Ef­fat Univer­sity event draws in­dus­try spe­cial­ists


JED­DAH: En­trepreneur­ship is a very se­ri­ous re­spon­si­bil­ity, which can be shoul­dered by hav­ing faith in God and be­liev­ing in one­self.

This was stated by So­fana Dahlan, CEO and founder of Tashkeil and Kayan­ote, at Women’s En­trepreneur­ship Day (WED) held at Ef­fat Univer­sity in Jed­dah, which fo­cused on Saudi Vi­sion 2030 goals.

So­fana Dahlan, who is also WED am­bas­sador to Saudi Ara­bia, said: “The road was not paved for me. En­trepreneur­ship is some­thing that is still in the process of growth, and we need to open the door for di­a­logue to dis­cuss and ad­dress the chal­lenges faced by our en­trepreneurs.”

She said: “Ev­ery­one is do­ing a great job, but in­di­vid­u­ally. In 2014, I was ap­pointed to be the WED am­bas­sador to Saudi Ara­bia with my col­league Sarah Al-Ayed. Our mis­sion was to change the stereo­typed im­age of the Saudi woman.”

The event took place with the sup­port of Princess Lolowah bint Faisal Al-Saud, the univer­sity’s vice chair of the board of founders and the board of trus­tees, and gen­eral su­per­vi­sor.

She was ac­com­pa­nied by Princess Haifa Al-Faisal and No­rah bint Turki Al-Faisal. Those present in­cluded Ghas­san Al-Sulaiman, gov­er­nor of the Gen­eral Au­thor­ity for Small and Medium En­ter­prises.

Mo­hammed Ha­keem, as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of Jed­dah, who was the mas­ter of cer­e­mony, said: “We see to­day Saudi fe­male en­trepreneurs who have been meet­ing the chal­lenges; we need to lis­ten to them, share their con­cerns and sto­ries of suc­cess, and ben­e­fit from their ex­pe­ri­ences. One of the goals of Saudi Vi­sion 2030 is to strengthen and en­rich women’s en­trepreneur­ship.”

Malak Al-Nory, dean of grad­u­ate stud­ies and sci­en­tific re­search at Ef­fat Univer­sity, said: “Ef­fat Univer­sity’s vi­sion is to pre­pare and in­spire fu­ture women lead­ers. We want to equip them with the knowl­edge and skills needed to have sus­tain­able, pi­o­neer­ing roles in our so­ci­ety.”

Al-Sulaiman is one of the big­gest sup­port­ers of our youth to en­ter the field of en­trepreneur­ship and help them achieve their goals and over­come chal­lenges.

In his speech, he dis­cussed the fu­ture of en­trepreneur­ship in Saudi Ara­bia. “Back in the days, the com­mon cul­ture of en­trepreneur­ship was re­volv­ing around the peo­ple who had their own trade and those who were work­ing in the field of Haj and Um­rah. How­ever, times have changed now.

“To­day, we are go­ing through eco­nomic chal­lenges, but I’m very opti- mistic about the fu­ture of en­trepreneur­ship. The King­dom is very se­ri­ous about de­vel­op­ing the sec­tor of small and medium en­ter­prises (SMEs), with the es­tab­lish­ment of the Fund of Funds (Son­douq Al-Sanadiq).”

Al-Sulaiman said: “In Canada, 40 per­cent of pub­lic en­ter­prises are owned by women, and 70 per­cent of startup busi­nesses are owned by women. So, en­trepreneur­ship is an es­sen­tial em­pow­er­ment for women more than the la­bor mar­ket, where their par­tic­i­pa­tion in en­ter­prises in the first world coun­tries is more than the la­bor mar­ket,” Al-Sulaiman added.

Osama Ashri, head of SMEs and an en­trepreneur­ship spe­cial­ist, ad­dressed the ecosys­tem of en­trepreneur­ship in the King­dom in his pre­sen­ta­tion.

The fo­rum in­cluded six panel dis­cus­sions with more than 30 ac­tivists in the field of en­trepreneur­ship ad­dress­ing the cur­rent cul­tural changes in Saudi Ara­bia and how it im­pacts fe­male en­trepreneurs, the dif­fer­ent types of sup­port ex­tended by the govern­ment and pri­vate sec­tors for en­trepreneurs, the role of ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions in as­pir­ing and em­pow­er­ing po­ten­tial fe­male en­trepreneurs, chal­lenges fac­ing them in ac­cess­ing fi­nan­cial chan­nels to fund their projects, and the role of govern­ment and pol­icy-mak­ing bod­ies in en­abling en­trepreneurs in Saudi Ara­bia.

For her part, So­fana Dahlan, said that the fo­rum sheds light on the im­por­tance of the role of the en­trepreneur­ship in achiev­ing Saudi Vi­sion 2030, and learn­ing about the sys­tem and en­vi­ron­ment of en­trepreneur­ship, the role of the pub­lic and pri­vate sec­tors, the ed­u­ca­tional and fi­nance sec­tor in the de­vel­op­ment and sup­port of SMEs with the par­tic­i­pa­tion of a group of sup­port­ers.

Dahlan ex­plained that the data of busi­ness records at the Min­istry of Com­merce and In­dus­try by the end of the year 2014, in­di­cate that the to­tal num­ber of women’s com­mer­cial es­tab­lish­ments had reached 100,572, rep­re­sent­ing about 9.5 per­cent of the to­tal vol­ume of com­mer­cial es­tab­lish­ments in the King­dom. The vol­ume of cap­i­tal of these busi­nesses reached about SR6.4 bil­lion, which is a weak record com­pared to their es­ti­mated wealth.

There were two pitches pre­sented by The As­so­ciate and Teamup, where they dis­cussed their projects and the ob­sta­cles they went through.

Top ex­ec­u­tives from Saudi Aramco En­trepreneur­ship Cen­ter and King Ab­dul­lah Univer­sity of Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy (KAUST) were among those who took part in a panel dis­cus­sion. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)

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