Women serve as a driving force in the ongoing economic and digital transformation in Qatar and the region, underscoring their economic potential if fully realised, a Qatar Financial Centre (QFC) official said.
“Qatar is booming and women are the key reason for that growth, but as much progress as has been made, we have only just began to scratch the surface of what is possible,” QFC deputy CEO and chief business officer Sheikha Alanoud al-Thani told the Cartier’s VIP event, held at Liwan Design Studios and Labs on Tuesday.
The gathering brought together prominent and influential female personalities from Qatar and the Middle East, including industry leaders and community influencers, to mark the International Women’s Day.
Besides holding numerous high profile public roles, she noted that many Qatari women are leading and paving the way for others, directing initiatives, and setting national policies and strategies, in addition to leading their own organisations forward.
Women also play an essential role in a huge number of small and medium enterprises, as well as in all sectors, inspiring more others to follow their lead and pursue their own ambitions.
“There is an undisputed recognition that to succeed in today's global economy, it is essential to empower women,” Sheikha Alanoud al-Thani said.
She cited the success of the hosting of the FIFA World Cup 2022 Qatar, saying it was a demonstration of the remarkable transformation that is underway for both Qatar and the entire Middle East North Africa (Mena) region.
According to Sheikha Alanoud al-Thani, economic growth across Mena was more than 6% in 2022 – an 18-year high and among the fastest globally while Qatar saw “an incredible 70% annual growth in foreign direct investment (FDI) projects for the past several years and this is true throughout the region.”
“Four of the 10 countries with the brightest outlook for FDI in 2023 are in the GCC and Qatar tops that. Technology and how it fits within the United Nations’ theme (“DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality”) for this year and the digital economy has been very critical to this growth,” she said.
She noted that the Qatar government is rapidly expanding online services for its citizens, and has launched the national strategy for Fintech on March 7, “which is a testament towards that mandate, and companies of all sizes are also deploying innovations that open up entirely new areas for economic development.
“Now, the digital economy is on track to double its share of national GDP by the end of the decade.
“Analysis suggests that fully realising women's economic potential in the broader Mena region would add as much as $2.7tn to regional GDP, and the GCC alone, achieving full parity, would add more than $800bn in value for our economies, a growth of more than 40%, just imagine that number and the potential it holds for the region,” Sheikha Alanoud al-Thani.
However, she noted that structural and cultural barriers still prevent women’s entry into the workforce and their advancement. “We can't afford to have half our populations, our best-educated citizens sitting on the sidelines. To get more women into the workforce, we must create a work environment that is more inclusive.
Sheikha Alanoud al-Thani noted that the digital economy provides “an unprecedented opportunity to achieve a step change in women's economic engagement and development that previously would have taken generations.”
“The most direct path to increasing women's economic empowerment though is making it possible for them to start businesses themselves. Our ability to create the inclusive supportive environment we need depends on women not just leading within companies but also running them.
“To encourage entrepreneurship, business incubators and accelerators have emerged throughout Qatar, dedicated funds that we run in partnership with others including M7, the Fintech hub, the digital fund the sports technology fund, and the general localisation fund ensure that we have a minimum two seats for women-led initiatives to be part of any of the cohorts that graduate and go through that programme,” she said.
Currently, nearly 5,000 women are identified as company managers on the national business registry and the number has more than tripled since less than a decade ago, Sheikha Alanoud al-Thani added.
Sheikha Alanoud al-Thani addressing the event.