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Wednesday, April 17, 2024 | Daily Newspaper published by GPPC Doha, Qatar.
 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.
Ahmed Isse, co-founder of local fintech player, Dibsy
Business
‘FoodTech’, SportsTech’ in Qatar among anticipated startups in 2022, says fintech firm

While fintechs in Qatar have had a stellar year in 2021, startups in the ‘FoodTech’ and ‘SportsTech’ industries are among the companies that are expected to add value to the economy this year, according to an industry expert. Asked to give a forecast for tech startups’ performance in 2022, as well as for Qatar’s startup sector, including up and coming sectors being anticipated this year, Ahmed Isse, co-founder of local fintech player, Dibsy, told Gulf Times: “It was a big year for startups all over the world and not just in Qatar.” “The biggest sectors that we see growing are FoodTech, fintech, and SportsTech. And this is not only influenced by the pandemic but also other economic factors,” he also pointed out. Dibsy uses a simple payment API to offer multiple payment methods, helping businesses to accept payments through their website, apps, or messaging platform, said Isse. The fintech firm recently won the ‘Most Funded Startups in Qatar’ award during the ‘Digital Qatar Symposium & Awards 2021’ organised last month by Forbes Middle East. According to Isse, the Covid-19 pandemic has changed consumer behaviour, giving tech startups an opportunity to address the public’s needs using digital technology and other innovative ideas. With the recent surge in daily Covid-19 infection cases, more people are maximising the use of technology for their day-to-day needs. “People are spending more time online and are starting to take advantage of e-commerce when brick and mortar stores are closed. Startups in fintech and delivery, for example, helped feed the new needs that arose from the aforementioned behavioural changes,” Isse explained. Isse emphasised that the Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the pace of Qatar’s digital transformation, which is among the country’s priorities as part of the objectives of Qatar National Vision 2030. He stressed that the pandemic has also increased the need for lean startups, which, according to Isse, “are more agile and can thrive under rough circumstances.” He said, “We don't yet know how well-equipped startups are as the pandemic is still ongoing. Startups are, however, learning how to iterate quickly and improve their products and services when faced with challenges. As long as startups are building for customers and remain focused on their product, they can do well in the long run.” Isse also noted that the 2022 FIFA World Cup is a good business opportunity for startups in Qatar. But he cautioned that they must be quick in making the most of the event, which will run from November 21 to December 18. “Because the World Cup is a relatively short event, startups that have acquired the skills needed to iterate quickly will be able to do better under pressure and in short timeframes,” Isse added.

NUMOV CEO Helene Rang
Business
German delegation eyes business opportunities in Qatar’s multiple sectors

The German Near and Middle East Association (NUMOV) is aiming to explore investment opportunities available in different sectors in Qatar, NUMOV’s top executive has said. A business delegation from Germany is slated to arrive in Doha on January 16. The delegation’s meetings with different Qatari companies and other officials will run until January 17, NUMOV CEO Helene Rang told Gulf Times Monday. According to Rang, members of the delegation are keen to explore investment opportunities in the fields of biotechnology, food industry, education, renewable industry, logistics, security, defence, cable technology, and glass fibre, as well as further support for the upcoming FIFA World Cup this year. “We also aim to hold talks about an LNG terminal in Germany and discussions on special information technology (IT) solutions and chemical products, among other topics of interest,” Rang further explained. Rang emphasised that NUMOV is also bringing one businessman whose company is specialising in marketing for events such as the 2022 FIFA World Cup slated in Qatar by the end of the year. She said, “As Germany’s oldest and largest non-government organisation (NGO), we are keen to support bilateral business relations to the whole region. Qatar was always my personal main objective, namely to bring German and Qatari businesses together, and at the same time to involve German high-level technology in future Qatari development. “NUMOV was the very first NGO to bring German business to Doha 25 years ago. And we brought business delegations every year since then to support bilateral business relations.” Given the current health restrictions due to Covid-19, Rang said only a select few of NUMOV’s members will be holding meetings in Doha during the business trip. “As soon as the situation changes, we will again bring a delegation comprising 28 people to Doha,” she said. “But because of the coronavirus pandemic, NUMOV also wants to organise bilateral video meetings for each Qatari business representative who is interested in order to bring all delegation members into business partnerships with Doha. “In fact, German companies are ready to provide any products or services at the request of the Qatari side. Any bilateral video meeting could be organised within a short time. Interested companies in Qatar are encouraged to visit www.numov.de so we could organise bilateral meetings in Doha or via video conference,” she also said. Rang lauded the economic and legal reforms implemented by Qatar to increase foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows to the country. She emphasised that NUMOV has already informed “all companies in Germany about these reforms.” “These steps are very important for investments, as well as for Germany. It is the right way to attract foreign investments to Qatar,” explained Rang, adding that meetings in Doha will be organised for new businesses. “We are sure agreements will follow soon,” she noted.

