26 May 2016

A third of young Arabs plan to start their own businesses within five years

  • The 2016 ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller Arab Youth Survey* finds more than a third of young Arabs intend to start own business in next five years
  • Young Arabs say governments can do more to encourage lending, provide training and cut red tape
  • Young Arabs are increasingly positive about entrepreneurship with more than half believing members of this generation are more likely to start a business than the previous one
Sixty-two percent of Arab youth think their generation are more likely to start a business than older peers.

Asked “do you feel people in this generation are more likely to start a business than in previous generations,” 54% agreed, with youth in the GCC most enthusiastic at 62%, compared to 54% of North African youth and 44% of youth in the Levant.

The key finding from the Eighth Annual ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller Arab Youth Survey was unveiled by Sunil John, the founder and CEO of ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller. Now in its eighth year, the ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller Arab Youth Survey has established itself as a key referral source for businesses and policymakers across the world.

In a separate response, the survey found that 36% of young Arabs said they themselves intend to start their own business in the next five years – specifically 37% of youth in the GCC, 39% in North Africa and 31% in the Levant.

Real estate, technology and retail were the top three sectors in which Arab youth would like to start a new business venture. Real estate is the preferred choice for a startup in the Gulf states, where 24% of youth said they would opt to launch a property-related company, whereas technology was the top choice for would-be entrepreneurs in the Levant (15%) and North Africa (18%). Retail is the second most popular choice in Levant and North Africa for 15% and 16 of respondents respectively; however in the Gulf only 9% would opt to start a retail operation.

Across the whole Middle East 34% said they did not intend to launch their own business, while 30% didn’t know. Lack of financial resources to start a business was cited as the main reason overall, by 20% of young people, however in the GCC only 8% believed they lacked the means to go it alone, while in North Africa, 37% saw this as the biggest hurdle.

Young Arabs believe governments can do more to support young entrepreneurs, with 39% saying that encouraging affordable lending should be made a priority; 25% calling for education and training to be improved and made more available; and 19% asking for government regulations and red tape to be cut.

“These findings suggest governments in the Middle East have an excellent opportunity to really help kickstart an entrepreneurial culture in the region,” said Sunil John. “With the Arab world needing to provide 80 to 100 million jobs by 2020, according to the World Bank, this represents a rich resource of largely untapped talent who can help drive the Arab world’s transformation to knowledge-based economies, and provide the opportunities of the future.”

This year, for the first time, the survey also asked potential entrepreneurs – young Arabs who said they intend to start a business in the next five years – in which Arab country they would like to set up their business. The UAE ranked as the most preferred country with one in four (24%) citing it as the top business destination in the Arab world, followed by Saudi Arabia (18%) and Qatar (13%).


Explore in-depth results from the 8th Annual ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller Arab Youth Survey, including survey highlights and a white paper in Arabic and English

*For the 2016 survey, international polling firm Penn Schoen Berland (PSB) conducted 3,500 face-to-face interviews with exclusively Arab national men and women aged 18 to 24 in the six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries of the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain; Iraq, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Palestine, Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria and Yemen. The interviews were conducted in the period January 11 to February 22, 2016.