Wednesday, May 22, 2024 | Daily Newspaper published by GPPC Doha, Qatar.
Subscribe now for Gulf Times
Personalise your news and receive Newsletters!
By signing up with an email address, I acknowledge that I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy .
Your email exists
 Peter Alagos
Peter Alagos
Peter Alagos reports on Business and general news for Gulf Times. He is a Kapampangan journalist with a writing career of almost 30 years. His photographs have been published in several books, including a book on the 1991 Mt. Pinatubo eruption launched by former Philippine president Fidel V. Ramos. Peter has also taught journalism in two universities.
Gulf Times
Qatari startup keen to play key role in economic development

A Qatari startup is keen on developing e-commerce and digital solutions in the exchange and payment space to help entrepreneurs raise work efficiency and increase productivity and profits.Saleh al-Mansouri, CEO and founder of and, said MaktAPP is working to contribute to Qatar's economic development by providing free opportunities to start working in e-commerce through the establishment of free online stores.He said the company aims to provide the possibility for entrepreneurs to expand their businesses, collect money, and control and manage their companies through secure electronic payment solutions and billing systems, which is directly reflected in the development of Qatar’s economy.Al-Mansouri said MaktAPP graduated from the Qatar Science and Technology Park (QSTP) Incubation Centre and moved into QSTP’ park and freezone to become a full fledge operating member company. MaktAPP joined QSTP in 2016 and received a lot of support from QSTP as part of the Product Development Fund programme, he explained.He said the company developed Fatora, which is seen as one of the fruits of the success and cumulative effort made by the MaktAPP team in the field of technical progress over the past years.“Fatora is constantly seeking to support the work of startups and medium-sized companies by providing high-quality and professional services and providing the necessary information and action steps necessary for the success of these companies.“Fatora issues books, educational videos, and comprehensive blogs that raise awareness of the importance of digitisation in the development of business and technology companies, and is keen to keep pace with the global development in digital technology,” al-Mansouri told Gulf Times.Al-Mansouri said Fatora is an effective system for promoting products and developing methods for presenting them to the customer, making the marketing process easier, especially for beginners.“The effect was positive in terms of independence at work and the development of long-term plans to raise the level of the company’s operations,” al-Mansouri said.Asked about the challenges MaktAPP is facing in the current market and how the company is addressing them, al-Mansouri said: “One of the challenges we face today is the difficulty of providing one comprehensive service suitable for all categories and needs of the customer.”Despite these challenges, al-Mansouri said MaktAPP is currently working on developing artificial intelligence (AI) technologies in the field of e-commerce and billing systems.“A clear vision of the goal makes us focus heavily on monitoring all changes and developments and trying to work on them to show the best result in business development and commercial projects.“We have a collaborative and inspiring work team that masters the successive cumulative work, and each of them knows their tasks well, excels in their specialisation, and knows how to be a source of inspiration for others. They are the basis of success,” he stressed.Al-Mansouri added: “We always strive to cooperate with all available agencies, especially in conjunction with the expansion of our services in neighbouring countries, and our door is open to all partnerships.“As we all know, the world is now heading towards the electronic digital reality, especially in the field of trade, and this is a major reason why Fatora is at the forefront of the pillars of digital economic development, specifically in Qatar, and this is of course what we aspire to, hope for, and strive for.”

South Korean ambassador Lee Joon-ho.
South Korea ready to support Qatar’s food security, says envoy

South Korea has expressed its support for Qatar’s food security strategy, according to ambassador Lee Joon-ho, who made the statement in the wake of the recently-held ‘10th Qatar International Agricultural Exhibition (AgriteQ)’.The ambassador lauded the staging of AgriteQ’s 10th edition, which saw the participation of around 55 countries. Many South Korean companies have participated in this exhibition to promote their smart farm and agricultural technologies, he pointed out.“Qatar is pursuing food security as its top priority, and many South Korean smart-farm companies are best capable of providing tailored solutions fit to Qatar’s environment. These companies have full experience in achieving great success in many smart farming projects and they are well-equipped with high technologies like cooling systems in greenhouse or water-saving technology.“I really hope the exhibition had provided us with good opportunities to strengthen our agricultural collaboration and pave the way for concrete smart-farming projects between Qatar and South Korea, Lee told Gulf Times.According to data provided by the South Korean embassy in Qatar, 11 South Korean firms showcased leading innovations during AgriteQ in the following areas: grain milling and processing facility, tarpaulin, agricultural machinery parts, electric carriages, greenhouse materials and construction, smart farm solutions, vertical indoor farming, green biotech, and agricultural machinery parts and work machinery.The data also revealed that POMIT, a leader of a South Korean consortium, is a company that specialises in the production of high-value crops using smart farming technology.POMIT has the capability to produce strawberries from South Korea all year round, thus ensuring a consistent supply of fresh strawberries, the embassy stated.“POMIT recently signed memoranda of understanding with the UAE and Saudi Arabian markets, and are now actively seeking suitable partners in Qatar to expand their footprint.“Their focus on producing high-value crops, such as strawberries, wasabi, and ginseng using smart farms underscores their commitment to innovation and sustainable agriculture. With their cutting-edge technology and expertise in the industry, POMIT is poised to become a major player in the global agricultural market,” the embassy added.Aside from POMIT, other South Korean companies that participated in this year’s AgriteQ included Daewoon GSI, Hanil Tarpaulin, Kukje Danjo, LNS, Mokmin Industries, N Thing, Nexton, Nutra-Park, Woosung Precision Industrial, and Nongshim.

Gulf Times
AI, VR seen to drive digital transformation of SMEs in Qatar

Artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual reality (VR) are among the technologies that would play a key role in the digital transformation journey of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Qatar, a PwC official has said.Bassam Hajhamad, country senior partner at PwC Qatar, made the statement yesterday during an executive networking event where the consulting firm’s senior leaders and industry experts shared new digital technologies, discussed PwC’s strategy in Qatar, and outlined potential collaboration opportunities across investments.The event, which reinforces PwC’s commitment to supporting local Qatari SMEs and the private sector, also focused on opportunities within Qatar based on PwC’s recent Qatar Economy Watch report and the recently launched CEO survey.The event was highlighted by a tour of PwC’s Emtech lab where experts showcased cutting-edge technologies and solutions across AI and VR which support the digital transformation journey of local businesses and deliver sustained outcomes by combining the best talent with digital innovation.Hajhamad said: “This event reinforces our commitment to the private sector and its critical role in driving Qatar’s economic growth. We are very excited about the future of Qatari SMEs and the unique opportunities to capitalise on, driven by NDS3 and beyond.”

