize business models and concepts, and to develop an idea into reality through rapid prototyping and market testing approaches.

Finding a gap in the market Among the biggest challenges for aspiring entrepreneurs is finding the right gap in the market, and this is where creativity, training, and wider support systems converge. Any entrepreneur -particularly those in the nascent stage- must extensively research the marketplace and users to understand their target market before developing their product or service.

It is imperative to ideate, test, pivot, iterate, and validate their business model before operationalizing their enterprise. Successful entrepreneurs are those that move away from simply duplicating forms of enterprise, and really seek new-to-the-world or new-to-context ideas. Last but not least, budding entrepreneurs should not develop a new product or service in isolation, and then search for a market, but rather, understand the current market and its offerings, co-create with key stakeholders, and be receptive to new information.

Keeping the above points in mind, there is no doubt that the UAE is one of the most progressive and exciting economies for supporting entrepreneurial activities- and skilled graduates are primed to take advantage of this.

Related: Managing Your Modern Workforce In The MENA Region: The How-To

Dr. Naveed Yasin

Professor of Entrepreneurship, Canadian University Dubai

Dr. Naveed Yasin is a Professor of Entrepreneurship at the Canadian University Dubai, United Arab Emirates. He is a former e-commerce and health and fitness entrepreneur, chartered manager, and companion of the Chartered Management Institutes (UK and Canada), as well as the Outstanding All Round Academic Award Winner from the UK’s Teaching and Learning Institute. Dr. Yasin has published extensively in entrepreneurship and business management journals and academic textbooks. 


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