Michael Javier, CWallet CEO and founder.
Business
Qatar startups perform well in 2021 amid disruptions and pandemic challenges, says tech entrepreneur

* Disruptions, Covid-19 challenges push growth in startup ideas in Qatar, says tech entrepreneur Startups in Qatar performed well in 2021 amid the disruptions and challenges arising from the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a Doha-based tech entrepreneur. Overall, 2021 was a great year for fellow tech startups in Qatar, as well as for the country’s startup ecosystem,” CWallet CEO and founder Michael Javier told Gulf Times Sunday. “I believe it has tripled the number of startups ideas and increased the number of founders that applied to different incubation centres because of the hype in the region. It also led to more appetite for first-time angel investors to test the waters,” he also said. While there were no major disruptions by startups in Qatar, Javier said the use of e-commerce and delivery platforms has increased their user base. “Startups’ user base will be increasing more and more. And I believe 2021 was the spark of the revolution, and the country could expect more this year,” Javier further pointed out. According to Javier, 2020 and 2021 provided startups in Qatar a wealth of experience to fine-tune their services and adapt to the situation, giving them more opportunities to cater to the needs of the market this year. “The past two years were learning curves for a majority of startups, including CWallet and other fintech and ‘edtech’ startups. It was also the year of establishing the core business and partnerships with various industry players in both the domestic and international scene. “This time around it’s all about generating sales and acquiring customers at all cost. I believe 2022 is the ‘Series A’ year for local startups in Qatar. This means the opportunity to raise funds will be achievable,” Javier stressed. He also emphasised that this learning curve and other experiences will play a significant role in their business operations this year, especially since Qatar is hosting the 2022 FIFA World Cup, which opens many potential opportunities to do business. “There’s a lot of opportunities this year and those early startup mistakes, learnings, and experiences will allow startups to diversify or pivot the way business models work, especially how to capitalise on the upcoming FIFA World Cup,” Javier noted. Asked to give a forecast on the performance of tech startups and Qatar's startup sector in 2022, as well as up and coming sectors, Javier said: “I believe the number of successful startups will drastically increase and more funding will flourish. More international players will come and try to acquire local startups, as well. I believe mobility, ‘edtech’, and fintech will be in high demand.” Javier said that in the first quarter of this year, CWallet will announce major partnerships, including the closing of the company’s Pre-Series A. “Hopefully in the coming weeks, we will be part of Qatar Central Bank’s sandbox programme as we enhance our mobile money wallet, which will be providing payment and remittance services.” “Moreover, towards the first week of February 2022, we shall be realising ‘CShop Web’ – one of the biggest digital marketplaces in the region. Also, by end of the third quarter, we are aiming to penetrate in GCC and Asia regions in providing various services to expat-oriented countries,” Javier said.