Tawfeeq Travel Group CEO Rehan Ali Syed.
Ease in visa policy spurs demand for Qatar-Saudi travel'

Saudi Arabia’s recent decision to ease its tourist visa policy has spurred a surge in demand for travel from Qatar, according to industry experts in Doha.As the tourism industry in the Middle East and Gulf region continues to grow, travel agencies in Qatar have been playing a vital role in facilitating travel for tourists.Earlier, Saudi Minister of Tourism and Chairman of Saudi Tourism Authority Ahmed al-Khateeb tweeted: “Saudi visa application is now simpler, more convenient and straightforward for residents of GCC States, regardless of their profession. Apply now.”The visa, which can be for a single entry or multiple entries, enables the holder to visit Saudi Arabia for tourism and Umrah.There are several tourism activities that are expected to be popular among GCC residents who are planning to visit Saudi Arabia, according to Tawfeeq Travel Group CEO Rehan Ali Syed.“Saudi is undergoing a major transformation , the clients are keen to travel to explore the market. We have Qatari citizens, as well as residents travelling to experience the Riyadh season, Winter Wonderland, and new touristic places in Saudi Arabia, especially Diriyah in Riyadh, Al Ula, and not forgetting the pilgrimage traffic, as well,” Syed explained.Syed noted that many people are looking forward to benefiting from this new policy by experiencing tourist destinations and exploring the different business opportunities available in Saudi Arabia.“This is indeed a great initiative to attract different segments of travelers to visit Saudi Arabia...since the land border is opened for all vehicles, there is a big rush. Moreover, travelling to Riyadh is just five to six hours, and Dammam is just three hours, hence many families and individuals are traveling to experience the kingdom,” he further explained.He added: “Saudi was considered very conservative a couple of years back but now with the current transformation in progress, it is indeed an eye opener for all GCC states to open and let in the tourism business. Tourism plays a vital role in pushing the economy of any country.“Qatar had a successful World Cup; tourists who visited Qatar have been totally mesmerised by the beauty and safety of the country. It is important for Qatar to capitalise on this positive image. More than 200,000 passengers arrived during the current cruise season on world-class cruise liners, such as Costa, TUI, Aida, Ponant, and MSC World Europa.”Similarly, Anshad Ebrahim, general manager of Akbar Travels of India, said Saudi Arabia’s new tourist visa policy is expected to create a positive impact on Qatar’s tourism industry, as well.“This is a great opportunity considering the fact that now people can travelto Qatar on a visit visa and then avail of a tourist visa to travel to Saudi Arabia ifthey are accompanied by a Qatar RP holder. This is a great initiative to promote both Qatar and Saudi Arabia,” he pointed out.Ebrahim said, “Saudi Arabia is a land of diversity both in cultures and landscapes. People can enjoy the best of both worlds. They can enjoy the summer, the craggymountains, and dense forests in Abba and Taif, as well as the beautiful beaches in Jeddah, Al Khobar, Dammam, and Jubail, among other destinations.”Citing the company’s offices in Qatar, India, and other international locations, Ebrahim noted that several regional airlines have increased capacity into many cities in Saudi Arabia, giving travel agents the opportunity to offer many options to travellers.“With the current travel trends and Saudi Arabia being largely untapped, this news is creating interest among avid travelers within the GCC, as well as India,” Ebrahim noted, adding that the company is anticipating catering to MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions) movements to Saudi Arabia,” he added.Ends

The recently held Visa CEMEA Security Summit focused on the latest insights surrounding the future of trusted digital money.
Innovation ‘critical’ vs rising cyber-attacks, social engineering, says Visa expert

Cyber-attacks and social engineering, which have been on the rise since the Covid-19 pandemic, are among the biggest security challenges facing the payments industry, an official of Visa has emphasised.“Cybersecurity is a massive area where evolution needs to happen,” Akshay Chopra, vice-president, head of innovation and design, CEMEA at Visa, told Gulf Times in an exclusive interview on the sidelines of the recently held ‘Visa CEMEA Security Summit’ in Dubai.Central and Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa (CEMEA) has gone through unparalleled digitisation that has completely transformed the world of commerce, payments, and money movement. The rapid adoption of new payment technologies, such as contactless and e-commerce has changed spending both online and offline.It has also coincided with a rise in fraud and cybercriminal activity. These challenges have spurred players across the entire payment ecosystem to focus on resilience and security, invest in cutting-edge technologies, and strengthen collaboration with trusted partners.Chopra explained, “Historically, ‘bad actors’ (cybercriminals, fraudsters, etc) would target transactions, but with the implementation of standards, such as 3D Secure and Visa Secure, fraud has decreased.”However, Chopra noted that cybercriminals are now focusing on attacking organisations and using social engineering to gain access to sensitive information. He emphasised that “innovation is necessary to stay ahead of these challenges.”“Both of these things have always been around. But in light of the increased transaction security, a lot of the bad actors have started putting more energy into that area and so, we have to innovate twice as hard to always stay a few steps ahead,” he stressed.Speaking at the ‘Visa CEMEA Security Summit’, Charles Lobo, regional risk officer for CEMEA at Visa, stated that Visa has invested over $10bn in the last five years on cutting-edge cybersecurity to combat increasingly sophisticated criminals. This includes artificial intelligence (AI) and advanced data analytics to reduce fraud and prevent it before it even happens.Similarly, Subra Kumaraswamy, Visa’s chief information security officer, addressed the security summit by discussing the accelerating action being taken on cybersecurity.Sharing “staggering” figures, Kumaraswamy said the global economy lost $7tn to cybercrime in 2022, which equates to $19.2bn per day or $200,000 per second. With this much economic activity and opportunity at stake, Kumaraswamy highlighted the need for greater security awareness and constant vigilance.During the summit’s fireside chat, Paul Fabara, Visa’s chief risk officer, expounded on the alarming trend of social engineering, a popular tactic that cybercriminals use to extract confidential information from consumers, jeopardising their security.Fabara said social engineering can come in various forms like phishing, pretexting, baiting, and tailgating, and can be used to access personal information, financial data, or even corporate secrets.Aside from Visa’s investments in security and anti-fraud infrastructure, Chopra said Visa is initiating new technologies like tokenisation, as well as collaborating with central and commercial banks to empower individuals to manage their own risk and protect their data and transactions, as well as to identify fraud easily.Andrew Torre, regional president for CEMEA at Visa, told the security summit that contactless payments grew to 82% of all CEMEA transactions in 2022 and the security feature tokenization has reached approximately 25% of all Visa transactions in CEMEA.“Taken together, the broader money movement flows, such as peer-to-peer, business-to-business, business-to-consumer, and government-to-consumer represent a $15tn opportunity in CEMEA,” Torre added.Hector Rodriguez, head of transaction security solutions at Visa, concluded the two-day summit by discussing how the company is leveraging cutting-edge payment risk solutions to drive the future of secure and trusted digital money.He highlighted how Visa Risk & Identity solutions work behind the scenes. For example, the AI/ML integrated platform builds, accelerates, automates, and simplifies data and AI product development and deployment.“This has led to $27bn worth of annual fraud prevented. And Visa’s managed service of 24x7x365 proactive monitoring prevented $74mn in fraud for CEMEA issuers and acquirers,” Rodriguez added.

