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Middle East SMEs optimistic for a year of growth

Middle East SMEs optimistic for a year of growth

Small and medium sized businesses across the Middle East are confident of growth over the next 12 months, according to a new survey.

The Mastercard Middle East and Africa (MEA) SME Confidence Index found that construction and manufacturing SMEs are the most optimistic when forecasting growth, with 76% predicting that revenues will either hold steady or see growth.

The research also found that 74% of the region’s SMEs in the retail, food and drink, and entertainment sectors predicted growth going forward.


Improving skills

The main causes for optimism among all firms surveyed were upgraded employee skills (56%), easier access to credit (56%) and better management information (52%). These three factors were identified as the main drivers of growth for SMEs in the Middle East & Africa region.

When it came to their concerns, 60% of SMEs said the rising costs of doing business over the next 12 months was their biggest worry. And 47% said access to capital was their greatest concern.

Some 47% of the region’s SMEs said they were also concerned with maintaining current staff levels; 44% said training and upskilling staff was a worry for them; 39% said finding the right talent was the most difficult challenge facing them; while 39% said mental and physical wellbeing was their greatest challenge.


The move to cash-free

With the move to cash-free online shopping growing apace, boosted by the pandemic, 48% of SMEs in construction and manufacturing said not having to process cash was the most helpful development for their business, while 47% cited more convenient payment of suppliers and employees.

Protecting the environment is now an increasing priority for SMEs, with 70% of businesses saying they will do more for the environment and 25% saying they would stop buying from non-sustainable businesses.


$250m to help SMEs

Mastercard is investing $250 million to help connect 50 million micro, small and medium-sized businesses across the world to the digital economy by 2025, with a specific goal to connect 25 million female entrepreneurs to the global digital economy.

Amnah Ajmal, Mastercard’s executive vice president, Market Development, Middle East and Africa, said: “As manufacturing and construction businesses continue to build back better through a combination of digital transformation and people development, they are also encouraging other SMEs in this sector.”

She added: “At Mastercard we look forward to a seamless continuation of supporting the SME ecosystem, providing the payments technology infrastructure and wider business solutions that will spur wide, inclusive growth of the digital economy.”