Ukraine ambassador Andrii Kuzmenko
Business
Ukraine envoy lauds ‘positive trend’ in trade co-operation with Qatar

Ukraine’s top diplomat in Qatar is attaching “great importance” to the development of the Eastern European nation’s trade and economic co-operation with the Gulf country, which he describes as a “reliable partner in the Gulf region.” “Ukraine is very satisfied with the intensification of its bilateral economic co-operation with Qatar. It is important to maintain the positive dynamics of economic dialogue,” ambassador Andrii Kuzmenko told Gulf Times Saturday. He said, “I have the pleasure to point out a noticeable increase in the overall trade between our countries from 2017 to 2021. In 2020, the total trade turnover between Ukraine and Qatar significantly outperformed the figures of 2019 ($82.26mn) and amounted to $139.15mn. That sounds promising but still far from both sides’ ambitions and potential.” In the first 10 months of 2021, Kuzmenko said, Qatar and Ukraine were able to “preserve a positive trend towards bilateral trade in goods” despite certain changes in trade policy aimed at combating the spread of Covid-19. “In particular, during January-October 2021, the total volume of Ukrainian-Qatari trade in goods amounted to $151.86mn. The volume of Ukrainian exports amounted to $138.25mn, and Qatar supplied our country during this period goods worth $13.60mn. The positive balance is $124.65mn,” Kuzmenko said. Kuzmenko also lauded the further strengthening of Qatar-Ukraine economic and political bilateral relations, citing the meetings of Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and His Highness the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani. Kuzmenko earlier noted that Ukraine is becoming “more and more attractive” for foreign business, citing the country’s “great” potential and extensive domestic market, favourable geographical location, skilled manpower, scientific potential, and developed infrastructure. “I am really glad to see an increase of interest in the Ukrainian market from Qatar's investors,” said Kuzmenko. On the occasion of Qatar National Day, which was celebrated last month, Kuzmenko told Qatar News Agency that “despite a challenging 2021, we are extremely proud of the multifaceted partnership we have developed with the State of Qatar in various areas. “Undoubtedly, the most prominent example is that the President of Ukraine and His Highness the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani have managed to meet twice and discuss the topics of great importance for both the countries. In Ukraine, we do value our relations and partnership with such an important regional and international player.” According to Kuzmenko, he is hopeful that the positive trajectory in Qatar-Ukraine bilateral relations will continue and that both countries’ “multidimensional co-operation” will yield “generous fruits.”

Saleh bin Hamad al-Sharqi, Qatar Chamber general manager.
Business
Qatar Chamber official underscores SME contribution to GDP growth

Qatar’s small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) sector’s contribution to GDP growth has been steadily increasing, according to Qatar Chamber general manager Saleh bin Hamad al-Sharqi, citing local SMEs’ “remarkable growth in the past few years.” “Qatar attaches substantial interest to the development of the country’s SMEs to keep pace with the effective economic policies adopted by the State within the framework of Qatar National Vision 2030,” al-Sharqi said in the latest edition of Al Moltaqa, Qatar Chamber’s monthly economic magazine. Al-Sharqi explained that this approach is also part of a comprehensive vision and well-defined plans to diversify sources of income, and to gradually move from an oil-based economy to a diversified, knowledge-based economy, in which SMEs play a pivotal role. “To support SMEs, the state sought to provide an appropriate environment for these businesses by enacting laws and legislations, and implementing measures that would stimulate the establishment of such enterprises. “It also strived to facilitate the establishment of finance procedures for these businesses, while boosting the competitiveness between entrepreneurs and business owners to achieve more quality and efficiency,” al-Sharqi pointed out. To achieve this goal, al-Sharqi said Qatar Chamber has been working with business owners to encourage them to invest in the SME sector. He said the chamber is also seeking to attract foreign direct investment (FDI) inflow into this sector, especially in businesses that depend on advanced technologies. “SMEs are the real engines of the modern economy and represent about 95% of the total number of companies worldwide. Therefore, the development of this sector in Qatar will reflect positively on the economy,” he said. Al-Sharqi added: “As part of Qatar Chamber's interest to support SMEs, it biennially holds its SMEs Conference. Through this conference, the chamber aims to stimulate investments in SMEs and promote the development of these businesses, especially that Qatar provides advanced infrastructure, legislation, and laws that stimulate investments, as well as economic and logistic zones and free zones that offer a myriad of investment opportunities and represent a fertile environment for the growth of SMEs.”

