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 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.
PeekUp founder and CEO Dave M Almarinez during the Qatar Economic Forum 2024.
Filipino entrepreneur seeking Qatar market for expansion plans

A ride-hailing company in the Philippines is looking at expanding its services to the Qatari market.Dave M Almarinez, the founder and CEO of PeekUp, lauded Qatar for its “very stable economy” and for positioning itself as a technology hub in the region, saying: “This is a perfect fit for our business platform and for our current technology build.”“After evaluating the Qatari market, we are exploring the possibility of launching our business platform in the country. The level of businesses here are significant and of high quality; the huge interest in the transport sector alone is something that brings great value to the market and to the consumers,” Almarinez told Gulf Times on the sidelines of the recently concluded Qatar Economic Forum 2024.Almarinez visited Qatar recently to attend the forum and to explore the market with PeekUp's partner, Doha-based Superfuture Ventures, which is led by general partner and CEO Jeniffer Marie Tungol.Tungol explained that Superfuture Climate Infrastructure Fund is an entity that is supporting Superfuture Ventures’ collaboration with Almarinez. She expressed optimism that the collaboration with PeekUp will spur innovation, growth, and shared success, “benefiting all our stakeholders, including the Overseas Filipino Community in Qatar.”Almarinez explained that Qatar was among PeekUp’s top expansion locations in the GCC. But he was quick to clarify that the company is also looking at other would-be partner countries as well.“Aside from Qatar’s geography, we believe this country is an ideal location to execute our operations, simply because it is a good market to be in right now. That said, we also see Qatar as a strategic gateway to larger GCC markets like Saudi Arabia and the UAE, amongst others.“We're proud of what PeekUp has accomplished this early; we recently launched in the Philippines, and as part of our expansion plans, we are very interested in gaining access to the Qatari market, so we plan to elevate the ride-hailing service to the next level by offering five-star service.”Almarinez also pointed out that PeekUp’s objectives are aligned with the goals of Qatar National Vision 2030, as well as initiatives of the Ministry of Transport to achieve a zero-emission transition in transportation.He noted that utilising electric vehicles (EVs) is “perfectly aligned” with PeekUp’s roadmap in the near future, which includes plans to launch another product currently in the development stage called ‘PeekUp Blue’, which is an EV equipped with artificial intelligence (AI) that could solve a lot of complex tasks.“The business model of PeekUp is aligned with the vision of Qatar. This is why we're very keen on our expansion here, because we're looking for partner countries that have similar interests and the same vision and direction.“And Qatar National Vision 2030 is a great alignment for us, so we’re very keen on supporting this as well. We believe in the partnership between the private and public sector, which provides for regulatory laws that we intend to abide by,” he emphasised.He added: “I believe that technology continues to evolve and that it needs continuous enhancement, so it is paramount for us to continue developing not only our technology but ways to address the needs of both consumers and transport operators.“One of the prime assets of our technology is its flexibility. Once we have expanded our business globally, we not only intend to share our best practices, but we also want to learn and adapt from the best practices of the countries we operate in.”

Khush Choksy, Senior Vice-President of the US Chamber of Commerce for Middle East, Central Asia and Turkiye. PICTURE: Thajudheen
US-Qatar ties deepen as American firms support next phase of Qatar’s 2030 vision

American businesses are keen on supporting the Qatari government to achieve the objectives of the Qatar National Vision 2030, according to Khush Choksy, senior vice-president of the US Chamber of Commerce for Middle East, Central Asia and Turkiye.Choksy recently led a business delegation to Qatar of nearly 20 US companies, which held meetings with various Qatari ministries to understand the country’s 2030 strategy and private sector participation in job creation, economic diversification, leveraging education, sports and technology investments.“We’re here with a business mission of 20 business leaders. Prior to the Qatar Economic Forum, we held meetings with a broad range of players, including the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, the Ministry of Public Health, the Ministry of Finance, and the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology to understand Qatar’s Vision 2030 national strategy, particularly its final phase, and how American companies can contribute to it and also benefit from that process,” Choksy told Gulf Times on the sidelines of QEF 2024.Earlier this year, the Qatari government announced the launch of the Third National Development Strategy (NDS3) 2024-2030, which is the final stage to achieving the goals of the QNV 2030.Choksy explained, “As Qatar looks beyond the 2022 FIFA games to the next phase of its economic growth, we wanted to be here right at the outset and understand what the challenges and the opportunities are for its economic growth, as well as how the US private sector can participate in the last phase of the Qatar National Vision 2030, as stated in the launch of this new development strategy.”The QNV 2030, which was launched in 2008, focuses on job creation, economic diversification, leveraging education, sports investments, and technology. In its final phase, the private sector is expected to play the lead role as previous phases of the country’s 2030 vision concentrated on establishing its foundations and major infrastructure, Choksy pointed out.He said US companies can work with their Qatari counterparts in areas like technology, biotech, artificial intelligence (AI). They can also contribute and benefit from potential partnerships facilitated by Qatar’s investments in the US, which stands at $45bn.Choksy said, “The initial announcement of the $30bn investments into the United States was made by Qatar at the US Chamber in Washington, DC around 2015. It was also there that an additional announcement was made that took Qatari investments from $30bn to $45bn. The Chamber welcomes Qatar’s investment into the US and will continue to support these efforts.“The Qatar Investment Authority has been a strong partner of the Chamber and its US-Qatar Business Programme over the last decade. In the next phase of Qatar National Vision 2030, we are really looking at forging relationships between Qatari and American companies and to see where we can play the biggest role.”Choksy emphasised that the US Chamber of Commerce plans to continue its engagement with Qatar, both physically and through constant communication with the Qatari government and member companies. The chamber is also looking forward to hosting Qatar’s delegation at the upcoming SelectUSA conference in Washington, DC, slated next month.

