Family businesses based in the Middle East performed very well last year, despite the fact the global economy is still far from stable.A new study by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) showed that 83 per cent of small enterprises based in this part of the world reported a rise in sales. This was much higher than the global average, which stood at just 65 per cent.Confidence is high among start-up organisations in places like Dubai, with 23 per cent of firms planning "aggressive growth" in the next five years. Only nine per cent thought they would struggle in the near future.PwC's Family Business Survey also showed that women are having a greater influence in smaller companies across the Middle East.The main challenges facing businesses of this nature are family politics, succession planning and the recruitment of skilled staff, the report discovered.That said, Amin Nasser, partner and private clients leader at PwC Middle East, thinks the future is bright for entrepreneurs in the Gulf."Our survey clearly shows that family businesses in the Middle East will continue growing significantly," he remarked."Compared with the rest of the world, family businesses in the Middle East are less fazed by the general economic situation. This has created a strong framework for family businesses to continue targeting ambitious goals, bringing stability to a balanced economy.”The UAE has become a major international corporate hub in the past few decades and a multitude of blue chip companies have set up bases in Dubai.Earlier this year, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum - ruler of Dubai and vice president/prime minister of the UAE - said the city was looking to become the world's leading Islamic business centre.The Islamic finance sector has grown in stature over the years and is now one of the most lucrative industries on the planet. The emirate could set up a central sharia board, which will oversee all Islamic financial products used in Dubai.