Entrepreneurship in Saudi Arabia is flourishing, with specialist university centers helping students to make their dreams of setting up their own businesses a reality.
However, according to education and entrepreneurship mentor Dr. Taghreed Al-Saraj, Saudi entrepreneurs need more training if they are to develop their entrepreneurial skills and produce something worthwhile.
“Being interested is not enough,” she told Arab News.
Al-Saraj said that Saudi Vision 2030 was motivating students, encouraging them to create their own businesses. “Countries rely on entrepreneurs to create jobs for themselves and their fellow citizens,” she said.
“Everyone here is interested in being an entrepreneur, but since they do not know the basics, our academic institutes have a role to play. They don’t know what to do and what it takes to become entrepreneurs. So they need more training.
“We have a lot of interest and the buzzword in Saudi Arabia now is ‘entrepreneurship.’ However, our entrepreneurs lack sufficient knowledge of how to do that. They think that the first time they fail, they are not good entrepreneurs, but all entrepreneurs fail two times, or even more, before they produce projects worthy of acclaim,” Al-Saraj said.
Universities play a major role in exposing students to entrepreneurship. However, Al-Saraj believes that students should become entrepreneurs before leaving university.
“Once students graduate, they will be looking for jobs. That way, they increase the unemployment rate. But when they are business founders, they help to create jobs and, therefore, reduce the (jobless) rate,” she said.
Al-Saraj said that Saudi Arabia’s focus on reducing unemployment should be looked at in depth without the need for quick results.
“We need to go deeper and look at university-level students before they graduate. Teaching entrepreneurship at university is good, but it should be given through elective courses,” she said. “That way, universities can effectively contribute in tackling unemployment.”
King Abdul Aziz University’s Center of Creativity and Entrepreneurship held a forum on Monday to celebrate Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW).
The main speaker, Abdulaziz Al-Adwani, founder and CEO of Manafa Capital, a recently authorized crowdfunding platform in Saudi Arabia, told the forum that a World Bank report had estimated crowdfunding in the Kingdom would soon rise to SR4 billion ($1.07 billion). “Individual investors in Saudi Arabia have the capability and desire to invest in small businesses,” he said.
Al-Adwani highlighted the Alibaba Group’s growth from its entrepreneurial beginnings to a giant e-commerce company.
“At first, 200 investors refused to invest in Alibaba. If those investors knew what it would become, they would not have hesitated to fund it,” he said.
Earlier this month, professor Abdullah Bafail, president of Umm Al-Qura University (UQU), launched the Future Entrepreneurs Forum at the university’s King Abdul Aziz Historical Hall in Al-Abidiyah. The forum was organized by the Institute of Innovation and Entrepreneurship as part of GEW.
Dr. Muafaq Oraijah, dean of the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Institute, told the forum that UQU provided quality programs in entrepreneurship.
“This forum is held in conjunction with GEW to embrace students’ graduation projects and provide guidance and training for them under the supervision of a highly experienced academic team in the field of innovation and entrepreneurship,” he said.
He added that they are looking forward to seeing the university entrepreneur achievements serving the community and nation.
Bafail said that the university hoped to strengthen the culture of innovation and entrepreneurship to help students become “the sources and founders of startups.”
“The university has all the capabilities that innovators and entrepreneurs need to set out in the world of innovation and creativity,” he said.
Promoting entrepreneurship among youth was the main factor in realizing Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, he said.