Vietnamese ambassador Tran Duc Hung handing over a gift to Dr Mohamed Althaf, director, LuLu Group International, during the 'Festival of Vietnam' held on Monday at LuLu Hypermarket along D-Ring Road. PICTURE: Shaji Kayamkulam.
Robust LuLu ties to expand Vietnamese products in global markets, says envoy

LuLu Group’s vast international network and its robust relationship with the government of Vietnam are seen as essential factors in expanding the reach of Vietnamese products in global markets, ambassador Tran Duc Hung has said.Hung, who led the launching of the Vietnamese Festival hosted by LuLu Hypermarket, told Gulf Times on the sidelines of the event that LuLu Group has been operating a world-class, state-of-the-art distribution centre in Ho Chi Minh City since 2018.“Rice and coffee from Vietnam are our top exports; number two in the world, and we have exported a lot of these agricultural products to the US and the EU already. Now we want to expand more Vietnamese products in LuLu through its distribution system. We want to showcase more of our products to Qatari people and also expand in Doha,” the ambassador pointed out.Hung noted that LuLu Group’s distribution centre in Ho Chi Minh City is also instrumental in increasing the number of products bearing the LuLu private label exported from Vietnam, which reflects the growing and healthy relationship between the Southeast Asian country and LuLu Group.“Through LuLu’s distribution system worldwide, particularly in the GCC region and Asian countries, we would like to showcase to the people in these areas the wide variety of Vietnamese specialities, not only with agricultural products but also Vietnamese electronic goods like mobile phones and computer component parts. We have a lot of other consumer goods, too, which we want to showcase to the people in Qatar and also in GCC countries,” the ambassador further explained.Hung also expressed optimism that the Embassy of Vietnam’s partnership with LuLu will help meet its objective of expanding the presence of Vietnamese manufactured consumer products and agriculture and food items in international markets.“I am confident, and I believe that the volume and size of the trade cooperation between Vietnam and Qatar, through LuLu, will be growing more and more in the near future,” Hung emphasised.Asked about the success of the Vietnamese Festival in all LuLu hypermarkets across Qatar, the ambassador noted: “Our relationship with Qatar spans 30 long years. On the other hand, since the establishment of LuLu’s office in Ho Chi Minh City in 2018, LuLu has brought a lot of Vietnamese agricultural products to Doha.“And recently, we still have a lot of more agricultural products to showcase in LuLu hypermarkets in Qatar. We are hoping that in the future, there will be more flights between Doha and Vietnam to increase the chances of bringing more Vietnamese products to Doha through LuLu hypermarkets.”Ends

A business delegation from Qatari firm KON Group held meetings with Uganda’s minister of state for tourism, officials of Kampala City Administration, and representatives from key investment sectors.
Uganda welcomes Qatari investments in various sectors, says envoy

Uganda welcomes Qatari investments in a variety of sectors, including potential partnerships between private sector firms of both countries, ambassador Kezaala Mohamed Baswari al-Hajj has said.Al-Hajj stated that a business delegation from Qatari firm KON Group held meetings with Uganda’s minister of state for tourism, officials of Kampala City Administration, and representatives from key investment sectors.Mohamed Riad Massani and Hissa K H al-Sowadi, both founders and co-chairs of KON Group, held meetings to discuss potential opportunities and initiatives for collaboration between Ugandan and Qatari businesses.Al-Hajj said KON Group will collaborate with Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) on a project specialising in the recycling of animal waste following a meeting with KCCA executive director Dorothy Kisaka and her technical team. He also said KCCA, KON Group and Kanaha Holdings will jointly carry out a feasibility study under the guidance of Uganda’s National Environment Management Authority.Similarly, Hajjat Misha Kabanda, the Minister for Kampala Metropolitan, held a meeting with the delegation, and welcomed KON Group’s meat rendering proposal, and recommended a technical evaluation that will guide the next steps to be taken to realise the project.According to al-Hajj, KON Group was keen on collaborating with the Ugandan government to source investors for abattoir-related projects and to stimulate the export of the East African country’s meat products to Qatar following a visit to the Kampala Meat Packers.The KON Group also explored various projects and investment opportunities in the following sectors: agriculture, tourism, manufacturing, and waste management. The delegation expressed keenness on enhancing Uganda’s agricultural output through modern farming techniques and value addition.Discussions also revolved around promoting Uganda as a prime tourism destination for Qataris and other visitors from neighbouring countries in the Gulf region. Al-Hajj noted that innovative solutions for recycling and sustainable development were among the key points explored in the manufacturing and waste management sectors, including the country’s tea and coffee industries, following a meeting with Mzee Erisa Kakyomya of the Kakyomya tea estate, as well as infrastructure development to upgrade hospitals across the country.A meeting with Salim Saleh, the president’s adviser and chief co-ordinator of Operation Wealth Creation, also showcased Uganda’s strategic initiatives to attract foreign investment and the opportunities available for Qatari investors, particularly in the manufacturing sector, al-Hajj said.The delegation also held meetings with the following officials: Minister of State for Tourism Martin Mugarra Bahinduka, officials from NEMA represented by Kawala Muwereza and other senior NEMA environment officers, and Uganda Investment Authority director general Robert Mukiza.

Gulf Times
Philippines eyeing Qatari investments in district cooling, dairy production

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has engaged in discussions with two leading local firms, Qatar Cool and Baladna, to explore district cooling system opportunities in the Philippines and ways to boost the Southeast Asian nation’s self-sufficiency in dairy production.DTI Secretary Afredo E Pascual recently led a delegation to Doha and held high-level discussions with HE the Minister of Commerce and Industry Sheikh Mohamed bin Hamad bin Qassim al-Abdullah al-Thani as well leading Qatari businesses and officials.He also participated in a panel discussion titled ‘Creating Competitive Economies’ during the Qatar Economic Forum 2024.In a recent interview with Gulf Times, Pascual said: “The delegation is following through on two investment leads: one on an integrated dairy facility and another on district cooling.”According to Pascual, Qatar District Cooling Company (Qatar Cool) CEO Yasser al-Jaidah led a delegation in the Philippines last month for a meeting with representatives from Clark International Aviation Corporation (CIAC), Luzon International Premier Airport Development (LIPAD) Corporation, Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA), and the Vista Group to explore district cooling opportunities in flagship development projects in the Philippines.“The visit of Qatar Cool is also an offshoot of the Investor Roundtable in Doha. The company is the largest district cooling provider in Qatar and the fourth-largest globally. Qatar Cool is currently assessing current and potential demand in the country to support their recommendations on the feasibility of district cooling systems in the Philippines. Further, they are also reviewing the new Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) for Public-Private Partnership (PPP) for a possible unsolicited proposal for district cooling requirements inside the Clark Freeport,” Pascual explained.In a media statement, the DTI emphasised that Qatar Cool’s District Cooling System (DCS) technology offers a cost- and energy-efficient solution compared to individual building heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems, which “aligns perfectly with the current administration’s goal of achieving a 20% reduction in energy consumption by 2030, with the energy sector being a key focus area.”“Projects utilising such energy-efficient technologies may be eligible for fiscal and non-fiscal incentives provided by the government, offering significant cost savings for Qatar Cool and its potential partners. Qatar Cool expressed interest in partnering with major developers focusing on district-wide or township developments in the Philippines. The company was also invited to consider locations outside Metro Manila that offer high-density developments suitable for DCS implementation,” the DTI stated.During the discussion with Qatar Cool, Pascual said: “The DTI, together with relevant stakeholders, is committed to supporting Qatar Cool’s exploration of the Philippine market. The Department of Energy will further assess Qatar Cool’s business model for potential BOI endorsement. Additionally, exploring opportunities in other locations and projects presents exciting possibilities for collaboration.”“The DTI looks forward to further discussions with Qatar Cool and facilitating their successful investment journey in the Philippines, which can contribute significantly to the country’s energy efficiency goals.” he added.Pascual also said that in February 2022, the Philippines’ Board of Investments (BOI), the National Dairy Authority, and Baladna signed a memorandum of understanding on cooperation and exchange of information and experience in the development of the dairy industry in the Philippines.“In particular, the production and processing of a wide range of fresh milk and dairy products, taking into account the potential investment of up to $500mn by Baladna into the Philippines for the establishment of a large-scale, fully integrated dairy business. The parties were represented by former DTI Secretary Ramon Lopez, former Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary William Dar, and Baladna board member Adnan Tynan,” Pascual said.In a media statement released by the DTI, Pascual emphasised that this strategic investment aligns with the Philippines’ pursuit of self-sufficiency in food and milk production.“The Philippine government stands ready to support Baladna to realise its planned investments in the country. Through a whole-government approach, the DTI and the BOI are ready to facilitate business-to-business meetings and introductions to potential joint venture partners for Baladna. Additionally, the DA is actively identifying suitable locations for the proposed dairy facilities,” Pascual stated.During the discussion with Baladna, Pascual also underscored the substantial demand for dairy products in the Philippines, with imports nearing P3bn. He cited that addressing this demand while supporting local production is a key priority for the current administration.To further bolster the dairy sector, the delegation outlined regulatory support for labelling fresh milk, UHT milk, and imported frozen milk concentrate, emphasising the clear definitions provided by the Philippine National Standard.

