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5 ways you can help local Middle East businesses in a COVID-19 world (and beyond)

During both times of crisis and prosperity, it is important that we support local businesses.

Given the COVID-19 pandemic that has ravaged entire economies, local businesses have often been among the greatest losers Local businesses, the majority of which are small and medium enterprises (SMEs), are the lifeline of any economy Here are 5 ways we can support local businesses

Given the COVID-19 pandemic that has ravaged entire economies, local businesses have often been among the greatest losers. 

Local businesses, the majority of which are small and medium enterprises (SMEs), are the lifeline of any economy. Their employees are comprised mostly of nationals and expats, as opposed to an outsourced workforce. A majority of the money they make is reinvested into the local economy, and the taxes they pay help fund public healthcare, amenities, and infrastructure. Their employees, too, pay taxes, rent, and also support the economy in other ways. Their children go to local schools and universities, improving the overall literacy and education levels of the population.  

In Dubai, SMEs represent 99.2% of all businesses in the Emirate, according to the State of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in Dubai 2019, a report by Dubai SME, an agency of Dubai Economy. Additionally, they employ 52% of Dubai’s total workforce, and produce nearly 50% of its GDP.  

Whichever way you look at it, local businesses are a boon to any economy, and one that must be preserved. 

Heads up: Here are all the steps and conditions you need to know to open a business in Saudi Arabia.

How have they responded? 

Despite the unprecedented financial shock of the pandemic, many of these local businesses are adapting and evolving. In fact, nearly 94% of UAE SMBs have pivoted to keep their business on track, compared to 67% globally, as per the recent Back to Business Study by Visa. 

It has not been easy, but these enterprises are doing their best to uphold their usual level of service amid new regulations, changing consumer behaviour and expectations, and decreased business activity. 

The role we have to play 
In the context of a global pandemic, it’s easy to feel helpless as an individual. After all, how do you combat an invisible enemy that has brought entire economies to heel?  

The good news is that we all have a role to play, no matter how small, in helping our economies bounce back. The best way to do it is to support our local businesses.  Here are 5 ways we can do that. 

1. Buy from local restaurants 

Next time you fire up the Talabat app to order lunch, give that new Mexican fusion restaurant that just opened up on your way to work a chance. You’d be trying something new and supporting a local business, because how exciting is your 8th McDonalds order for the month? Avoid the international franchise chains and dine local. 

2. Buy homegrown produce

When you’re at the supermarket, make sure to note where certain fruit, vegetables and meat come from, and make sure you buy local when you can. By doing this, you’ll be supporting local farms and food producers.

3. Share and publicize local brands you enjoy

It can be easy to underestimate the impact of the share button, but there’s a reason you’ll see more content creators asking you to do so regardless of the number of followers you have. It simply takes one interested ‘window shopper’ being interested by a brand’s post you shared for them to make a purchase, potentially becoming lifelong customers.

4. Leave local sellers a good review

When shopping online, if you’re buying from a local or regional brand, make sure to leave them a good review if you enjoyed their product. You have no idea how much those 5 star reviews matter in the long run. 

5. Buy gift cards

During the pandemic, gift cards have emerged as a way for customers to offer their loved ones something of value while maintaining social distancing. In fact, according to data from online gift card retailer YouGotaGift.com, Saudi Arabia saw a surge of interest in these prepaid vouchers during the early months of COVID-19 and during Ramadan

Gift cards are good for local businesses (and businesses in general) because they offer liquidity without having to actually sell any goods or products. When you buy a gift card and hold off on purchasing something with it immediately, you are helping a business with its cash flow and allowing to keep the lights on, basically. 

So next time you’re shopping locally, consider buying a gift card for a future purchase, or to offer as a present to someone. 

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