HE the Minister of Commerce and Industry Sheikh Mohamed bin Hamad bin Qassim al-Thani is joined by dignitaries during the ‘9th Doha Islamic Finance Conference’ held in Doha recently.
Metaverse seen to help Islamic banks expand to new markets

The ‘9th Doha Islamic Finance Conference’ has recommended the leveraging of the Metaverse to propel the expansion of Islamic banks into wider markets and tap other growth drivers.The conference, which was held in Doha recently, concluded with a set of objectives and recommendations based on presentations and discussions of four main themes: ‘Islamic Finance in the World of Metaverse’, ‘RegTech and SupTech in Islamic Finance’, ‘Cross-border Finance and its Impact on Islamic Finance’, and ‘Sustainability in Digital Finance’.Leading scholars, academics, and specialists participated in the conference, which also witnessed discussions and interventions that led to the following objectives and recommendations:Financial transactions in the virtual world with underlying blockchain technology do not, in principle, conflict with the rulings of Islamic jurisprudence, when the guidelines related to the contract and the transfer of ownership are adhered to in what people consider valuable wealth in the forms of virtual assets or cryptos, as well as the contract shall have its pillars and conditions, and shall be free from the legal impediment or legal violations.To control financial transactions in the world of the Metaverse, it is necessary to adhere to contractual, legal and ethical controls, and special controls related to contracts so that their effects are real, and that their place is something real, even if it is not tangible, in addition to precise technical controls to prevent all types of crimes related to honour, money, and privacy; Islamic banks are urged to leverage metaverse technology to expand into new markets and sectors in order to increase their growth opportunities. They are also advised to adopt regulatory technology applications to enhance transparency and compliance, and improve their overall performance, enabling them to achieve greater competitiveness.Endowment institutions are urged to create virtual spaces for the endowment to introduce it, its history, its roles, and everything related to it in theory and practice, and to arrange global dialogues about developing its tools and activating its products through these spaces.Islamic endowment institutions should be encouraged to integrate metaverse-based solutions into their operations to streamline the collection and management of endowment funds with transparency and high efficiency.The effective use of technology can enhance the chances of achieving the goals of endowment and social financing institutions, while scholars and practitioners should intensify co-operation to design virtual products and services that comply with Islamic law. This will accelerate the use of technology by Islamic financial service providers and enable joint efforts to create smart applications that provide financial solutions for the Islamic lifestyle as an alternative to usurious applications offered by technology giants.Artificial intelligence techniques and virtual reality applications can be utilised to develop Shariah governance mechanisms in Islamic financial institutions. It’s important to emphasise the need for co-operation between competent authorities to create unified standards for supervisory and control technology in Islamic financial institutions.

Spanish ambassador Javier M Carbajosa joins this year's 'Friends of Spain' awardees Alfardan Group president and CEO Omar Hussain Alfardan (Individual Businessman Award); Umm Al Houl Power CEO Jamal al-Khalaf (Corporate Award), and FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 CEO Nasser al-Khater (Special Award). Looking on are David Quintanilla, president of the Chamber of Commerce of Spain in Qatar, and the ambassador's wife, Ambreen Qazi.
Spain expresses support to Qatar’s post-World Cup strategy, says Spanish envoy

Spain is keen on supporting Qatar’s initiatives to continue its successful momentum following the country’s phenomenal hosting of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, Spanish ambassador Javier M Carbajosa has said.“We would like to be part of Qatar’s new journey,” the ambassador told Gulf Times on the sidelines of the seventh edition of ‘Friends of Spain’ awards, which was organised by the Spanish embassy and the Chamber of Commerce of Spain in Qatar to honour individuals who have helped strengthen ties of both countries.This year’s awardees include Alfardan Group president and CEO Omar Hussain Alfardan, who received the ‘Individual Businessman Award’; Umm Al Houl Power CEO Jamal al-Khalaf, recipient of the ‘Corporate Award’; and FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 CEO Nasser al-Khater, receiving a ‘Special Award’ from the organisers.Speaking about the award, Alfardan said: “It’s been a pleasure and honour to accept such an award from the Spanish ambassador and officials of the Spanish Chamber of Commerce. It reflects our close ties and how we had fully developed our relationship with Spain during the World Cup, and by hosting under the umbrella of the Alfardan Group three Spanish restaurants led by Michelin star chefs. We are proud to bring ‘the taste of Spain’ to Doha.”In a statement, organisers noted that ‘Friends of Spain’ emphasises the strong bond between Spain and Qatar.“It provides an opportunity for people to come together and recognise the efforts of those who have worked to strengthen the ties between these two nations. Representatives from various companies and organisations present at the event shared their experiences and the efforts they have made to support Spanish businesses in Qatar and to promote Spanish culture in the country,” the statement explained.In his speech, Carbajosa highlighted the importance of the relationship between Spain and Qatar. “I thank the attendees for their efforts in promoting Spanish culture and business opportunities in Qatar. The embassy recognises the contribution of different individuals and companies who have played a significant role in fostering this relationship,” he said.David Quintanilla, president of the Chamber of Commerce of Spain in Qatar, announced that members of the chamber had now reached 65, representing a wide range of sectors, including energy, roads, railways, water treatment and maintenance, urban maintenance and operations, facility services, oil and gas, IT, Big Data management, and R&D on artificial intelligence, among others.The statement also noted that in 2022, His Highness the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani was received by King Felipe VI during his visit to Spain where various business and commercial collaboration agreements were signed, thus reinforcing the relationship between the two nations.Post-World Cup, Carbajosa emphasised that Spain will be supporting Qatar’s thrust to bolster its food security strategy. Aside from this sector, the ambassador also emphasised Spain’s support for Qatar’s infrastructure, energy, and tourism.“Qatar’s investments in Spain are very important,” Carbajosa also noted, citing the memorandum of understanding between the Qatar Investment Authority and Compania Espanola de Financiacion del Desarrollo (COFIDES) to elevate the value of Qatari investments in Spain by “$5bn.”The ambassador emphasised that Qatar and Spain have agreed to hold a strategic dialogue once a year, the first of which “will take place in Qatar.”

HE Minister of Commerce and Industry Sheikh Mohamed bin Hamad bin Qassim al-Thani delivering a speech during the ‘9th Doha Islamic Finance Conference’ held in Doha yesterday. PICTURE: Shaji Kayamkulam
Qatar posts 4% economic growth rate in 2022, says Sheikh Mohamed