Gulf Times
Top trade official highlights Philippines’ economic gains at QEF

The Philippines’ top trade official has showcased the country’s economic growth during the fourth edition of the Qatar Economic Forum (QEF).Secretary Alfredo E Pascual of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) was among the panellists during a discussion titled ‘Creating Competitive Economies’. He was joined by Moroccan Minister of Industry and Trade Ryad Mezzour and Turkiye’s Minister of Treasury and Finance Mehmet Şimşek.During the discussion, Pascual said: “We’re very happy about the performance of our economy, which is among the highest in Southeast Asia. And we’re making sure that we have the policy environment that will sustain growth.”According to Pascual, the administration of Philippine President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr is focused on infrastructure development, improved connectivity, and strategic policy reforms, which ensure the country’s economic competitiveness in the region.Central to this strategy, Pascual cited the continuation of the ‘Build, Build, Build’ programme, now named the ‘Build Better More’ programme with 185 flagship infrastructure projects worth over $161bn. He said the programme highlights the government’s intensified efforts to improve physical connectivity, digital infrastructure, water resources, health facilities, power, and agriculture infrastructure.Pascual also said the Maharlika Investment Fund, the country’s first sovereign wealth fund, will provide additional support for these projects. With this, he encouraged the pursuance of public-private partnerships (PPPs), following the recent passage of the first PPP code, which provided a clear and predictable policy environment for private sector participation.Another key priority presented is the improvement of physical connectivity within the country, as exemplified in projects like the Central Luzon Economic Corridor, which is set to enhance transportation links between key economic hubs, Pascual noted.He said: “We will build railways to interconnect a port somewhere in the north to Clark in the middle down to Manila and then down to Batangas, and that will improve the connectivity within Luzon.”The DTI secretary also highlighted that cyber connectivity in the Philippines is rapidly expanding through policy reforms, including opening sectors like telecommunications, utilities, and airports to 100% foreign ownership.Highlighting the current administration’s commitment to upskilling the Filipino workforce, Pascual stressed the significance of partnerships with the private sector and international partners. Following this, he cited educational reforms that are also underway, such as the introduction of STEM in the education system.Pascual said: “The country is actively engaging with major economic blocs, including the US, China, and the European Union (EU). The Philippines is also ensuring improved market access for our businesses through important trade mechanisms, exemplified through the ratification of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, the resumption of EU Free Trade Agreement negotiations, and the first round of Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement negotiations with the UAE.”Affirming the Marcos Jr administration’s continued commitment to foster economic growth and champion multilateral ties, Pascual added: “Our competitive economic environment, coupled with our game-changing reforms, signals our readiness to attract foreign investments and support sustainable development.”

HE the Minister of Communications and Information Technology Mohamed bin Ali al-Mannai in the session ‘Artificial Intelligence: Regulation & Innovation’ at the Qatar Economic Forum 2024 on Thursday.
'Fanar envisioned as high-accuracy Arabic LLM'