CWallet CEO and founder Michael Javier.
Business
Qatar OFWs to get financial services access via CWallet-PLDT partnership

CWallet, Qatar’s "first and only" mobile application to facilitate banking via blockchain technology, has teamed up with PLDT, the Philippines’ largest fully integrated telco, to help Filipinos in Qatar and in the Middle East get access to financial services. CWallet is an innovative financial services app created by Qatar-based fintech startup, C Wallet Services. The startup will be officially announcing its successful investment round “by the first quarter of 2022 or earlier,” CWallet CEO and founder Michael Javier told Gulf Times yesterday. According to the PLDT website, CWallet enables PLDT’s international arm PLDT Global Corporation (PGC) access to e-commerce platforms or digital marketplaces and allow purchases online even without having a bank account or a credit card. The partnership also allows users to conveniently send cross-border payments and remittances. Under this partnership, over 300,000 overseas Filipinos in Qatar would be able to tap CWallet’s Filipino-centric digital products and services, such as mobile load, electronic gifts, gaming pins, and bills payment through PGC’s digital platform, Vortex. The service will also soon expand to the rest of the Middle East and in Africa, the website further stated. CWallet is a fintech startup incubated by the Digital Incubation Centre (DIC) under the then Ministry of Transport and Communications, and is funded by the Qatar Science and Technology Park’s (QSTP) Product Development Programme, as well as the Qatar Business Incubation Centre (QBIC), a Qatar Development Bank (QDB) initiative. Javier said: “It is our mission to empower and enable individuals in the region by giving solutions to low-income and unbanked migrant workers, allowing them to access financial services that are currently unavailable to them. Both CWallet and PLDT Global share the same values in providing the best services to OFWs in the Middle East and the rest of the world.” “Now more than ever, we strive to remain at the forefront of keeping overseas Filipinos closer to home through technology. This partnership with CWallet allows us to bridge the distance between our kababayans and their families in the Philippines with digital solutions that help them take care of their loved ones even from afar,” said Albert V Villa-Real, president and CEO at PLDT Global. According to PLDT, this initiative is part of a broader PLDT programme aligned to help the country achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goal No 9: Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure, and underscores the company’s focus area of connecting Filipinos everywhere. Caption: CWallet CEO and founder Michael Javier

Tawfeeq Travel Group CEO Rehan Ali Syed.
Qatar
Domestic excursions in Qatar held under strict safety protocols, says travel industry exec