Qatar’s economy grew by 4% in 2022, HE the Minister of Commerce and Industry Sheikh Mohamed bin Hamad bin Qassim al-Thani announced on Tuesday during the ‘9th Doha Islamic Finance Conference’.In his speech, where he underscored the key role of technology in the development of and growth of Islamic finance, HE Sheikh Mohamed said Qatar’s budget surplus stood at QR89bn last year, making it the world’s fifth-largest market for Islamic finance.The minister also emphasised that the financial sector is one of the main pillars of the Qatari economy, citing the quality and the size of its local assets and its resiliency over various regional and global crises.In his speech, HE Sheikh Mohamed noted that major economies worldwide have been adopting advanced technological solutions to accelerate their respective digital transformation strategies.“The Islamic financial technology sector is one of the most important sectors that has achieved significant expansion in the State of Qatar over the years,” stated the minister, adding that Doha is among the top 10 capitals for Islamic finance in Organisation of Islamic Co-operation (OIC) countries.HE Sheikh Mohamed stressed that investments of leading economies in the financial technology sector in 2022 were over $164bn despite competition to adopt the best and most advanced digital programmes like the Metaverse.He said the metaverse is expected to start a “tremendous revolution” in terms of solutions, such as applications for Web 3.0 and blockchain technologies, which are among the most important tools used in “financial portfolio technology.”Sheikh Mohamed said, “The 9th Doha Islamic Finance Conference is an important opportunity to highlight the approach that has been taken at the local and global levels, in order to adopt the best technical standards and regulatory controls to benefit from artificial intelligence solutions and advanced technologies in the field of financial technology and Islamic finance.”Dukhan Bank chairman Sheikh Mohamed bin Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani said the conference brought together top leaders and thinkers in Islamic finance to discuss the future and challenges of Islamic finance and banking.He noted that financial technology constitutes the most prominent direction for the transformation of the world’s financial landscape due to the huge and rapidly developing capabilities that this technology contains that enable it to bring about a transformation in the financial markets and the financing environment.“Banks have positive results that have enhanced their presence, expansion, and improved the quality of their services. However, there are challenges that may arise when the co-operation relationship turns into competition led by giant technology companies to enter financing operations, provide financial services, and compete with the banking sector, which may lead to confusion in the work of banks and the financial and banking environment,” he said.Dr Khalid bin Ibrahim al-Sulaiti, chairman of the conference’s Organising Committee, said the conference “coincides with an overlapping scene suffering from economic imbalances and geopolitical turmoil,” with central authorities and organisations trying to control repercussions according to traditional economic perceptions and ideas that require more innovation and modernisation.“On the other hand, the financial technology revolution and its developments come to compete with these economic systems from time to time to draw their attention towards a new environmental system for the economy that is being marketed as an alternative to solving the dilemmas of the traditional economy,” he said.Al-Sulaiti added that the conference seeks to highlight the role of Islamic finance and the vision it can provide to overcome problems and build structures under an Islamic economic system through discussions and sessions that bring together specialists in Islamic Shariah, law, economics, technology, and industry practitioners.He said, “The governing framework of Islamic law is not seen as a limitation of creativity and innovation but is rather a safety valve to achieve justice and balance between the interests of human beings and the worlds and environments that surround them.”The conference, which carried the theme ‘Islamic Finance and Challenges of the Web 3.0’, showcased four topics, ‘Islamic Finance in the World of the Metaverse’, Regulatory and Supervisory Technology in Islamic Finance’, "Cross-border Finance and its Impact on Islamic Finance’, and "Sustainability in Digital Finance."

QFC CEO Yousuf Mohamed al-Jaida. PICTURE: Thajudheen
ICT to bolster Qatar-Bangladesh business ties, says QFC official

Information and Communications Technology (ICT) is among the several sectors that could strengthen economic relations between Qatar and Bangladesh, which witnessed a 900% growth in trade volume in the last five years, an official of the Qatar Financial Centre (QFC) has said.“Qatar and Bangladesh have already established solid economic ties, but it is yet to see its full potential. There is a vast room for these countries’ economic relationship to expand further,” according to QFC CEO Yousuf Mohamed al-Jaida.Al-Jaida made the statement as special guest of the Bangladesh Investment Summit titled ‘The Rise of Bengal Tiger: Potentials of Trade & Investment in Bangladesh’ held in Doha recently.“One example where Bangladesh and Qatar can further strengthen their already flourishing economic and business ties is in ICT. The two countries have exemplary experience on how ICT can accelerate economic growth, create lucrative opportunities, and support talented entrepreneurs and start-ups.“With expanding ICT sectors, there is a vast opportunity for knowledge and technology exchange between Qatar and Bangladesh that cater to various industries, such as healthcare and e-commerce applications,” al-Jaida explained.Aside from ICT, energy, and human capital, al-Jaida pointed out that agriculture, technology education, tourism, culture, and sports, are among the numerous other areas where Qatar and Bangladesh can expand mutually-beneficial investments and partnerships.Other “promising areas with great investment potential” include fintech, logistics, and digital innovation, where both countries “are exhibiting growing strength,” al-Jaida also explained.Al-Jaida also emphasised that Bangladesh and Qatar have been enjoying “a healthy economic relationship” for over four decades, which has significantly grown over the years.“This is evidenced in the exponential growth in the trade volume between the two nations, increasing by over 900% in the last five years from QR948mn in 2017 to more than QR10bn in 2022.“One significant example of trade between Qatar and Bangladesh is the agreement for Qatar to supply 2.5mn tonnes of LNG per annum to Bangladesh for 15 years, signed in 2017,” al-Jaida said.According to al-Jaida, Qatar is also “one of the biggest destinations” of manpower from Bangladesh, providing invaluable support to Qatar’s infrastructure development. Currently, about 420,000 Bangladeshi citizens are estimated to work in the government, semi-government, and private sectors of Qatar, he said.“As one of the fastest growing economies today, with a total export of goods and services worldwide worth about $39bn, Bangladesh can also consider Qatar as a lucrative investment destination to expand business in the rich Middle East market.“Qatar has attractive market conditions and benefits that will allow Bangladeshi businesses to maximise their investments, starting from business ownership of up to 100%. Moreover, investing in Qatar means investing in one of the fastest-growing economies in the world with a GDP estimated to reach $228.8bn by 2024,” al-Jaida stressed.Al-Jaida added: “You will also be investing in the most network-ready, peaceful, and open country in the Middle East. To attract more foreign investments, the state has also approved a public-private partnership law to accelerate the country’s infrastructure development and support the private sector and foreign investors by offering opportunities to participate in the implementation, construction, financing, and operation of Qatar’s various projects.”

CQBF executive director and board member Yasser M Dhouib.
‘Unprecedented’ Qatar-Canada ties expected in key sectors, says business forum official

Several key sectors, including cybersecurity and banking, are expected to witness “unprecedented co-operation” between Qatar and Canada, according to an official of the Canadian-Qatari Business Forum (CQBF).“There are many important sectors that will witness unprecedented co-operation between Canada and Qatar. We are currently focusing on Information Technology (IT) and the cybersecurity sector, as well as in banking and real estate investment,” CQBF executive director and board member Yasser M Dhouib told Gulf Times in a statement.Dhouib also said, the transport sector, particularly for the Hamad International Port, is also one of the business forum’s points of focus.“The CQBF is working to offer Hamad International Port as a strategic Canadian future option,” Dhouib said, citing a Dubai-based multinational logistics company that announced “it had sold a stake in its main base in the Port of Jebel Ali and other major assets to one of the largest Canadian pension funds for $5bn.”Dhouib said, “The Canadian-Qatari Business Forum believes in the great interest that Canada attaches to investing in this vital sector. We are preparing a file that will be presented to the Canadian Minister of Transport Omar al-Ghabra and HE the Minister of Transport Jassim Seif Ahmed al-Sulaiti.”Asked about the CQBF’s role in contributing to the growth of Qatar-Canada trade ties, Dhouib said since the business forum’s establishment in 2019, it has been serving its mandate as a strategic partner to drive Qatar and Canada’s business community towards a “win-win partnership.”He said, “Both countries share some important similarities in having a young leadership on the top of their governments, and also a deep commitment for sustainable development that includes a comprehensive understanding for international issues that includes peace and development and multilateral partnership in the international business sector.“CQBF sees itself as a facilitator in broadening prospects of co-operation and placing the interest of the Canadian business community closer to the different achievements of Qatar in many fields. Both two countries have important assets and thriving ideas and projects that certainly can provide expertise and knowledge to their region.”Dhouib added: “Qatar and Canada both share the intimate conviction and belief in empowering women in business. The two countries’ business communities will certainly have many things to share from their different backgrounds and experience. CQBF is ready to get these prospects fulfilled.”

