Written by Rami Cassis
Well, I’m delighted to say that we’ve got Rami back on the line, hopefully with a slightly better line. Morning Rami.
Good morning. Is that any better?
It’s slightly better, let’s see how we go. Now. I do want to move on, actually, to the announcement that we were talking about a few weeks ago now that it’s been and upended, very long held sponsorship structure for foreign businesses here in the UAE. What has the response to this been? How much of a difference has it actually made in making the UAE a more attractive destination for foreign investment?
I think any investment decision is fundamentally based on one thing, and that’s confidence. And what it’s demonstrating is the is the business and commercial friendly appetite that the UAE government has towards foreign investment.
So, what I would expect it to achieve is that in the short term, it is probably going to drive an influx of small business owners and entrepreneurs wishing to set up in the UAE, which you know, combined with some of the recent announced changes around civil and criminal laws like decriminalising unmarried cohabitating couples, is going to make the UAE an increasingly attractive destination for foreign investment.
And is this all enough, would you say what are some of the biggest sticking points that remain now for new investors that are looking towards the UAE market?
I think it depends, if you’re looking at someone coming in to set up their own business within the UAE, I think the barriers to entry are very low, and the UAE, Dubai in particular, is a very attractive destination. When it comes to foreign investment of existing businesses, and therefore when we’re talking about the mergers and acquisitions market, I think one of the changes needs to be around the integrity and rigour associated with financial reporting.
So, companies setting up their financial accounts and reporting against the performance needs to be against a set of standards that are universally and internationally recognised. That doesn’t always happen in the way some of the mid-market in the UAE reports its financial numbers. So, I think that’s one important step that will drive further private equity investment in the region.
And what’s going to drive that change? What’s going to make that happen? Does there need to be more regulation in place in order for that to happen, or a sort of more of a demand from investors for that to happen from the region?
I think it’s going to be a combination of both. I mean, it’s impossible for me to make any political comments about the government’s appetite, but given its current direction of travel, I would expect that there will probably be some, there may well be some changes in terms of regulations.
But in the fullness of time, investors will necessarily require and convey to sellers – look, we need financial accounts that are up to a certain standard. And, as a result of those requirements, I think businesses will over time adapt, and begin to improve the quality of their reporting.
Right. And in terms of other things that you would like to see in terms of regulations to make this more attractive market, I know one point that you had brought up is seeing more women in leadership positions as well, that gender equity is a really important thing to see.
And I know this is something that UAE has made a lot of progress on. Why is this something that’s particularly important to you?
Because in the context of trying to scale, a business, any type of business, one of the fundamental requirements is access to good quality resources, human resources, and enabling women to move into technology into line management roles, into roles that are typically male dominated, fundamentally increases the availability of the labor pool within the region. And remember, the UAE is not just about the UAE market, there are only 10 million employees in the UAE.
However, it is used as a hub for many businesses in many other countries across the Middle East and North Africa. So, it drives a level of demand of human-on-human resources, which makes it fundamental for us to be able to develop as many women as we can, typically in scientific and, as I said, in management roles, because that’s the future, I mean, if we’ve learned anything about COVID it’s that it’s accelerated this digital transformation agenda. So, we need to get more women into tech, and more women into management.
Thank you so much for that Rami. Really appreciate your thoughts and your insights on this matter. That’s the voice of Rami Cassis, Founder and CEO of Parabellum Investments.