Entrepreneurship in Bahrain
Background & History
Bahrain, officially called as the Kingdom of Bahrain, is a country in the Persian Gulf, located between the Qatar and the North Eastern Coast of Saudi Arabia. It is an island nation compromising of 51 natural and 33 manmade islands surrounding the main island of Bahrain. It was one of the earliest countries to convert to Islam during the lifetime of Prophet Mohammed in 628 CE. Historically it has been ruled by the Arabs, Portuguese, Persians, British, to a constitutional monarchy at present under the Al Khalifa royal family. Bahrain has a population of approximately 1.6 billion people. While majority of the population is Middle Eastern, a sizeable number is from South Asia. The northern part of the country is more densely populated than the southern part.
Bahrain is the freest economy in the Middle East, it is the 5th richest country in the Arab region and its economy ranks 23rd in the world. Known for its pearl fisheries back in the ages, Bahrain has developed into an oil, banking or finance and tourism-based economy. Like most countries in the Middle East Oil is a major source of revenue to Bahrain, it exports approximately 60% of its oil production, bringing the government 70% of its revenue and 11% of GDP. With less than 3% of land arable, Bahrain imports its major food requirements. Due to the fluctuation of oil prices and oil demand, Bahrain has developed the first post oil economy in the Gulf, this is due to its investments in banking and finance and tourism. Many major financial institutions in the world have their presence in Bahrain. The countries banking and financial sector, especially the Islamic banking has benefitted from the regional boom driven by Oil. Historical world heritage sites, museums, local festivals, bird watching, scuba diving, horse riding and the Formula 1 Grand Prix are popular tourist attractions.
Entrepreneurship and Startups
According to a survey from Statista, Bahrain has approximately 92000 registered commercial enterprises, out of which around 85000 are Micro enterprises. Small and Medium Enterprises contribute 30% to the country’s GDP. As per the World Bank Ease of Doing Business (2019), Bahrain ranks 62nd out of 190 countries. In order to liberalise its economy, Bahrain has now opened up 100% Foreign ownership in many sectors.
The Entrepreneurial ecosystem comprises of incubators such as the Bahrain Fashion incubator, Bahrain Woman incubator, Angel investors such as Tenmou and Angivest Ventures offers various funding schemes and coworking spaces such as Space 340 and Corporate Hub 9 offer space, training and advisory services.
Entrepreneurship is thriving with tech startups launching innovative solutions. Bahrain’s startup success stories include Skiplino – a mobile app that helps businesses to reduce waiting times and improve customer service, Inagrab – is an app that helps buyers find the best deals for a product they are looking for, and for sellers to generate more revenue by helping sell it a right time and at the place and price. Fish.me – a mobile app that connects local fisherman directly with customers. Having developed a strong banking and finance sector is now creating a surge in fintech startups launching in Bahrain.
While Bahrain is opening up its economy, by focusing on Entrepreneurship and Innovation, it faces competition from its Gulf neighbours who are also diversifying from oil to non-oil reliance, hence the competition for investments and resources.