Akshay Chopra, vice-president, head of Innovation and Design, CEMEA at Visa.
Visa unveiled next-generation security innovations at Qatar World Cup

Not only has the 2022 FIFA World Cup put Qatar on the global stage, but the “world’s greatest show” – hosted for the first time in the Middle East by the LNG-rich Gulf state – also showcased several innovations in the payment space, a Visa official has said.“Qatar has been a fascinating journey...transactions in the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar was 40% higher than the previous edition and 300% higher than the 2014 World Cup,” revealed Akshay Chopra, vice-president, head of Innovation and Design, CEMEA at Visa, the Official Payment Technology Partner of FIFA.Chopra said Visa also utilised several innovations during the World Cup, including ‘tap on phone’, as well as facial biometrics, which was utilised effectively in food and beverage (F&B) by Flat White Specialty Coffee in Qatar, Chopra told Gulf Times in an exclusive interview on the sidelines of the recently-held ‘Visa CEMEA Security Summit’ in Dubai.“From a commerce and payments perspective, this really became an engine of commerce. Because of facial biometrics, there was no need for Flat White’s customers to take out any wallet or make any physical payment method; you literally just scan your face at the point of sale, and you’re done,” Chopra explained.Chopra also said “Visa is working with three major banks in Qatar” to industrialise the tap on phone concept. He said this innovation eliminates the need for small merchants to obtain expensive and bulky payment acceptance devices and, instead, they can simply install the application on their mobile phones.He stressed that Visa is constantly creating comprehensive one-stop solutions for managing business operations, citing tap on phone, which will help empower small business owners to access their inventory, and send payments to customers, suppliers, and employees seamlessly.“In fact, so many people experienced tap on phone for the first time in Qatar...we’re also working with QIB on a first-of-a-kind ability to send money securely from your account or wallet to another Visa card account, prepaid, debit, credit, or anything.“Remittance is another big play, so there’s a lot going on in Qatar. Even from the security perspective, we’re innovating. We’re testing new concepts and all of these are next frontiers for security, as well,” Chopra further explained, adding that there is also a “massive potential” in B2B payments.Asked about Visa’s role in the development of the fintech sector, Chopra said one of the challenges of fintechs in Qatar, the GCC, and elsewhere, is the ability to scale and tap a wider market.“If you work with a partner like Visa, you can immediately plug into our network of financial institutions of issuers; you can immediately start using a lot of solutions, even from the Innovation Centre, which will reduce your time to market and allow you to build faster and scale faster. So, I think that would be one area where we can certainly support fintechs,” he noted.On the Qatar FinTech Hub (QFTH), Chopra lauded its establishment, saying organisations like QFTH will help provide a level of quality and validation for its member fintechs.“In principle, that’s exactly the kind of organisation we would love to partner with because they bring all the fintechs in one place. In general, the emergence of these fintech hubs is an excellent strength because fintech, especially in this region, has the power to genuinely transform people’s lives,” Chopra emphasised.Asked how Visa is collaborating with its partners, such as banks, fintechs, and merchants to ensure that security is a top priority across the payments industry, Chopra said Visa is working on innovations, such as ‘tokenisation’.Chopra explained that tokenisation uses cryptography to make one’s card details only valid on specific devices, thus preventing fraud. He said the concept of tokenisation has helped transformed the payments landscape and is becoming more widely adopted in the CEMEA region each year.“More and more issuers are adopting it, and many customers are increasingly using tokens on their devices, rather than plastic cards. That’s a big one from a tech perspective,” Chopra stressed.

Aamal chairman HE Sheikh Faisal bin Qassim al-Thani presiding over the company's Annual Ordinary General Assembly Meeting held.
Aamal general assembly approves distribution of 5% cash dividend

Aamal Company was able to achieve “outstanding results” in 2022 and in all its sectors, said Aamal chairman HE Sheikh Faisal bin Qassim al-Thani during the Annual Ordinary General Assembly Meeting, which approved the distribution of a 5% cash dividend Tuesday.“A number of factors have contributed to this success, including our diversification strategy, the strength of the company's financial position, and the ability to further develop its activities.“However, one of the most important factors is the resilience and strength of the Qatari economy, and the keenness of our wise government to create a distinctive and safe environment for investment under the leadership of His Highness the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani,” Sheikh Faisal said.Sheikh Mohamed bin Faisal al-Thani, vice-chairman and managing director, reported that Aamal’s net profit stood at QR347.8mn or a 14% growth in 2022, while revenue growth increased 29% to reach QR2.05bn.“Aamal’s subsidiaries are always seeking to capitalise on new opportunities and maintain their market-leading positions by enhancing and expanding their offerings. This reflects our commitment to creating long-term shareholder value through the continued profitable operation and expansion of our diversified business platform,” Sheikh Mohamed said.On the performance of Aamal’s four sectors, Sheikh Mohamed said the trading and distribution sector has seen a remarkable performance, with revenue growth of 23.5% and net profit growth of 4.8%.“Of particular note this year has been Aamal’s further expansion into healthcare and health IT, with major contracts being won to support development, maintenance and equipment installation across the Qatari healthcare sector, including the provision of digital solutions to the e-health portal project,” he said.Similarly, Aamal’s industrial manufacturing sector has seen revenues and net profit increase by 19.9% and 16.6%, respectively.“This sector has also played a major role in supplying products to several key national projects. This included work in relation to all eight of the 2022 FIFA World Cup stadiums, the North Field East LNG Facilities (NFE), and the Kharsaah Solar plant, which aims to fulfil local energy supply needs as well as Qatar Energy’s long-term sustainability goals,” he said.Meanwhile, the property sector maintained its leading position, maximising occupancy rates across its portfolio, which has seen revenue and net profit growth of 14.7% and 13.4%, respectively.“The sector is benefiting from record levels of footfall at City Center Doha, which proved to be a major attraction for many FIFA World Cup visitors due to its central location and easy accessibility,” he said.Sheikh Mohamed said, the World Cup made a positive impact on the managed services sector, which won contracts related to supplying transport logistics, and saw increased demand for its entertainment services to achieve significant year-on-year revenue and net profit growth of 74.1% and 196.5%, respectively.“At a corporate level, we have increased our foreign ownership limit to 100%. This will enhance the company’s attractiveness to foreign investors and should increase the volume of share trading, benefiting Aamal, its shareholders, and the market in general,” Sheikh Mohamed added.

