An overwhelming majority of employees in the region have said that they'd prefer the life of an entrepreneur.

It’s no secret that entrepreneurship is driving economic growth globally, and the MENA region is no exception.

As it stands, 71% of MENA professionals would prefer to own their own businesses, according to the latest survey by and YouGov.

About 74% of Egyptians,73% of Saudis, and 73% of UAE residents all said they’d want to live the life of an entrepreneur, the report said.

Setting out to pinpoint the current levels of understanding and interest in entrepreneurship throughout the MENA region, the report found that for a vast majority, ‘personal fulfillment’ (58%) and ‘freedom to choose work-life balance’ (41%) were the primary reasons for this preference.

Where we’re at with entrepreneurship

For employed MENA professionals, almost three in five are contemplating starting their own business (59%), while 17% have already attempted to do so in the past but either “could not do so” or “failed to do so.”

As for MENA professionals who are currently self-employed, 75% have taken the first steps to establish their business within the last six years.

Respondents who are self-employed said that ‘gaining greater independence in what they wanted to achieve’ (39%), ‘feeling the time was right’ (34%) and ‘wanting to do what they love’ (34%), were the main reasons behind their decision.

Achieving a more substantial income was also a reason for a third of the respondents.

For busy entrepreneurs surveyed, 37% revealed that they are at the startup stage of their business, while approximately a quarter claim that their company is established and performing well (24%).

However, nearly one in five (19%) disclosed that their business is not performing well.

When asked about their business ambitions, almost a third stated that they have their sights set on obtaining more growth and profitability in their country of residence (30%), while nearly three in 10 respondents (28%) want to see their business become an important regional player in the future.

Around one in five hope to grow their business into a significant international player (22%) or a primary international group (19%).

How do we get there?

When it comes to the best time to start a business, professionals in the MENA are divided.

It seems that ‘at any time’ and ‘mid-career’ are the most popular times, both at 37%. Other respondents believe the right time to set up a business is either ‘right after college’ or ‘after a lengthy career,’ both at 12%.

Regardless of the best time to start a business, ‘not being afraid of failure’ is by far the best advice to give to aspiring entrepreneurs (42%). Other important advice include—‘perform an extensive amount of market research’ (12%), ‘have a great business plan’ (11%), ‘have a great marketing plan’ (9%), and have a great founding team’ (8%).

‘Communications/ Information Technology’ (18%) and ‘Advertising/Marketing/Public relations’ (17%) were the most favorable options for aspiring entrepreneurs, followed by ‘Hospitality and Leisure’ (14%), ‘Architecture and Engineering’ (12%) and ‘Finance/Insurance/Real Estate’ (10%).

What’s holding us back?

Professionals in the MENA who have tried to start a business in the past but couldn’t or failed to do so faced certain challenges which prevented them from success.

These reasons were mainly cited as ‘inability to obtain financial support’ (52%) and ‘inability to self-finance the start-up phase of the company’ (51%).

Finances are a common theme amongst respondents when it comes to listing their business concerns. 56% claim that ‘procuring the finances to start’ is a top concern, followed by ‘hiring the wrong people’ (41%), the ‘uncertainty of profit/ income’ (35%), and ‘making a loss’ (30%).

More than half of the employed respondents (54%) claim that it is difficult to start a business in their country of residence, and the majority believe that government intervention could ease the business set up the process in a number of ways.

The vast majority (60%) agree that easing the law and regulations for setting up a business would improve the entrepreneurial landscape in their country immensely.

This is followed by ‘reducing taxation’ (12%), ‘regulating competition among businesses’ (12%), and ‘facilitating access to skilled labor’ (10%).

“Entrepreneurship has been a proven driver of both economic activity and innovation across the Middle East and North Africa region, which is why governments should take note of the fact that laws and regulations with regards to starting a business are amongst the top concerns for entrepreneurs in the region.”