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Research Seminar Series

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START DATE 18 May 2016

Oasis Theatre

Culture & Entrepreneurship in the United Arab Emirates

Wasif Minhas

Higher Colleges of Technology, Sharjah Campus



Culture plays an integral role in shaping an entrepreneur’s motivation, self-concept, personality and cognition. This study aimed to identify specific cultural factors that affect entrepreneurship in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) context and the wider Middle East region. The study used a qualitative methodology and in-depth interviews to focus on the lived experiences of eight university graduates who had entrepreneurial intentions as undergraduates, but only half managed to start a business whilst the half opted for employment. The study sought to understand how cultural factors lead to the fruition of these different outcomes. A further sample of two incubator managers was used to triangulate findings. Interviews revealed four themes of Collectivist Nationalism, Perceptions of Entrepreneurship, Religion and Tradition, and Reputation. Outside other social structures such as family or government represent the main influences that affect young Emiratis. This study concludes that the UAE culture promotes a sense of civic duty and seeds ambition, which encourages entrepreneurial action; however, cultural influences can also add to the fear of failure and push Emiratis towards less risky careers options of employment. Findings highlight a complex network of interrelated cultural factors that alternate as barriers or enablers, depending upon personal circumstance and other environmental factors. Whilst the nature of cultural factors and their application to entrepreneurship in the UAE is complex, the study highlights opportunities to counter some of the barriers, which signal a number of practical implications for practitioners. Given the increasingly globalized market place for entrepreneurs, developing a better understanding of culture is crucial to advance entrepreneurship and economic progress. Findings presented here indicate opportunities to further develop and adapt support mechanisms for nascent entrepreneurs according to cultural differences, making them more relevant to different regions across the world.



Dr. Wasif Minhas is an experienced educator, mentor and trainer. Since moving to the UAE from London he has spent the last 5 years teaching Economics and Entrepreneurship at the Higher Colleges of Technology, Sharjah. He also leads an Innovation Hub and Business accelerator at the same campus, supporting aspiring and nascent entrepreneurs. His deep interest in Education & Economics is parallel by in his interest in Entrepreneurship, more recently ethically responsible Entrepreneurship and Organic Economic Growth.


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