Tourists arriving in Qatar via cruise ships are set for excursions across different destinations in the country but under strict health and safety protocols, a travel agency executive has said. “The cruise season has started under very stringent protocols by Qatar Tourism. We are quite excited to see the big ships back in Doha,” Tawfeeq Travel Group CEO Rehan Ali Syed told Gulf Times. Syed noted that cruise passengers arriving to Qatar have a wide selection of destinations to visit while visiting the country. He said all tourism-related activities in Qatar “are going as planned” in the wake of the successful conclusion of the FIFA Arab Cup 2021. “There are several other activities lined up, such as the Turkish Super Cup final, adventure trips to Purple Island and the Doha Quest indoor theme park, apart from national attractions like National Museum of Qatar, Al Shaqab Equestrian Centre, and traditional Souq Waqif tour, among many others. At Tawfeeq Holidays, we offer 19 different excursions for our cruise passengers,” he explained. The Qatar Tourism website stated that the highlights of the 2021-22 cruise season include a total of 65 confirmed calls, nine instances where Doha Port will dock two ships at a time, 11 cruise ships making their maiden voyages, 11 turnaround voyages, and nine ships staying overnight at Doha Port.” “This will allow cruise visitors ample time to explore the destination’s travel, hospitality, and retail promotions during the season. Turnaround voyages will start and end their journey from Doha Port for the duration of the cruise season,” it added. Asked if travel agencies are working with health authorities to ensure that staff members are fully-vaccinated, Syed said: “We are all somehow connected with MoPH to ensure all our staff are vaccinated because health and safety are of prime importance.” He said, “We ensure that every week deep fogging is done in our head office, and our branches are sprayed with disinfectant on regular basis. In fact, since we do ground handling of some cruise ships, we ensure that apart from passengers being vaccinated we completely sanitise their bags before they are loaded in the cruise ship to minimise any kind of viral infection.” Syed added: “We have very stringent rules in place for all the passengers joining the cruise or going for shore excursions. The cruise liners are made aware of the rules in advance to ensure seamless operations. Any passenger who is joining from Qatar but is not vaccinated and without proper PCR test cannot enter the cruise; the same protocol applies for the shore excursion passenger arriving from the cruise – he or she has to be vaccinated with a negative PCR test.” Qatar Tourism’s website also stated that “cruise tourism came to a halt due to the pandemic, terminating by the end of February 2020. To assuage concerns, the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) has put in place special protocols for travellers arriving to or from Qatar on cruise ships.”

Avneet Kaur, 360 Nautica startup programme manager.
Business
Online portal aims for unified startup ecosystem in Qatar

A newly-established online portal is aiming to bring together stakeholders and enablers in the country to further enhance the growth and development of Qatar’s startup ecosystem. According to 360 Nautica startup programme manager Avneet Kaur, ‘Doha Startups’ is a one-stop platform for startups in Qatar, which aims to make the country “one of the startup-friendly nations in the Mena region and worldwide. “Doha Startups is a community that we’re building; it is a one-stop platform for startups in Qatar. My plan for the coming years, especially for 2022, is to put Qatar in the top 30 list of startup-friendly nations in the Mena region or globally. “Currently, Dubai is running at number 11 in the list. They’ve jumped 10-11 spots and they’re the only city in the whole Mena region that is on the startup gnome list, which is published every year. So, the plan is to make Doha Startups a stepping stone to achieving that position,” Kaur told Gulf Times. The Doha Startups website explains that the portal was designed to be “Qatar's largest online platform” for startups, investors, incubators, accelerators, mentors, and other ecosystem enablers. “Doha Startups is powered by 360 Nautica, which is a venture and a growth capital platform with a focus on helping entrepreneurs to grow from an idea stage to a self-sustainable organisation. “The objective is to create possibilities for collaboration and partnerships between different entities. Anyone will be able to access a wealth of free resources and participate in the many programmes that will be accessible through the platform,” it also stated. Kaur pointed out that bringing together stakeholders in the public and private sectors would help propel the country’s startup sector into the global spotlight, thus giving entrepreneurs access to different business opportunities abroad. The Doha Startups website also stated that “the portal will continue to evolve and be a platform where startups can have detailed and complete profiles that will be a paid service in the near future. This will be a premium service that will create a gateway for startups in Qatar to be visible to the region and the rest of the world and connect with investors and partners.” Kaur added: “Interested parties can log on to our platform, which is already live…we launched the platform earlier in 2021; we are changing day by day, and we are adding more features to the platform to make things easier for people, especially the ecosystem enablers to utilise it.”

