Bahrain is cultivating a dynamic environment for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to flourish, fostering a spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship.

This was the main takeaway from a panel discussion moderated by UNIDO Investment and Technology Promotion Office in Bahrain head Dr Hashim Hussein on day two of WEIF 2024 at the Gulf Hotel Bahrain Convention and Spa, with experts saying this multi-pronged approach, driven by government agencies, financial institutions and dedicated support organisations, empowers aspiring Bahraini business owners and fuels the kingdom’s economic diversification efforts.

Tamkeen, also known as the labour fund, plays a pivotal role by offering a comprehensive suite of resources.

Maha Mofeez, chief executive of Tamkeen, highlighted their Sharia-compliant financing solutions, including grants and subsidised loans tailored to different business stages through programmes like ‘Start Your Business’ and ‘Business Growth’.

Additionally, Tamkeen provides guidance and mentorship through workshops and dedicated advisors, she added. Tamkeen’s commitment extends to training and development by funding training programmes and professional certifications, equipping entrepreneurs with the necessary skillsets to navigate the business world.

The Industry and Commerce Ministry actively promotes the growth of incubators and accelerators, and assistant under-secretary Dr Khaled Alalawi emphasised their role in nurturing innovation. “The ministry has issued clear regulations governing these entities, with Bahrain currently boasting more than 30 accelerators, incubators and co-working spaces. These efforts aim to stimulate economic growth and increase the contribution of the industrial sector to Bahrain’s GDP.”

National Bank of Bahrain (NBB) is another key player in the ecosystem. Abdulrahim A Hameed, the bank’s corporate finance and sustainability manager, highlighted their programme focused on supporting Bahraini youth with high-growth potential. “This initiative provides both financial and advisory support, empowering young entrepreneurs to develop their projects.”

The Hope Fund complements these efforts by fostering a thriving entrepreneurial landscape. Fajer Al Pachachi, the organisation’s director general, stressed their belief in the immense potential of Bahraini entrepreneurs.

“The Hope Fund achieves this through a multifaceted approach with investment arms like Hope Ventures identifying promising start-ups and inject crucial capital to fuel their growth.

“Recognising the importance of knowledge and guidance, the fund also offers training programmes and connects entrepreneurs with experienced mentors.”

This supportive ecosystem extends beyond individual entities. Bahrain FinTech Bay (BFB) CEO Bader Sater emphasised their role in fostering collaboration.

“BFB serves as a launchpad for innovative fintech ventures, providing a comprehensive support system encompassing incubation, acceleration programs, access to funding, and mentorship opportunities.”

The Bahrain Chamber actively champions the cause of entrepreneurs. Sonya Janahi, board member of the chamber and deputy member of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Governing Body, stressed their dedication to fostering a supportive environment.

“Bahrain’s main business association’s advocacy extends to lobbying for policies that promote entrepreneurship, such as streamlining business registration and facilitating access to finance. They also connect aspiring entrepreneurs with established business leaders, fostering collaboration and providing valuable mentorship. Furthermore, the chamber offers training programmes and workshops to equip entrepreneurs with the skills they need to succeed,” added Ms Janahi.


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