Bangladesh's Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina Wazed, is joined on stage by Sultan bin Rashid al-Khater, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry; QBA Chairman HE Sheikh Faisal bin Qassim al-Thani; QFC CEO Yousuf Mohamed al-Jaida; QFC Deputy CEO Sheikha Alanoud bint Hamad al-Thani; Ayestra Aziz Khan, managing director & CEO, Summit Power International; and other dignitaries during the Bangladesh Investment Summit held in Doha Monday. PICTURE: Thajudheen
Bangladesh eyes Qatari LNG to boost energy needs, says PM

Taking a page from Qatar National Vision 2030’s knowledge-based economy pillar, Bangladesh is striving to transform itself into a smart country by 2041, according to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wazed.Speaking at the Bangladesh Investment Summit titled ‘The Rise of Bengal Tiger: Potentials of Trade & Investment in Bangladesh’, Wazed emphasised that the South Asian nation envisions itself as a “Smart Bangladesh” in the next 18 years “providing strength to a knowledge-based society.”“Bangladesh offers to be a partner in realising the Qatar National Vision 2030. We can equip our purpose with knowledge and skills to create an advanced employment market in Qatar,” she said in her speech.Wazed also said Qatar and Bangladesh can further develop economic relations in different areas, such as its tourism, hospitality, agriculture and agro-processing industries, infrastructure and logistics sectors, as well as in energy, particularly renewable energy.Citing disruptions in the global market, including the war in Ukraine, Wazed said Bangladesh has been pushed to a “hard spot.” “In order to meet our energy needs, we are interested in increasing our energy imports from Qatar,” she emphasised.The event was organised by Bangladesh Securities and Exchange Commission (BSEC) and Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (BIDA), in partnership with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA), in association with Bangladesh Forum Qatar (BFQ). Sultan bin Rashid al-Khater, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, was the guest of honour.On the sidelines of the event, Qatari Businessmen Association (QBA) Chairman HE Sheikh Faisal bin Qassim al-Thani said Qatar and Bangladesh “are bound by close relations for long years.” He noted that the forum presented an opportunity for businessmen in Qatar to learn about the investment opportunities available in Bangladesh.Sheikh Faisal said, “Qatari businessmen are keen to enhance the investment and partnership relations with companies in the countries with which we have extended and share strong relations. The agricultural and tourism industry sectors are always a priority for Qataris.”Similarly, Qatar Chamber board member Dr Khaled bin Klefeekh al-Hajri said the forum also provides a good opportunity to strengthen relations between the private sector in Qatar and Bangladesh.Al-Hajri said Qatar Chamber has reviewed the investment incentives in Bangladesh and the developments taking place in its economy. He noted that industry, agriculture, and tourism sectors are promising areas that offer mega investment opportunities in Bangladesh.Qatar Chamber board member Khaled bin Jabor al-Kuwari underscored the chamber’s keenness to enhance co-operation relations and develop Qatar-Bangladesh trade exchange.He said, “The coming period will witness more alliances and partnerships between Qatari companies and their counterparts from Bangladesh. The Qatari private sector is keen to invest in Bangladesh since it offers plenty of investment incentives and facilities.”Qatar Financial Centre CEO Yousuf Mohamed al-Jaida, in his keynote speech, said both countries are associated with strong relations, adding that Qatar Financial Centre (QFC) offers a host of investment incentives for foreign investors.The event was highlighted by the signing of a memorandum of understanding between QFC and Summit Group of Bangladesh led by al-Jaida and Ayestra Aziz Khan, managing director & CEO, Summit Power International.In his welcome speech, Bangladesh’s ambassador to Qatar, Nazrul Islam, said: “The embassy extends its support in regards to investment in Bangladesh. Professor Shibli Rubayat-Ul-Islam, chairman of BSEC said: “Bangladesh always welcomes foreign investors with better returns.”

HE the Minister of Municipality Dr Abdullah bin Abdulaziz bin Turki al-Subaie leads the ribbon-cutting ceremony of the festival.
LuLu launches ‘Festival of Qatari Products’

The ‘Made in Qatar’ trademark took centre stage Saturday during the launch of the ‘Qatari Products our 1st Choice’ festival, which was inaugurated by HE the Minister of Municipality Dr Abdullah bin Abdulaziz bin Turki al-Subaie at LuLu Hypermarket, Abu Sidra.The week-long festival showcases the best of Qatar’s food and non-food products that underlines the country’s cultural heritage and tradition. The festival has been celebrated annually since 2010 and run this time until March 9 at all LuLu outlets in the region.The festival aims to promote locally-produced food and non-food products and supports small Qatari businesses and entrepreneurs. It showcases a variety of fresh vegetables, herbs, chicken, eggs, Arabic lamb and beef, chilled items and dairy, frozen foods, such as chicken parts and processed foods, as well as delicatessen and bakery products, assorted groceries, health and beauty products, linen, pillow and table covers, and bed and bedsheets.Joining HE the Minister Saturday were Sheikh Jassim bin Mohamed al-Thani; Jaber Hassan al-Jaber, director of Rayyan Municipality; Dr Mohamed Althaf, director of LuLu Group International; Dr Masoud Jarallah al-Marri, director of the Food Security Department at the Ministry of Municipality; Mohamed Hamad al-Attan al-Marri, vice-president of the Central Municipal Council; Mubarak bin Fraish al-Salem, member of the Central Municipal Council for District 15; Adel al-Kaldi, assistant director of the Agricultural Affairs Department at the Ministry of Municipality; Ubaid Ali of Qatar Chamber; and Abdulla Abdul Razak, as well as many distinguished Qatari nationals and dignitaries from various public and private sector organisations and senior officials from the LuLu management.Representatives of leading agricultural farms were also present at the inaugural ceremony, including Al Rayyan Farms, Nabati Farms, Regional Agricultural Farms, Agrico, Simsima Farms, Ummqran Farms, Alfardan Group Farms, Ajaj Farms, Al Safwa Farms, Paramount Agricole Farms and Mahaseel, as well as other suppliers such as Almana Unilever, Qatar Detergent, Althaluf, Qbake, Qatar National Import and Export Co, and Gulf Centre for Food Stuff, and officials from 25 farms, a press statement noted.Al-Jaber expressed gratitude to LuLu Group for its keenness to promote local products, noting that the initiative is part of the efforts of the Ministry of Municipality to support farmers. He also thanked farmers and other participants of the programme for promoting local products.Dr Althaf said the festival is part of the LuLu World Food Festival, which aims to promote local products. He said LuLu remains as the largest buyer of local agricultural produce by showcasing 300 local products from 35 farms.Thanking HE the Minister for inaugurating the festival, Dr Althaf said: “During the last five years, we have increased the number of products for the festival. Initially, there were only a few major products displayed on our shelves but today, the local products that we are showcasing cover most of the essential commodities, including fruits and vegetables, as well as micro-greens, among others.”Speaking to Gulf Times on the sidelines of the festival, Dr Althaf said: “During His Excellency the Minister’s tour of the hypermarket, we were also discussing LuLu’s sustainable development strategy, which is in line with Qatar National Vision 2030. His Excellency witnessed some of our efforts in recycling plastics and even operated one of our reverse vending machines.“He was also briefed on what LuLu is doing in terms of the group’s circular economy and our refill stations, among other initiatives. Many agricultural countries today, whether in Europe or Asia, are experiencing shortages in much agricultural produce.”Dr Althaf continued, “We always emphasise that food security is essential, and I think the great efforts that Qatar had made in the past are paying off now. The Qatari products that we have seen not only cover basic essentials but also various industries, such as requirements in the hospitality sector.”He also underscored LuLu Group’s commitment to promoting Qatari food and non-food products and agricultural produce. Almost all prominent Qatari brands are regularly on display, such as Dandy, Al Maha, Baladna, Mazzaraty, Qbake, Rawa, qfm, Rayyan, Qatar Pafki, Pearl, Jawharh, Flora, Gourmet, Jerry Smith, Agrico Qatar, Paramount Agricole, Ocean Fish, Napoli Bakeries, Al Waha, Korean Bakeries, Parline, Ghazlan, Al Manhal, Dana, Aqua Gulf, Safa, Sidra, Lusail, Doha and Napico, among others.LuLu Group has a longstanding partnership with local farmers and remains the focal point in marketing local agricultural produce for many years. While LuLu hypermarkets have been promoting Qatari products and farm produce for many years, the last several years have been focusing more on a social and economic commitment to the nation.During the event, the festival will be providing a unique opportunity for visitors to experience the vibrant and diverse culture of Qatar. It is a celebration of the country’s rich heritage and tradition. The festival also supports small businesses and entrepreneurs by providing a platform to sell their products and reach a wider audience.In a statement, LuLu said the group ignited the retail revolution by integrating all consumer needs under one roof and becoming a shopping destination with its strong presence in the region for over two decades.“Besides, the group has a global presence with comprehensive and well-established sourcing offices and logistics centres in 23 countries across the world, including the US, the UK, Spain and Italy,” the statement added.

