Sheraa general manager Najla Al Midfa said there are several opportunities for youth in the region. Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: The two-day Sharjah Entrepreneurship Festival, which aims to empower young entrepreneurs in the UAE to establish successful businesses, got off to a start on Tuesday with the participation of some top executives including the CEO of the Abraaj group, the chairman of Wamda Capital and the CEO of Crescent Enterprises.

Speaking on the occasion, Najla Al Midfa, general manager of the Sharjah Entrepreneurship Centre (Sheraa), said there are a lot of opportunities for youth in the region despite a challenging situation.

“As we usher in the fourth industrial revolution, we need to cultivate a new generation that has the ability to become innovative job creators, and who will build new businesses that will become the engines of economic growth and prosperity. To do this, we have to provide these entrepreneurs with an enabling environment that supports them,” she said.

The first panel discussion of the event, titled ‘What will you do to recharge the entrepreneurial spirit?’, brought together the region’s business and investment heavyweights including Arif Naqvi, chief executive of The Abraaj Group, Fadi Ghandour, chairman of Wamda Capital, and Badr Jafar, CEO of Crescent Enterprises.

Badr Jafar said the corporate venture capital has had quite an exciting journey, especially in the last five years, and makes up for 40 per cent and 50 per cent of all US and Asian investments respectively.

The average lifespan of a company today is probably 12 years, and estimates are that over 40 per cent of all Fortune 500 companies are going to go extinct within the next decade, he said.

“That is a super scary notion. This makes it even more important for big businesses to invest in start-ups. Our legacy is in oil and gas, but over the years we have turned more and more towards venture capital, because it makes a strong business case to diversify and support talent. In the last six months, we have invested in a business every month.”

Shaikha Bodour Bint Sultan Al Qasimi, chairperson of the Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq) and chairperson of Sheraa, was also present at the event.