Fanar, Qatar’s world-class Arabic GenAI built on Arabic language learning model (LLM), is anticipated to boost Arabic language representation in the global AI arena and advance scientific co-operation in the Arab world, driving innovation in the field.HE the Minister of Communications and Information Technology Mohamed bin Ali al-Mannai made the statement in the session ‘Artificial Intelligence: Regulation & Innovation’ during the Qatar Economic Forum 2024, which concluded on Thursday.The minister explained that Fanar was the result of a strategic collaboration between the ministry, the Qatar Computing Research Institute (QCRI) at Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU) – Qatar Foundation Member, and other partners.He further emphasised that Fanar, which is able to understand the complex nuances of the Arabic language, will be provided with high accuracy dataset comprising at least 300bn words, which will allow it to produce highly accurate texts.Al-Mannai ensured that Fanar will be equipped with vast and precise Arabic content, enabling it to evolve and enhance within linguistic frameworks “and ultimately produce culturally resonant Arabic content.” According to the minister, the Fanar initiative is a cornerstone in the development of Arabic LLMs, enriching digital experiences for institutions and Arabic speakers alike.Emphasising the transformative potential of Fanar, al-Mannai said: “Fanar will transform GenAI-generated Arabic content in terms of accuracy and nuanced understanding, significantly enhancing translation, media, and academic research capabilities,” citing QCRI’s “remarkable achievements” in creating an expansive linguistic model, “marked by exceptional accuracy.”He also noted that efforts are underway to translate these achievements into a pragmatic project, mindful of the Arabic language’s specificity and rich cultural heritage.“There exists a considerable gap in Generative AI capabilities between Arabic and English languages concerning contextual comprehension, linguistic precision, and content depth and fluidity. The Fanar project aims to bridge this disparity. Fanar will also offer balanced perspectives, safeguarding Arab culture from any adverse effects,” al-Mannai pointed out.During the discussion, al-Mannai emphasised the fundamental role of data accuracy and training in determining Fanar’s content quality. He also underscored the commitment of the MCIT and its partners to offering high-quality Arabic information and texts, providing Fanar with around 300bn words for robust linguistic model development.Underscoring Qatar’s commitment to fortifying its regional digital leadership and driving digital transformation in the Arab world, al-Mannai lauded His Highness the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani’s allocation of a QR9bn incentive package to support comprehensive digital transformation, including a $1bn fund to support regional entrepreneurs and emerging companies in line with the goals of the country’s Third National Development Strategy.In a statement, Dr Ahmad M Hasnah, HBKU president, commented: “This initiative demonstrates that HBKU employs a proactive approach towards building an inclusive research and education ecosystem in Qatar that safeguards its cultural values.“Our collaboration with MCIT underscores our commitment to implementing and integrating cutting-edge AI research and technology into the social and economic development of our economy and society.”Once the project is completed, Arab users will be able to access accurate, cutting-edge content “surpassing current challenges in generative AI applications,” Hasnah noted, adding that innovative solutions will enrich their online experience, providing enhanced access to knowledge and advanced content in an innovative, high-quality manner. Users will benefit from precise, useful content tailored to their needs, elevating their digital experience, he emphasised.QCRI executive director Ahmed K Elmagarmid said, “Our collaboration with MCIT will see the curation of Arabic-language data that encapsulates the Qatari people’s shared heritage and traditions combined with an innovative application of LLM technology. Arabic language technologies have long been one of QCRI’s research focus areas, and we are eager to utilise our expertise in service of the protection and growth of our mother tongue in the age of AI.”Other capabilities of Fanar extend to assisting students, researchers, and the public by providing accurate information and streamlining tasks, saving valuable time and effort. In addition to generating high-quality Arabic text, Fanar facilitates the development of Arabic chatbots and virtual assistants for companies and institutions of all sizes, ensuring culturally appropriate responses.Furthermore, Fanar offers a comprehensive set of services, including translation, summarisation, and creative writing, empowering companies and institutions to effectively engage their Arabic-speaking audience. By enhancing the Arabic user experience through accurate and culturally appropriate responses, Fanar drives broader technology integration into the daily lives and business activities of Arabic speakers.

Gulf Times
Philippines, Qatar move closer to ratifying Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement

The ratification process of the Philippines-Qatar Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (IPPA) is expected to be finalised this year following talks held in Doha between the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MOCI).DTI Secretary Alfredo E Pascual and HE the Minister of Commerce and Industry Sheikh Mohamed bin Hamad bin Qassim al-Thani agreed to finalise the IPPA ratification process during a recently held meeting held on the sidelines of the Qatar Economic Forum 2024.The Philippines completed its domestic ratification procedures in April, the DTI noted in a statement.“The entry into force of the IPPA is expected to significantly deepen the economic ties between the Philippines and Qatar. We are confident that finalising the ratification process will translate into productive investment figures contributing to our mutually shared prosperity,” Pascual emphasised.Similarly, the DTI and MoCI also agreed to pursue a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to strengthen co-operation on intellectual property rights (IPR) protection. The DTI noted that the MoU will facilitate the exchange of information and best practices, training programmes, and high-level dialogues on IP policy.The DTI further stated that the Philippine delegation expressed concern about the proliferation of counterfeit Filipino brands in the Middle East, including Qatar. Enhancing cooperation on IPR protection, including the proposed MoU would address these concerns and create a fairer and more secure environment, the DTI stressed.“During the discussion, both countries also affirmed their commitment to proactively collaborate on creating a business-friendly environment that will facilitate greater trade, investment, and economic co-operation.“The ministers noted the countries’ shared vision of diversifying and expanding their economies through investments in infrastructure, integrated circuit design and manufacturing, and financial services,” the DTI stated.According to the DTI, the meeting also discussed holding the inaugural Philippines-Qatar Joint Economic, Commercial, and Technical Committee (JECTC) meeting in the first quarter of 2025.“This proposal was relayed to His Highness the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani during his visit to Manila in April 2024. Furthermore, both countries agreed on organising a business forum and a business-to-business matching session on the sidelines of the JECTC,” the DTI added.Highlighting the growing economic ties between the Philippines and Qatar, Pascual said: “We are pleased with the progress made in this meeting, and we are positive that the finalisation of the IPPA ratification process will soon pave the way for its full implementation.“The Philippines is eager to further strengthen its economic partnership with Qatar through enhanced investment flows, increased co-operation on intellectual property rights, and the establishment of the Joint Economic, Commercial, and Technical Committee. We believe that this collaboration will not only benefit our two countries but also contribute to greater prosperity and stability in both the Gulf and Southeast Asia regions.”

Gulf Times
PM underscores Qatar’s focus on FDI and private sector growth

The Qatari government has been keen on creating opportunities for the private sector, attracting foreign direct investments (FDI), and the growth of the manufacturing, logistics, tourism, and ICT sectors, as well as financial services, HE the Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohamed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim al-Thani has said.He made the statement during an on-stage conversation with Bloomberg Television anchor Francine Lacqua at the opening ceremony of the Qatar Economic Forum 2024 yesterday.HE Sheikh Mohamed underscored Qatar’s infrastructure-related investments in its healthcare and education sectors. He said, “Healthcare has more potential in terms of its economic side, which is basically research and development and, hopefully, the pharmaceutical industry.”He noted that Qatar has made great strides in its digitalisation strategy, citing the need for major investments in artificial intelligence (AI)-related infrastructure or applications.The Prime Minister highlighted the role of educational institutions in pushing Qatar’s plans to maximise the use of AI.During his speech, Sheikh Mohamed announced the launch of ‘Al Fanar’ or the Arabic Artificial Intelligence project. He said the project’s main objective is to collect quality data in the Arabic language, contributing to enriching large linguistic models and preserving the Arab identity.Speaking on Qatar’s investment plans, HE the Prime Minister highlighted the country’s diversification strategy, including outward investments, making sure “there will be a high return.”“We ensure that the balance is right within our portfolio. Of course, in the last few years, the US has been one of our main markets. Asia is an interesting market, and we have investments there, but we are also exploring opportunities and trying to expand to new emerging markets like the Central Asian region and Africa.“Our focus as a sovereign wealth fund is for future generations, so we wanted to make sure that these investments are not high-risk, ensuring the stability of the jurisdiction where we are investing and ensuring sustainable income,” the Prime Minister explained.Sheikh Mohamed said the recent launch of the country’s National Development Strategy is seen as the final phase of achieving the Qatar National Vision 2030. He emphasised that the government is now capitalising on the infrastructure that was built for the energy sector and for hosting the 2022 FIFA World Cup.At the centre of this strategy, the Prime Minister stressed that Qatar is focusing on human capital, unleashing their potential, and opening up opportunities for the private sector.On the regional level, HE Sheikh Mohamed underscored the importance of Qatar’s investments in its GCC neighbours, such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE, among others. He said there has been increased interest among Qatari companies to invest in other Gulf nations.