 Italian ambassador Paolo Toschi leading the ribbon-cutting ceremony of the ‘Let’s Eatalian’ festival. With him are ITA commissioner Paola Lisi, Sheikh Mohamed Ahmed M A al-Thani, businessman Nabeel Abu Issa, Italian Chamber of Commerce president Palma Libotte, and Dr Mohamed Althaf, director of LuLu Group International. PICTURE: Thajudheen
LuLu Group holds 17th ‘Let’s Eatalian’ festival

LuLu Group launched the 17th edition of the “Let’s Eatalian” festival at LuLu Hypermarket, Abu Sidra branch, Monday.The festival, which is being held at all LuLu outlets in the region until March 5, showcases the best of Italian cuisine with support from the Italian Trade Agency (ITA) and in co-operation with the Italian embassy in Qatar.“Let’s Eatalian” will “bring the wholesome goodness of Italy’s delightful cuisine to shoppers across all LuLu stores in Qatar, and is set to attract visitors from all over the country with its unique blend of vibrant traditional and cultural experiences of Italy, with live musical performances and dance displays”.Similarly, the event is a chance to indulge in the authentic flavours of Italy, prepared by some of the best Italian chefs in the region, as well as to learn about the history and traditions of Italy and enjoy a day of fun and entertainment with family and friends.The festival was inaugurated by Italian ambassador Paolo Toschi and his wife, in the presence of ITA commissioner Paola Lisi, Sheikh Mohamed Ahmed M A al-Thani, businessman Nabeel Abu Issa, Italian Chamber of Commerce president Palma Libotte, and Dr Mohamed Althaf, director of LuLu Group International.Also attending the event were dignitaries from different ministries, Qatar Chamber, ICC Qatar, and representatives of the retail and fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) sectors.An informative cooking demonstration, led by the ambassador and chef Claudio Trovato of Cucina restaurant at Marriott Marquis City Center Doha Hotel, was also one of the highlights of the event.LuLu has brought a unique range to this festival through its sourcing offices network in Europe, specifically the newest sourcing office of the group in Malpensa, Milan, which supports the trade of Italian products in the Mena (Middle East and North Africa) region.The festival is a “great way to explore the tastes and goodness of Italian ingredients at budget-friendly prices”.Shoppers can buy fresh pizza, Italian-style cakes and desserts from the LuLu kitchens, made with the finest ingredients.Speaking on the sidelines of the event, ambassador Toschi lauded LuLu Group, describing the global retailer as “a very good partner” and saying that the group has “a significant presence” in Italy, with access to growing number of Italian brands.“We are proud of LuLu Group,” he said. “And we are working on putting more focus on quality products and sustainable brands, especially those which Italy is known for.”According to Toschi, the “Let’s Eatalian Festival” has been highly successful in providing a platform to showcase a wide variety of Italian food products and cuisines, as well as the country’s traditions and culture.“Food is one of the best ways to bring people together; it also helps people explore new cultures and allows anyone to experience the best ingredients of the world,” the envoy further said.The ambassador stressed that Italy’s food export to Qatar has been “growing significantly year by year” and that the Italian embassy in Qatar is planning to launch further initiatives, in co-ordination with LuLu Group, to bring more Italian products to the country in the near future.He noted that Italy will participate in the International Horticultural Exhibition (Expo 2023 Doha), which will be held in the country from October.“Expo Doha 2023 will be an opportunity to showcase the achievements of Italy in food security and sustainability, as well as in the environment and health sectors,” Toschi said.According to Dr Althaf, LuLu Group is planning to organise a series of exciting events and activities in the coming weeks across its hypermarkets in Qatar.He also said that LuLu has forged partnerships with different Italian companies.By May this year, he said, several new exclusive brands are expected to be added to LuLu outlets in Qatar.He said the initiative will help expand the range of Italian foods, including more organic and healthy foods.On LuLu Group’s export centre in Milan, Italy, Dr Althaf said the facility has started operating at full capacity.“The centre, which facilitates the export of food products from Italy to Qatar, has started sending shipments,” he added. “It is expected to be inaugurated officially in May this year.”He noted that Italian food exports to Qatar “witnessed a 100% growth” since the establishment of a partnership between LuLu Group and the ITA with the support of the embassy of Italy in Qatar.“The expansion of LuLu outlets and the growing food supply contributed greatly in raising imports from Italy,” Dr Althaf added.To boost the imports further, he said LuLu Group is planning to re-launch some programmes with a special focus on healthy food ranges, such as low sugar and snacks below the 100-calorie range.The “Let’s Eatalian” festival brings top-quality food and ingredients to the spotlight, stuffed with the goodness and gourmet taste of Italian food and the health benefits of a Mediterranean diet.A wide variety of excellent cheeses, Italian chocolate, fruit jams, coffee, salt, water, pasta, spaghetti, sauce, puff pastries from well-known brands, and Italian apples, kiwis and other vegetables are on display at “best buy” prices.

