Emirates Development Bank is seeking to widen its mandate, from principally targetting UAE national owned businesses to one that looks beyond nationality of owner. Image Credit: Gulf News Archive

Abu Dhabi: Emirates Development Bank (EDB) will expand its investment mandate to include businesses that are not 100 per cent Emirati-owned, to boost the country’s SME scene.

“The mandate of the bank historically was to focus predominately from a social standpoint - so 100 per cent Emirati owned companies," said Dr. Ahmad Belhoul Al Falasi, Minister of State for Entrepreneurship and Small and Medium Enterprises and Deputy Chairman of the bank. "Now, we’re revisiting that and saying as a development bank we need to look at the whole economy.

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“As we speak right now the bank will play a bigger role in terms of funding either through intermediaries like commercial banks dealing with the customers and EDB guaranteeing these loans to lower costs. Or through direct lending.” 

The minister also said that at a federal level the UAE was continuing to look at ways of making it easier to do business in the country, and in particular by reducing fees. “We are also looking into the cost at the federal level, how we can be smarter and how we can offer bigger incentives for startups. The most difficult part for a company is to pay big fees upfront when they still haven’t generated revenue - that’s something we are aware off.”

SME pivot

Another Abu Dhabi entity planning on expanding its scope in the SME space is Edge, the holding company for defense-focussed entities. “We are definitely looking to embark on launching a programme beginning of next year to further engage small startups [and] small companies to provide different building blocks of the offerings that we have,” said Faisal Al Bannai, CEO of Edge.

“Maybe the SMEs cannot build full products for us - but they can build certain subsystems or they can build certain components of the technologies that we have.”