Sheikh Ali bin Abdullah bin Khalifa al-Thani (centre) explaining about QEF 2024 on Saturday, flanked by Mubarak bin Ajlan al-Kuwari on the left, and Jassim Mohamed al-Khori right. PICTURE: Thajudheen.
Signing of 20 MoUs at QEF 2024 'to boost Qatar's FDI inflow'

The signing of 20 memoranda of understanding, including 18 international MoUs, during the upcoming Qatar Economic Forum (QEF) 2024 is expected to enhance foreign direct investment (FDI) and attract additional FDI to the country, an official told *Gulf Times.“The nature of the MoUs and the partnerships [to be signed at the forum] indicate the direction in which entities are moving towards enhancing foreign direct investment and attracting additional investment to Qatar,” stated Sheikh Ali bin Abdullah bin Khalifa al-Thani, the chairperson of the Permanent Supreme Committee organising QEF 2024.“There are other factors that could also enhance this, but generally, it is through the participation of high-level delegations and by the MoUs that are going to be signed during the forum.”During a press conference on Saturday, Sheikh Ali noted that the fourth edition of the forum, which will run from May 14 to 16 in Doha, is expected to gather 2,300 participants, including 1,300 active leaders in international firms and organisations, in addition to 200 local and international media outlets.Sheikh Ali said 10 MoUs were signed in the previous edition. However, he noted that the forum has been seeing “a qualitative shift from one session to another," as translated by the number of international agreements unveiled during the event, in addition to the great interest from international political and economic actors.He described the forum as “the fastest growing in terms of participation at the regional and international levels,” noting that the discussions over the three-day conference will focus on topics related to geopolitics, globalisation, trade, energy transformation, technological innovation, business foresight, investment, sports, and entertainment, “considering the continuing effects of major changes in the fields of technology, energy, trade, and politics that the world is witnessing, especially since the developments witnessed in 2024 will have far-reaching repercussions on the global economy.”Sheikh Ali explained that attendance at QEF-related activities will be through personal invitations, “given the large attendance requests that exceeded all expectations.” He added that the organising committee has taken a number of measures to ensure the attendance of the largest number of those who wish to join through digital platforms.For his part, the CEO of Media City Qatar and head of the media team in the Permanent Supreme Committee organising the QEF Jassim Mohamed al-Khori, lauded the strategic partnership with Bloomberg Media Group, which extends for several years.On the sidelines of the press conference, al-Khori also told *Gulf Times that the organising committee has diversified the portfolio of topics that would be discussed during QEF 2024 to include innovation and technology, sustainability, and how to support startups, aside from energy, the economy, and politics.The executive director of the Permanent Committee for Organising Conferences at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and head of the Logistics Team in the Supreme Permanent Committee Organising the QEF, Mubarak bin Ajlan al-Kuwari, said the registration process has been facilitated through a unified system and issuing entry cards to all participants to ensure smooth and quick entry to the forum, in addition to providing tourism programmes, in cooperation with Qatar Tourism and Qatar Museums.

Khalil Rashid al-Naimi of the General Directorate of Civil Defence.
UDC launches ‘first-ever largest’ Seabed clean-up campaign with 118 divers

More than two tonnes of plastic and metal waste were collected by 118 professional divers who participated in the “Seabed Cleanup Campaign” organised on Saturday by United Development Company (UDC).The event, seen as a pivotal component of UDC’s broader sustainability strategy, was hailed as Qatar’s “first-ever largest” seabed clean-up, covering a 30,000sq m-area of the Porto Arabia marina on The Pearl Island.Speaking to *Gulf Times on the sidelines of the event, UDC Public Services executive director Abdullatif Ali al-Yafei emphasised that the campaign is part of UDC’s five-year environmental and sustainability strategy launched in 2022.He noted that the seabed clean-up initiative is directly linked to UN Sustainable Development Goal 14: Life Below Water, emphasising the crucial need for conserving and sustainably utilising the oceans, seas, and marine resources.“We are targeting the communities of The Pearl Island and Gewan Island, in addition to the wider community in Qatar, to send a clear message of the importance of taking care of the environment,” al-Yafei said. “This event coincides with the celebration of Earth Day 2024, so it is very important that we protect our oceans, as well as maintain and improve the coastal environment around The Pearl Island.”Khalil Rashid al-Naimi of the General Directorate of Civil Defence also emphasised that the event was an opportune time to raise awareness among residents of The Pearl Island about the value of safety and preparedness.“Our participation today was to educate the public on various safety precautions and how to respond to emergencies, such as fires, disasters, and other critical cases,” he said. “We also demonstrated the use of life jackets and fire extinguishers.”“It is important for residents, especially young children, to know how to react during untoward incidents and keep a clear presence of mind until professional help arrives to address the situation,” al-Naimi added.Khaled Zaki, a marine life activist and ambassador of the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI), who led the participating divers in the seabed clean-up, underscored the positive impact of yesterday’s event on children.He said educating children on the value of environmental protection is the way forward, considering that campaigns such as this are spread in real-time, citing tech-savvy youth and the popularity of various social media platforms.In a statement, Ghanem al-Diab, a senior administrative affairs expert at the Ministry of Social Development and Family, said: “The ministry is delighted to collaborate with UDC in the seabed cleaning initiative.”“This partnership not only supports environmental sustainability but also empowers productive families by providing them with a platform to showcase their products to the public,” he said. “By being part of this prized community initiative, these families contribute significantly to the betterment of our environment and society.”Zainab al-Shammari, head of programmes and events at Friends of the Environment Centre, said: “Driven by Qatar Vision 2030 and our firm belief in creating an environmentally conscious community focused on sustainable development, Friends of the Environment Centre is dedicated to environmental awareness and our duty to preserve marine ecosystems.”“Achieving effective and equitable participation from the community, youth, and upholding Qatar’s national identity through environmental conservation, our community partnership with UDC in cleaning the seabed of The Pearl Island, in collaboration with various entities, aims to maintain a healthy and pristine environment free from harm to humans, animals, and plants,” she said.“We urge sea-goers not to discard metal, plastic, glass, food waste, or any other harmful debris, and to leave their surroundings clean, as a testament to our commitment and preservation of Qatar's environment,” al-Shammari added.Simultaneously, more than 250 residents and visitors participated in eco-friendly activities such as planting, paper recycling, and energy conservation efforts, underscoring the community's dedication to sustainable practices.All collected waste materials, including metal, wood, and plastic, underwent meticulous recycling and reuse processes, ensuring responsible waste management practices and minimising landfill deposition.