Isabelle Martin, Ambassador of Canada to the State of Qatar, and CQBF executive director and board member Yasser M Dhouib during a meeting held recently in Doha.
CQBF, Canadian embassy in Qatar aim to boost economic ties & promote Francophonie

The Canadian-Qatari Business Forum (CQBF) and the Canadian embassy in Qatar are working to develop economic co-operation between Canada and Qatar to achieve sustainable development, as well as joint co-operation to promote the Francophonie.These were among the key points discussed in a meeting held recently in Doha between CQBF executive director and board member Yasser M Dhouib and Canada’s ambassador to Qatar, Isabelle Martin.“The CQBF and ambassador Isabelle Martin agreed to support joint co-operation between Canada and Qatar within the framework of the Francophonie...CQBF believes that the Francophonie is a strong framework and space for multi-joint co-operation, and the economic aspect comes at the forefront of this co-operation,” Dhouib told Gulf Times in a statement.Dhouib said the International Organisation of la Francophonie implements Francophone multilateral co-operation in the service of the interests of its 88 member states and member governments, which include 54 de jure members, including Canada, seven associate members, and 27 observer members, including the State of Qatar.“The work of the International Organisation of the Francophonie is concentrated in the following four main areas: promoting the French language, cultural, and linguistic diversity; and promoting peace, democracy, and human rights, support for education, training, higher education, and research,” he explained.Dhouib also underscored the support being provided by the governments of Qatar and Canada, saying the CQBF is working according to institutional mechanisms in a democratic manner within the board of directors headed by ambassador Ferry De Kerckhove.“We also have great support from Qatari ambassador Dr Khalid bin Rashid al-Mansouri and Canadian ambassador Isabelle Martin to serve the two friendly countries,” Dhouib pointed out.He added: “We also believe that the relations of both countries will be beneficial to North-South and South-South co-operation. CQBF is looking at ways on what Qatar and Canada can offer in the Francophonie organisation based on mutual interests and as a stabilising force in both their regions.”

Mohamed Barakat, USQBC managing director
Opportunities abound for US SMEs in Qatar, says USQBC official

The Qatari market offers many business opportunities for American small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), a US-Qatar Business Council (USQBC) official has said.According to USQBC managing director Mohamed Barakat, a wide range of US companies and corporations are already engaged in different business ventures with Qatar.“And we can see this advancing to the next level. However, there is also a big piece of the pie for SMEs that need more assistance and support in accessing the Qatari market,” Barakat told Gulf Times in an interview.He said the Qatari market offers investment opportunities to American SMEs “either on a bigger scale” or even partnerships with other small Qatari business enterprises in different sectors.“There are many programmes that support small and medium businesses in the US. These projects, in collaboration with Qatari initiatives for SMEs in Qatar, such as those being implemented by Qatar Development Bank (QBD), among others, will help connect US and Qatari SMEs together through the network of Qatari entities and the access of the US to a wide range of its SMEs.“One of the key roles of the USQBC is to work closely with these enterprises regardless of the size of the company and connect them with programmes and initiatives to help them find potential partners and access, as well as the opportunity to explore other markets,” Barakat explained.He said, “Some companies may not understand the market yet, while others may be knowledgeable of it already but they need someone to provide access to specific markets, and this is where USQBC plays an important part of their journey.“During the US-Qatar Strategic Dialogue, it was emphasised that achieving these goals is a collaborative effort between all authorities and entities from both the public and private sectors of Qatar and the US. In partnership with these different entities, we hope to see this segment growing rapidly in the next couple of years.”Barakat noted that while these programmes are catering to a wide range of sectors, several “red hot sectors” were discussed during the strategic dialogue, such as agriculture, agri-tech, the advancement of fintech in Qatar, Information Technology (IT), and cybersecurity, among other growing sectors in Qatar.“USQBC will focus on sectors that are based on the priorities in Qatar and what they match in the US, which is active in all sectors. We will adjust to having more companies focus on whatever sector becomes hot,” Barakat stressed.Post-World Cup, Barakat said, there is a new focus on sectors, such as agri-tech, fintech, and e-sports, among others, as well as tourism and facility management.“Sustainability and the environment are also hot sectors in Qatar. USQBC has actually worked with a couple of medium-sized companies and helped them enter the Qatari market, so we’d like to see more of that growth. We adjust based on the priorities here,” he said.According to Barakat, USQBC will also be looking at the Qatari entities that would be participating in the ‘2023 SelectUSA Investment Summit’ slated in the US from May 1 to 4.“This would also give us a better understanding of the shifting sectors that Qatari companies are looking for. And we’re always going to find the sectors that match their respective businesses,” he noted.

SAP and Microsoft officials together with their customers in Qatar's private and public sectors. PICTURE: Thajudheen
‘RISE with SAP’ kicks off on Microsoft global data centre in Qatar

Major players and stakeholders in Qatar’s private and public sectors stand to gain from ‘RISE with SAP’ in accelerating the digitalisation journey of companies and government institutions in the country.Microsoft and SAP jointly announced the launch of ‘RISE with SAP’ on Microsoft’s hyperscale cloud data centre region in Qatar during the ‘RISE with SAP on the Road’ event held Tuesday in Doha.SAP customers in Qatar can now host RISE with SAP on Microsoft Azure, expanding the opportunities for building a cloud-first economy in Qatar, the GCC, and the Mena region.On the sidelines of the event, Microsoft and SAP officials joined private and public sector stakeholders during a roundtable discussion to elaborate on the role of RISE with SAP in their respective digitalisation journeys.Farha Muhanna al-Kuwari, Human Resources Information Systems Centre director at the Civil Service and Government Development Bureau (CGB), said: “CGB has been partners with SAP for more than a decade to support the transformation of Mawared – the Qatar government’s HR system by standardising processes and streamline operations leveraging the latest technologies.“Considering the mission-critical services that the Mawared platform provides to government entities, the impact of disruption or outage can be severe in terms of business operations, data loss, and reputational harm. By deploying Microsoft Azure Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Solution (BCDR), we are now able to avoid disruptions, protect Mawared’s applications and data, and keep Mawared platform running and recoverable in case of unforeseen disasters or unplanned outages.”Abdulaziz Ibrahim al-Tamimi, CEO of Qatar Primary Materials Company (QPMC), said: “RISE with SAP was a key milestone for Qatar Petroleum Material Company’s (QPMC) holistic digital transformation journey in line with Qatar National Vision 2030 and the countries strategy to diversify its economy.“SAP’s expertise and cutting-edge technologies and Microsoft's cloud infrastructure will play an effective role in achieving our 2023 goals to drive innovation, enhance our competitiveness, and deliver greater value to our customers.”Hamdan Merchant, senior director Innovation & IT & BI at GWC, said: “The cloud offers the ideal option to support the strategic goals of the GWC. Using RISE with SAP on Azure for our deployment, we get instant access to the latest patches, innovations, and updates from SAP.”Al Meera Consumer Goods IT director Abdulaziz Almana, said: “In our journey to adopt digital transformation of our operations across our more than 60 stores to the cloud, we have selected RISE with SAP running on Microsoft Azure to allow us to leverage cloud computing, automated business process, and innovative solutions to significantly improve our operational performance and apply a more integrated approach in serving our clients.”Microsoft Qatar general manager Lana Khalaf said: “Bringing RISE with SAP on Azure to Qatar, supports our efforts to increase opportunities for our customers to innovate on their own terms and achieve their business goals.”Alaa Jaber, managing director, Qatar and Fast Growth Markets at SAP, said: “The aim is to go beyond a technical migration to the cloud and, instead, enable private and public sector entities to truly transform their operations, realising a faster time-to-market for new capabilities and applications.”