The SME Guide to the Projects of the 50

The SME Guide to the Projects of the 50 

By: Mark Anthony Karam
Thought Leadership

How will the 26 initiatives revealed so far impact startups and SMEs?

This past September, the UAE announced a new programme called the Projects of the 50, which consists of a series of projects that will contribute to the development of the country and its economy across various pillars. 

Marking the UAE’s exceptional advancement since the unification of its emirates 50 years ago in 1971, the Projects of the 50 is setting a vision for the upcoming 50 years to make the UAE the global capital of investment and economic creativity, an integrated incubator for entrepreneurship and emerging projects, and an advanced laboratory for new economic opportunities.

So far, two sets of initiatives, currently totalling 26, and covering different parts of governance and economy, have been announced, with more to come.

As an SME or startup, how will these initiatives impact your business and future outlook?

Let’s find out. 

Funding and investment

A new electronic portal,, has been launched to act as an umbrella for all investment-related local entities and 14 state economic entities and to present all investment opportunities across the UAE. 

The portal provides comprehensive information on the local investment environment, as well as business and bank account set-up services, acting as a great tool for SMEs.

Emirates Investment Summit

The UAE will host the Emirates Investment Summit in Q1 2022, a global summit that will connect investment funds with the public and private sectors to create investment opportunities that will attract AED 550 billion in FDI over the next nine years. 

Project 5Bn

Project 5Bn will involve the allocation of AED 5 billion to support Emirati projects in priority sectors, sourced from the Emirates Development Bank (EDB).

How will this impact your business: should be your go-to platform for finding funding, while the Emirates Investment Summit should not be missed given the number of prominent players likely to be present there. As for Project 5Bn, refer to EDB to discover what priority sectors will be allocated funding if you’re an Emirati entrepreneur - you might be a match.

New business and Emiratisation


Comprising the entirety of the second set of initiatives announced, and totalling 13 in number, the NAFIS programme includes reforms and financial incentives to drive work opportunities for both young and experienced Emiratis in the private sector, while encouraging nationals to start their own businesses.

Under NAFIS, the UAE will spend up to AED 24 billion to employ 75,000 Emiratis in the private sector over 2021-2025, aiming for nationals to hold 10 per cent of the UAE’s private sector jobs by 2025. 

Nationals will also be incentivized to launch their own businesses in the labour market.

You can find further details about the offerings of the NAFIS programme here.

How will this impact your business: Spanning a wide scope of Emiratization support programmes, refer to the full list linked above to discover which of them you can benefit from as an Emirati operating in the private sector.


Green Visa

The UAE introduced a new Green Visa, which will allow highly-skilled individuals, investors, entrepreneurs and top students and graduates to sponsor themselves, in addition to other benefits.

Freelancers Visa

The first federal scheme of its kind, the Freelancers Visa enables self-employed people to sponsor themselves.

How will this impact your business: Both the Green Visa and Freelancers Visa open up options for SMEs and startups looking to employ specialized expat talent. The second Visa option makes it easier to find expat freelancers in the UAE, given the country’s status as a hub for innovation and business. 

Data privacy

UAE Data Law

The law will empower individuals to control how their personal data is used, stored and shared in a move that aims to protect privacy of individuals and institutions and limit entities’ use of personal data for profit.

How will this impact your business: If your company handles customers’ personal data, you must make sure you are familiar with this law to ensure compliance and best practice.

Digital economy

100 Coders Every Day and PyCon Summit

The 100 Coders Every Day programme aims to attract 3,000 coders every month to the country’s workforce, increasing the number of coders from 64,000 to 100,000 in 12 months, in addition to facilitating the establishment of programming companies in the UAE through a set of incentives and benefits.

PyCon Summit, on the other hand, is set to be the largest programming summit to be held in the Middle East. Set to take place in the second half of 2022, the event will help develop digital talent and expertise, inspire innovative technology projects, and connect a global community of programmers with the public and private sectors, as well as academic institutions.

The summit will bring together experts, leaders, talents, specialists and interests in the field from all over the world, and hold workshops, panel discussions and training sessions to showcase the latest trends and developments in programming and the digital economy.

How will this impact your business: If you’re looking to set up a programming or digital-focused SME, or if you already operate a company in need of programming expertise, these initiatives will make it easier for you to find a local talent pool of coders. Additionally, make sure to look into the incentives and benefits that the 100 Coders Every Day Programme will offer.

Industrial sector

The Fourth Industrial Revolution Network

The Fourth Industrial Revolution Network will promote the adoption of advanced technologies in the national industrial sector. The project aims to establish and grow 500 national companies equipped with the technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and technologically advanced workforce, which should be a point of interest for prospective entrepreneurs.

The network will also bring together 15 leading national companies in technology adoption to transfer knowledge, share best practices and train 100 CEOs in the industrial sector on the latest digital trends. Through the network, the Smart Industry Readiness Index will be developed to support the digital transformation of 200 industrial companies after evaluating the efficiency of digital operations.

Tech Drive program

The ‘Tech Drive’ program, worth AED 5 billion, will support the adoption of advanced technology in the industrial sector over the next five years, providing programmes and incentives to support entrepreneurs in the industrial sector.

How will this impact your business: With the Fourth Industrial Revolution Network aiming to establish 500 new companies in the UAE industrial sector,  prospective entrepreneurs interested in this economic segment are advised to investigate how the Network will be able to help them set up. As for existing SMEs in the industrial field, both initiatives will offer opportunities to scale up and upskill.

Local trade 

In-Country Value Program

The National In-Country Value Program aims to contribute to advancing the economic and social development of the country.

It will

  • redirect more than 50 per cent of the spending of government agencies and national companies on purchases and services to the national economy by 2031;

  • seek to raise the procurement volume from AED 33 billion to AED 55 billion by 2025 and to provide competitive financing solutions to local suppliers;

  • by 2025, aim to create a demand for local products and services by redirecting more than 42 per cent of procurement of the federal government and major UAE companies to local products and services, increasing local suppliers from 5,000 to 7,300.

How will this impact your business: The National ICV Program looks to funnel government spending inwards, which means local supplier SMEs are set to benefit greatly if they can match or exceed international competitors. Don’t forget to look into the competitive financing solutions that will be on offer.

International trade

Economic agreements with eight global markets

The UAE Government announced it will be undertaking comprehensive economic partnership agreements with eight key global markets. The agreements aim to achieve an AED 40 billion annual increase to the UAE’s current AED 257 billion trade volume with these markets.

10x10 Program

The 10x10 program aims to achieve an annual increase in the country’s exports by 10 percent in 10 key markets: China, the UK, the Netherlands, Italy, Russia, Poland, Luxembourg, Australia, New Zealand and Indonesia.

Through an integrated system of incentives and benefits, the project will work to achieve a 14 per cent growth in cumulative foreign direct investment (FDI) outflow by 2030, and a growth of FDI directed to the targeted countries of 24 percent by 2030.

How will this impact your business: These initiatives will open up new opportunities for SMEs to trade with some of the world’s largest markets, while opening the door to new investment opportunities, partners, suppliers, and more.

sme guide to projects of the 50 uae

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