Sheikh Ahmed al-Thani, head of QFIU and chairman of QFIU Forum Committee.
QFIU hosts public-private dialogue

The Qatar Financial Information Unit (QFIU) hosted on Monday this year’s inaugural edition of the ‘12th Meeting of QFIU Forum for Public-Private Dialogue’, which will run until tomorrow in Doha.The two-day event is being held under the patronage of HE Sheikh Bandar bin Mohamed bin Saoud al-Thani, Governor of the Qatar Central Bank.Monday’s opening session was held in the presence of senior officials, members of the National Anti-Money Laundering and Terrorism Financing Committee (NAMLC) and its secretariat, and representatives of the National Counter Terrorism Committee (NCTC).Sheikh Ahmed al-Thani, head of QFIU and chairman of QFIU Forum Committee, inaugurated the event with an opening speech, where he emphasised the achievements made during the previous meetings of the forum, which was launched in 2018.He commended the positive participation of public sector representatives and partners in the forum from the supervisory authorities, represented by the QCB, the Qatar Financial Markets Authority, the Qatar Financial Centre Regulatory Authority, the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, and the Ministry of Justice, in addition to the private sector representatives from financial institutions and Designated Non-Financial Businesses and Professions (DNFBPS).Sheikh Ahmed also elaborated on the forum’s aspirations and objectives in the coming period during his speech.Several presentations were delivered during the sessions, which addressed some topics of concern and priority to the State of Qatar, such as the risks of terrorism financing.The sessions were led by specialised speakers and experts from QFIU, QCB, State Security Bureau, Qatar Financial Markets Authority, the Regulatory Authority for Charitable Activities, the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, and the Ministry of Justice, as well as experts from the private sector representing Qatar Islamic Bank, HSBC Bank, the Group, QNBFS, and Alfardan Jewellery.The forum welcomed representatives from QFIU and supervisory authorities, in addition to all financial institutions, DNFBPs and NPOs. The number of attendees on Monday reached more than 600 people from the public and private sectors, which reflects the great interest of these sectors to the forum.

Sheikha Mayes al-Thani, managing director of USQBC in Qatar.
USQBC underscores role in promoting investments, attracting FDI

An official of the US-Qatar Business Council (USQBC) has underscored its commitment to promoting investment opportunities and attracting foreign direct investments (FDI) in line with the Qatar National Vision 2030.“Promoting trade and business opportunities beyond traditional sectors can help companies explore new avenues and sectors aligned with the vision’s goals, such as technology, innovation, renewable energy, and tourism,” according to Sheikha Mayes al-Thani, managing director of USQBC in Qatar.USQBC aims to foster investment flows that contribute to the goals of the Qatar National Vision 2030 by providing information, market insight, and networking platforms to facilitate the exchange of information between businesses from the US and Qatar, Sheikha Mayes stated in the latest edition of ‘The Business Year: Qatar 2024’.On Qatar’s business climate and potential for growth and investment, Sheikha Mayes told TBY that the government has been active in diversifying the economy and reducing its dependence on hydrocarbon revenues.“The Qatari business environment is favourable, with several factors that contribute to its potential for growth and investment. First, its substantial oil and gas reserves have contributed significantly to Qatar’s economic stability and robustness. Several policies were also implemented by the government to foster economic stability and encourage foreign investment.“Second, Qatar made substantial investment into infrastructure projects in preparation to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup, resulting in a wide range of services now being available to both domestic and foreign businesses, including transportation networks, stadiums, hotels, and more. For businesses engaged in trade and transportation, Qatar’s advantageous location offers logistical advantages,” Sheikha Mayes said.She also lauded the Qatari government for introducing several incentives and initiatives to attract foreign investment, such as tax exemptions, simplified business registration procedures, and sector-specific incentives, among others.“Moreover, there has been an active effort by Qatar to diversify its economy beyond the energy sector. Growth and investment opportunities have been targeted in areas, such as finance, real estate, tourism, infrastructure, and technology,” she pointed out.According to Sheikha Mayes, the USQBC plays a vital role in fostering trade, investment, and collaboration between Qatar and the US by organising networking events, conferences, seminars, webinars, and business forums that bring together business representatives from both countries.“Additionally, USQBC assists in the identification of potential business partners or clients between companies in the US and Qatar, including organising B2B meetings, arranging trade missions, or facilitating introductions based on specific interests in an industry or sector.USQBC contributes to the development of trade between the US and Qatar by showcasing business opportunities, facilitating market entry, and providing market intelligence to its members,” she said.Sheikha Mayes added: “To help companies navigate the business landscape, USQBC provides information on regulations, trade policies, market trends, and investment incentives.“As a member-led organisation, USQBC advocates policies and initiatives that enhance bilateral trade and investment in Qatar and the US. The council works closely with government entities and stakeholders to address any barriers or challenges faced by companies and to promote a favourable business environment.”

A snapshot from Puerto Galera, a town on the Philippine island of Mindoro, known for its dive sites and beaches.
Philippines records 10,438 visitor arrivals from Qatar in 2023

