Tamkeen has enabled more than BD1.7 billion ($4.5bn) of investment in Bahrain since 2006, with at least 100,000 individuals benefiting from its initiatives, the top official of the agency has said.

“As many as 65,817 enterprises achieved growth and development through various programmes while 80,000+ Bahrainis were supported with training courses and certifications,” Tamkeen’s chief executive Hussain Rajab told the GDN in an exclusive interview.

“We have always championed entrepreneurs and supported Bahrainis to launch new ventures and grow their small businesses, enabling in the process over 19,000 startups to launch their operations.”

Empowering Bahraini women remains a key pillar of its strategy said Mr Rajab, adding that Tamkeen has established a strategic partnership with the Supreme Council for Women to offer programmes and initiatives designed to support them in pursuing career aspirations and embarking on entrepreneurial journeys.

“Through these initiatives we supported more than 15,000 women-led enterprises in Bahrain, including enabling 7,000 female entrepreneurs to launch new businesses. Furthermore, we trained around 53,000 women and supported jobs for 18,000 Bahraini females.”

Among Tamkeen’s recent successes last year is a strategic partnership with Citi for a technology hub to create 1,000 coding jobs in Bahrain over the next 10 years.

The national investment promotion agency, the Economic Development Board (EDB), played a key role in convincing Citi to choose the kingdom to set up the hub, which will serve clients across the region and potentially beyond.

With Tamkeen’s support, Citi has started recruiting Bahraini talent for the operations, Mr Rajab said.

Also known as the Labour Fund, Tamkeen has recently announced a comprehensive transformation and a new portal on Tamkeen.bh will start accepting applications for support from individuals and enterprises from today.

“The portal is user-friendly and offers an enhanced application process. Clients can apply on their own and receive updates and feedback throughout the application process leading to faster approvals and a more streamlined experience for all parties involved,” the official explained.

Taking a new approach, Tamkeen has shifted away from generic programmes to objective-based and impact-driven programmes that are more proactive.

Another key change is that the agency is now offering holistic support that includes technical and advisory consultation in addition to funding.

Mr Rajab said the focus is now on high potential sectors that are underpinned by productivity, have export potential, drive quality diversification, contribute to sustainable quality employment and are aligned with national priorities.

A belief in the power of technology and digital transformation in pushing the evolution and expansion of companies has led to the development of specific schemes.

Tamkeen is also reorienting Bahraini talent empowerment to emphasise career progression, quality employment and addressing of specific gaps.

“Our new programmes are dynamic and were designed to ensure that our customers achieve their maximum potential for growth. Enabling enterprises and national talents to reach their maximum potential will lead to a multiplier effect across the economy and support in diversifying our non-oil sector,” he added.

They were developed with sustainability in mind and aim to promote innovation, productivity, expansion, and exports.

“We would like companies and individuals to ‘think global’.”

According to Mr Rajab, to better communicate the transformation into a ‘new and improved’ Tamkeen, a new brand identity was created.

“Our new brand identity represents growth and emphasises our promise to enable committed enterprises and Bahraini talents to increase their productivity, achieve sustainability, and compete globally. The new brand underpinned by a holistic communications framework will enable us to communicate with and serve our customers better and champion their successes in Bahrain and beyond,” he said.

Looking back at the onset of the pandemic and steps taken to mitigate its impact, Mr Rajab said Tamkeen launched the Business Continuity Support Programme as part of the national stimulus package aimed at enterprises affected by the pandemic, to enable the private sector to face the market challenges presented at the time.

“During this period, more than 22,600 enterprises were supported with a total value of BD61.4m,” he said.

Noting that Covid-19 accelerated challenges facing the private sector, Mr Rajab said businesses started looking at digitalisation and innovation to address the problems brought on by the pandemic.

“They had to find ways to change their traditional approach to business and adapt to the new normal where the adoption of technological solutions paved the way forward. Today we find ourselves in a market that demands flexibility, productivity, adaptability, and dynamism,” he added.

The official also asserted that Tamkeen’s strategy is aligned with the government’s economic recovery plan and national economic strategy announced late last year and sees “a vital role” for the agency in collaboration with key players from the public and private sector.

“The two main objectives where we can deliver significant impact are the development of high potential sectors and the training and employment of Bahraini nationals,” said Mr Rajab.

“The high potential sectors we are focusing on are linked to those identified as part of the plan and we added more emerging sectors that show promise. Our new programmes were designed with the requirements of these sectors in mind and will support establishing them in the kingdom.”

Tamkeen will also continue to identify emerging and promising sectors that align with the government priorities and find ways to support them and strengthen their expansion, he stated.

“Furthermore, our programmes will support in creating promising job opportunities for Bahrainis and ensuring they are employees of choice in the labour market.”

 

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