Investing in the development of human resources and Bahrain-based businesses is central to Tamkeen’s mission, says Chief Executive Dr Ebrahim Mohammed Janahi, in an interview with Arabian Knight
Tamkeen, a national authority aimed at enhancing the productivity and sustainable growth of Bahraini individuals and businesses, has touched the lives of people in a way that is probably unique in the Kingdom.
In just 12 years since inception, Tamkeen has injected BD1 billion ($2.65 billion) into supporting Bahrain’s private sector and has consistently played a significant role in national reforms in line with the Kingdom’s Economic Vision 2030.
The numbers tell an astounding story. Over 183,000 individuals and 51,000 businesses have benefited through more than 330 specialised programmes of Tamkeen, says Dr Ebrahim Mohammed Janahi, Chief Executive of Tamkeen, in an interview with Arabian Knight.
“Many of those programmes served Bahraini citizens and the rest were aimed at the needs of private sector businesses within the Kingdom. As many as 38 per cent of citizens working in the private sector have benefited from our training programmes, while 53 per cent of active businesses have received support,” he says, giving out the impressive numbers.
Tamkeen was founded by the government in 2006 as one of the initiatives to reform the economy, giving a new thrust to growth. Investing in the development of human resources and Bahrain-based businesses is central to Tamkeen’s mission. It empowers individuals and businesses through grants, financial assistance and programmes for business development, in addition to offering wage-support initiatives, training, mentoring and coaching.
In line with Bahrain’s national effort to meet its Sustainable Development Goals, Tamkeen’s support has steadily been growing.
“Tamkeen has lately been involved in collaborations to support investments, businesses and initiatives in the renewable energy sector, as well as support practical and mixed-mode training platforms in this field,” says Dr Janahi.
“We have also introduced financial support to cover cloud computing services from Amazon Web Services (AWS), which aims to meet the demand for technology to enhance efficiency and security of business operations, with access to more than 125 services offered by AWS.
“In addition, we have managed to cut customer processing times in the Enterprise Support Program by 50 per cent during the year,” he reiterates.
Transformation focus for 2018-2020 Strategy
Since its establishment, Tamkeen’s priorities at each stage addressed the market’s main challenges. To ensure Tamkeen’s initiatives continue to meet its current and future customers’ needs, Tamkeen reviews and adapts its strategy every three years. Also, every year, it holds a consultation forum, which brings the owners of around 500 enterprises and organisations together. Tamkeen listens to their feedback on what they want, processes those opinions and uses them to develop its operational plan.
“As a result of this process, Tamkeen’s 2018-2020 strategy is focused on transformation. All our programmes need to make an impact and serve the needs of companies in the Kingdom,” says Dr Janahi.
With the onset of the 4th Industrial Revolution, Tamkeen’s 2018-2020 strategy focuses on maximising national economic resilience and on creating greater positive impact and sustainable growth in an economy dominated by digitization and automation, says Dr Janahi.
The strategy addresses four main challenges: Accelerating growth and expanding market reach; working across public and private sectors to boost productivity across the economy; creating an innovation mindset across the private sector; and building national economic resilience by continuing long-term efforts at diversification of the Kingdom’s key economic sectors.
“Tamkeen has consistently incorporated progressive thoughts and strategies to address different market-related challenges. It has undergone a noticeable evolution in the support extended to the private sector and its resulting impact on the economy,” asserts Dr Janahi.
This focus requires Tamkeen to react quickly to emerging sectors and technologies. “For example, as part of our 2018-2020 strategy development, we looked hard at what new services we needed to provide to cater for companies in the FinTech sector.”
One of those new services, the FinTech Talent Program, was launched in February 2019 in conjunction with the sector’s largest hub in the region, Bahrain FinTech Bay. It is the first training and development initiative for the emerging technologies in the Middle East.
Sustainable impact key objective
The key objective of revamping Tamkeen’s programmes is to create a sustainable impact. This comes at different levels: the quality of the service, the introduction of new initiatives and the specifications of support to enhance growth of the startup ecosystem, which plays an important role in boosting new ventures and supporting the employment of Bahrainis across various sectors.
To meet an increasing demand on Tamkeen’s programmes, digital solutions are offered to help increase efficiency and enhance the customer journey and experience throughout the process. The new features include: Streamlined and tailored forms; a virtual authentication process; a new process to offer flexibility in submitting requirements when the need arises; the introduction of 5K Support, an aid of up to BD5,000 offered with a seamless process; and an automated payment method and virtual site visits as part of the application processing.
Support to SMEs and startups
To foster the development of its own citizens and businesses, as well as enhance the local economic environment for foreign investors, the government has created an extensive and collaborative ecosystem of business-friendly organisations that are mandated to encourage private sector enterprises of all sizes and realise the potential of those that set them up and their employees.
“Tamkeen is a success story for Bahrain because we work with small, medium, large and even micro-level enterprises and, at the same time, we do a lot for individuals. Internationally, it is quite unique to reach out to both groups,” Dr Janahi stresses.
The majority of the Tamkeen’s budget for 2018 was allocated to training and wage support, according to Janahi: “We have invested significantly to make sure that Bahrainis have the right skills and professional qualifications to make them the right and affordable choice for companies in the country.”
Tamkeen’s training programmes target every stage of an individual’s career or a business’s development, and cover a multitude of subjects including skill and career progression, entrepreneurship, funding and financing, with many being sector or employer specific.
In 2018, Tamkeen increased the support it gave companies to pay employee salaries by 182 percent in comparison with 2017, resulting in the generation of 8,712 new jobs for Bahrainis within the private sector. In a bid to create even more employment opportunities, the organisation has now extended this wage-support programme, which provides any startup with the financial means to hire staff from the local population.
“Tamkeen’s programme covers any new graduate that is taken on as an employee in the private sector,” explains Janahi; “We will support 50 per cent of their salaries for their first year of employment and 30 per cent for a further six months.”
Technology has significantly affected all aspects of life from products, solutions, usage to marketplace transformation. In order to fuel sustained economic growth, technology is no less important than any other growing sectors of the economy, says Dr Janahi.
In the 2019 Global Startup Ecosystem Report (GSER), the world’s most comprehensive and widely-read research on startups, Bahrain was highlighted with a regional sub-sector strength in FinTech. It was also cited among the top performing ecosystems to look out for in terms of FinTech.
Getting ready for the ‘future of work’
“With a growing youth population and increased economic competition, diversification is critical for the creation of employment opportunities within the private sector, and for a resilient economy,” says Dr Janahi.
“Tamkeen has always had training and employment support at the core of its activities and has contributed to the development and training of more than 180,000 individuals since 2006. We will continue to focus on preparing and enabling our youth to enter the workforce, strengthen the employability of jobseekers, and supporting the career advancement of existing employees in the workforce,” he adds.
According to him, the programmes that will continue as core parts of Tamkeen’s portfolio include support to Bahraini citizens in the areas of: Training and wage; employability and internship; work ethics campaigns; professional certification; business plan competition; customised individual support solutions and provision of basic skills.
Tamkeen will also further invest in several new programmes and initiatives focused on vocational training to reach a larger number of Bahraini youth and job-seekers, he says.
As it forges ahead with its new strategy, Tamkeen continues to invest in the country’s prime asset – its people.
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