The Philippines received 10,438 visitor arrivals from Qatar in 2023 and 3,784 from January 1 to April 20 this year, according to current Department of Tourism (DoT) data.These figures were revealed following the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between DOT Secretary Christina Garcia Frasco and HE the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Sultan bin Saad al-Muraikhi in the presence of His Highness the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani and Philippine President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr during HH the Amir's two-day state visit to the Southeast Asian nation.The MoU is among the nine other agreements signed between both nations to further strengthen bilateral ties.Frasco said in a message: “Fortifying tourism co-operation between the Philippines and Qatar by way of signing this Memorandum of Co-operation forges a strong partnership for increased tourism exchanges between our nations.“With this significant step forward, we unlock the wealth of opportunities for growth as we explore new avenues for collaboration, particularly on the aspect of tourism and business events.”She added: “Under the Marcos administration, we are reintroducing the Philippines to the world on the strength of our Filipino culture, heritage, and identity, and we view our partnership with Qatar as being an important part of this movement.”In its Facebook page, the DoT stated that the renewal of the MoU between the Philippines and Qatar, “aim[s] to strengthen their co-operation, particularly in the aspects of mutual development and growth of tourism and business events.”“Under the agreement, the Philippines and Qatar agreed to jointly work towards encouraging tourist flows into each country; promoting co-operation between travel and tourism agencies and other establishments to increase tourist exchange and promotion; and creating favourable conditions for movements and communications for the visiting tourists.“The MoU also solidifies the two countries’ intent to encourage tourism investments; undertake exchange of organisational expertise, knowledge, statistics, and best practices; promote familiarisation visits for media and tourism experts, and further skills development of operators, employees, and specialists in tourism through seminars and specialised trainings,” the DOT post also stated.Aside from tourism and business events, the Philippines and Qatar also signed deals in the following areas: climate change, combating human trafficking, seafarers’ welfare, sports, youth, and waiver of visa requirements for holders of diplomatic and special/official passports. Private sector leader Qatar Chamber also signed MoUs with the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industry.On its website, the Philippines’ Presidential Communications Office reported that His Highness the Amir praised the Filipino community in Qatar, citing their “unwavering support” and “effective contribution” to the development and progress of Qatar.In an earlier statement to the Philippine News Agency, Philippine ambassador to Qatar Lillibeth Pono said His Highness the Amir’s state visit is “a strong indication of flourishing relations between our two countries.”She added: “It also provides an excellent opportunity for the two sides to have a personal exchange of views on bilateral issues and foster greater engagement arising from a shared sense of responsibility as regional and global actors.” According to Pono, “the Philippines and Qatar have concluded over 20 agreements, including on investments, taxation, air services, labor, establishment of a political consultation mechanism, agriculture, as well as economic, commercial, and technical cooperation.”

More than 50 international jurisdictions attended the two-day meeting, demonstrating a strong commitment to collaboration and the sharing of best practices among commercial courts. PICTURE: Shaji Kayamkulam
QICDRC concludes ‘5th Full Meeting of the Standing International Forum of Commercial Courts’

The Honourable James Allsop AC, former Chief Justice of the Federal Court of Australia, delivered a keynote address, which was among the highlights of the conclusion of the ‘5th Full Meeting of the Standing International Forum of Commercial Courts (SIFoCC)’ held at Qatar University Sunday.Titled ‘The Spirit of the Judicial Task and the Importance of International Judicial Dialogue’, Allsop’s lecture gathered more than 200 guests. More than 50 international jurisdictions attended the two-day meeting, demonstrating a strong commitment to collaboration and the sharing of best practices among commercial courts.The ‘5th Full Meeting of the Standing International Forum of Commercial Courts (SIFoCC)’ served as an invaluable opportunity for representatives from courts across the globe to gather, exchange ideas, and discuss strategies for enhancing the effectiveness and efficiency of commercial dispute resolution.The meeting’s first day was highlighted by an official dinner hosted by the Qatar International Court and Dispute Resolution Centre (QICDRC) at the Museum of Islamic Art, with HE the Minister of Justice and Minister of State for Cabinet Affairs Ibrahim bin Ali al-Mohannadi welcoming all the delegates.Sir William Blair, chairman of QFC Regulatory Tribunal, said: “Let us remember that our shared commitment to excellence in commercial court practices not only benefits our respective jurisdictions but also contributes to a global environment of stability, prosperity, and the rule of law.”QICDRC CEO Faisal Rashid al-Sahouti said: “QICDRC is pleased to have concluded the ‘5th Full Meeting of the Standing International Forum of Commercial Courts’ and is committed to fostering international collaboration and sharing best practices in commercial dispute resolution. We are honoured to have welcomed all the representatives to Qatar and look forward to seeing the results of our productive discussions benefit businesses and markets worldwide.”Judge Khalid bin Ali al-Obaidly, president of the Investment and Trade Court, said: “The Standing International Forum of Commercial Courts was an opportunity for intellectual exchange and common judicial experiences, and I would like to emphasise the important role that this forum plays in enhancing international cooperation between commercial courts.“These gatherings contribute to refining and developing judicial systems, increasing the efficiency of procedures, and speeding up the resolution of cases, benefiting the investment and commercial environment not only in Qatar but also globally.”He added: “Furthermore, I extend a warm welcome to the delegations visiting the headquarters of the Investment and Trade Court. This visit fosters transparency and opens avenues for enhanced cooperation and mutual understanding. I am optimistic that this visit will deepen relations among judges and experts, fostering a more collaborative environment characterised by mutual respect and a shared commitment to elevating the standards of commercial and investment justice.”

Each Lusail Tram station contains a customer information centre, Travel Card vending machines, live digital service updates, separate male and female prayer facilities and restrooms that cater for people with mobility impairments.
New tram lines expected to spur local tourism growth

The recent opening of two more lines of the Lusail Tram is expected to spur “exponential growth” in local tourism, particularly within the vicinity of Lusail City, a Qatar Rail executive has said.Lusail City has been attracting thousands of local and international visitors in recent years as it is home to several touristic destinations, such as world-class malls and theme parks. It is also a hub for luxury residential homes, retail and food outlets, and offices for public and private sector entities.Only recently, Qatar Rail announced the launch of the Pink Line and the completion of all Orange Line stations. According to Qatar Rail, once the full tram network opens, it will connect various government offices, residential towers, leisure and sports facilities, avenues, marinas and other major attractions across Lusail City.Engineer Ahmed al-Saleh, senior director of the Lusail Tram Project at Qatar Rail, spoke to the media earlier and pointed out that the transport agency’s focus is on encouraging more people to utilise the tram, thus increasing ridership.Not only will this drive tourism growth in the Lusail area, but the expanded operations of the Lusail Tram will also help entice more people to relocate and live in Lusail City’s residential neighbourhood, al-Saleh emphasised.Engineer Jassim al-Ansari, chief of Programme Delivery at Qatar Rail, also said plans are in the pipeline to add tram links, similar to the Metro Link, to augment the transportation needs of the riding public.“A study, as well as preparations for a tram link, are being put in place. But this will always be subject to the number of ridership. In Lusail, particularly, we need to be more careful, and we need to know exactly where we can have more catchment of population and ridership to have effective operation of a tram link,” al-Ansari told Gulf Times.He added: “We are in favour of increasing ridership and encouraging more people from the surrounding neighbourhoods to use our network, considering that the Lusail Tram is also connected to the Doha Metro network.Ajlan Eid al-Enazi, chief of Strategy and Business Development at Qatar Rail, underscored the importance of both the Doha Metro and the Lusail Tram, saying both transport networks help the riding public save on travel time.Both networks also provide accessibility to key destinations, such as government offices, corporate buildings, commercial shops and malls, restaurants, and other tourism-related establishments.Citing Qatar Rail’s successful experience during the 2022 FIFA World Cup, al-Enazi said the Doha Metro and Lusail Tram served as a vital mode of transportation for many sports fans. He said both networks will continue to ferry passengers quickly and safely during future sporting events to be hosted in Qatar.

QDB CEO Abdulrahman Hesham al-Sowaidi.
QDB keen on building sustainable entrepreneurial ecosystem

Among its key objectives, Qatar Development Bank (QDB) is keen on building a sustainable, advanced ecosystem for entrepreneurship, chief executive officer Abdulrahman Hesham al-Sowaidi has said.Forging strategic collaborations, fostering technological infrastructure growth, and setting up successful incubators and hubs are among the key pillars QDB is seeking to utilise in building a sustainable entrepreneurial ecosystem, al-Sowaidi stated in an interview published in ‘The Business Year: Qatar 2024’.“Supporting the growth of a technological infrastructure and contributing to Qatar’s position as a centre of innovation through impactful partnerships are part of that roadmap,” stated al-Sowaidi, who noted the significance of collaborating with local and international partners, such as Microsoft, among others.He also said tech and software partnerships will enable startups to develop digital skills, as well as leverage cloud technology, Artificial Intelligence (AI), data analytics, and the Internet of Things (IoT) “to plan and launch successful and scalable businesses that are on par with rapidly growing innovative businesses around the world.”“We have had a long-term partnership between Ooredoo and Qatar Business Incubation Centre (QBIC), which has produced the Digital & Beyond incubator, helping entrepreneurs launch new technology-focused businesses in the country.“We have also launched other successful incubators across Qatar, including the creative hub Scale7, with M7 and Qatar Museums, as well as Qatar FinTech Hub (QFTH) with the support of Qatar Central Bank (QCB),” al-Sowaidi pointed out.He said QDB is also supporting the growth of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) through agreements signed with leading international entities, such as the Startup Genome and the World Trade Organisation (WTO).Similarly, QDB’s partnership with the Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MoCI) and the World Economic Forum (WEF) paved the way for the launch of the country’s Advanced Manufacturing Hub (AMHUB), al-Sowaidi noted.“We are highly optimistic about these partnerships, due to their benefit for entrepreneurs and the avenues they open for future collaborations, as well as the impact they will have on Qatar’s economic diversification goals,” he said.Al-Sowaidi said QDB is providing a wide range of initiatives and programmes that would help entrepreneurs develop their ideas, launch products, and access international markets.“For example, we are leading various business incubators and accelerators, including QBIC, QFTH, Scale7 Fashion & Design Incubator, Qatar SportsTech, and Jahiz industrial factories, which provide dedicated mentoring and coaching for aspiring entrepreneurs through our network of leading experts.“Our Export Development and Promotion Agency (Tasdeer) provides workshops for local SMEs to enhance their business know-how and improve their export operations. Tasdeer also enhances entrepreneurs’ exposure to international markets via our successful Go-Global programme, which supports local businesses participation in the most promising global exhibitions,” al-Sowaidi said.He added: “QDB’s partnership with educational institutions, such as Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU), for The Education City Innovative Entrepreneurship Programme, aligns with our three-pillar strategy of providing access to finance, access to capability, and access to local and international markets.“We also have long-standing Learning and Development collaborations in place with Qatar University and are the development partner of the University of Doha for Science and Technology (UDST), supporting the next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs. In addition, the Learning & Development Department provides a series of training courses and workshops focusing on digitisation, AI, supply chain, and others.”

Nasser al-Naama, Zumra Group founder.
'Qatar leverages tourism, ICT to diversify economy'

Qatar has made significant strides in enhancing two critical areas — tourism as well as Information and Communications Technology (ICT) — since the country’s successful hosting of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.“The Qatari government has shown commendable dedication to bolstering the country’s tourism sector, leveraging the global spotlight from hosting the World Cup,” Zumra Group founder Nasser al-Naama told Gulf Times.On the back of strategic investments in infrastructure, hospitality, and cultural attractions, al-Naama emphasised that Qatar has positioned itself as a premier destination for travellers worldwide.These initiatives also include expanding the capacity of the Hamad International Airport (HIA), developing world-class hotels, and promoting cultural events, which have contributed to the growth of Qatar’s tourism sector, al-Naama pointed out.Earlier this year, Qatar Tourism (QT) announced that Qatar had crossed the 4mn visitor mark in 2023, exceeding the annual numbers of the past five years. The latest figures highlighted the positive momentum of the World Cup and the country’s ongoing efforts and initiatives to promote its tourism sector, QT also stated.Figures previously released by QT had revealed that since the beginning of 2023, “Saudi Arabia (25.3% of total international arrivals) topped the list of visitors to Qatar, followed by India (10.4%), Germany (4.1%), the UK (3.9%), and Kuwait (3.5%). To date, 85% of visitors chose to arrive by air, followed by land (14%), and sea (1%).”Al-Naama also emphasised that Qatar has simultaneously recognised the pivotal role of ICT in driving economic diversification and innovation, citing the government’s launch of comprehensive digitalisation programmes aimed at modernising various sectors, fostering entrepreneurship, and empowering citizens through digital literacy initiatives.“Qatar’s massive investments in advanced telecommunications infrastructure, smart city projects, and digital government services underscore the country’s commitment to becoming a regional digital powerhouse,” he noted.According to al-Naama, the country’s private sector has also demonstrated readiness and enthusiasm to participate in government-led initiatives aimed at advancing the tourism and ICT sectors.“Businesses are eager to collaborate with the government in achieving Qatar’s vision for sustainable growth owing to the government’s supportive regulatory environment and incentives for private investment,” he said.Al-Naama also called for “continued dialogue and collaboration” between key players in the public and private sectors, which is essential in addressing any challenges and ensuring alignment with stakeholders’ needs, noting Zumra Group’s efforts in realising these objectives.He emphasised that Zumra Group is “deeply committed” to contributing to Qatar’s tourism sector and digitalisation journey through programmes, such as tourism enhancement and digitalisation initiatives.“Zumra is actively involved in promoting sustainable tourism practices and enhancing visitor experiences through innovative technology solutions. We are collaborating with local stakeholders to develop immersive digital platforms that showcase Qatar’s rich business environment attractions, ensuring chances and connections for investors,” he said.Al-Naama added: “Zumra is at the forefront of supporting Qatar’s digital transformation agenda. We are developing cutting-edge digital solutions to address various challenges across sectors, including e-commerce, education, healthcare, and government services. Through partnerships with local and international tech firms, Zumra aims to accelerate Qatar’s journey towards a knowledge-based economy.”