Hefzi Malhis, partnerships manager at Innovation Cafu00e9.
Business
Qatar caps 2021 with ‘exponential growth’ in digital transformation, says industry expert

The State of Qatar witnessed in 2021 an “exponential growth” in the acceleration of digital transformation, particularly in its startup and entrepreneurial ecosystem amid the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. According to Hefzi Malhis, partnerships manager at Innovation Café, 2021 was a good year for tech startups, especially for companies that were “responsive and active” at the height of the pandemic. “Though it is unfortunate that the pandemic forced many startups to close shop, a lot of them, nonetheless, experienced growth despite the situation because they changed their business model very quickly to adapt and overcome the challenges in the market,” Malhis told Gulf Times. Malhis said many entrepreneurs were discouraged to continue after experiencing failures in their respective businesses at the height of the pandemic in 2020 forcing them to shut down operations. “What people do not understand is that for startups the return on investments is very high. But it is also all about risk and failure. There must be room for failure because if you don’t fail, that means you’re not trying something new; there will be no progress. Failure is a very important part of the process,” Malhis explained. He further said: “For startups that changed their business model, going digital helped saved their companies and businesses because the disruption caused by the pandemic had changed the mindset of people, making them realise that in the current situation there is no other way but to go digital and to go online. “As more companies are leveraging e-commerce, many tech startups are doing much better now than before the pandemic. The Covid-19 crisis really helped accelerate the digital transformation of many businesses. People now know the worth of digital technology.” According to Malhis, while there are still a lot of uncertainties going forward, the experiences gained by entrepreneurs in 2021 “will encourage the growth of more startups this 2022.” Malhis said Innovation Café aims to conduct a series of events this year in the fields of fintech and ‘health tech’, among others. Also in the pipeline is a plan to hold another hackathon by mid-January. He said the ‘E-Commerce Hackthon’, a first-of-its-kind in Qatar organised by Innovation Café last November, solicited a “positive response” from industry stakeholders and major sponsors, who are calling for the staging of more similar initiatives this 2022. E-Commerce Hackathon attracted the participation of innovative entrepreneurs from Qatar and nine Arab countries during the event, which was aimed at encouraging innovation and crowdsourcing solutions to address, nurture, and launch the latest innovation opportunities in the e-commerce industry. In an earlier statement, Innovation Cafe founder Ramzan al-Naimi said: “We were honoured to host the first-ever e-commerce hackathon in the State of Qatar. We received more than 300 applications and after the assessment and ideas evaluation, we shortlisted over 100 applicants from all backgrounds from 10 countries to participate both virtually and in person at Qatar Science & Technology Park. “Our biggest aim of organising this hackathon was to come up with cutting-edge solutions in the e-commerce sector that could become the next billion-dollar Qatari-based unicorns.”

(From left) Agata Braja moderating the panel discussion by Ariane Gibert, Khaled al-Adba, and Swapan Saha.
Qatar
Startup Grind hosts forum on Qatar’s evolving startup ecosystem

Winners of a recently held ‘hackathon’ have lauded major entities in the public and private sector for their key role in the development and growth of the country's start-up ecosystem during a panel discussion organised by Startup Grind Doha. Titled ‘Qatar’s Growing Startup Ecosystem – The Hackathon Narrative’, the discussion revolved around the experiences of Ariva and Magaia at the ‘E-commerce Hackathon’, a first-of-its-kind competition in Doha organised last month by Innovation Café. Placing third in the hackathon, Ariane Gibert, founder of Magaia, and second place winners, Swapan Saha and Khaled al-Adba, CEO and CMO of Ariva, respectively, led the panel discussion, which was moderated by Agata Braja, UI/UX designer at Qatar Foundation. “Last month, we were really excited about Innovation Cafe's E-Commerce Hackathon because 360 Nautica and Startup Grind were strategic partners of the event. This month, we would like the winners to share post-event updates with the participants. What is the story after that? “We are happy to learn that after the hackathon, the winners, such as Magaia and Ariva, are being incubated in different places and that a lot of funding is in the pipeline for them,” 360 Nautica Startup Programme manager Avneet Kaur told Gulf Times on the sidelines of the event. The panel of experts all agreed that government ministries and organisations, such as Qatar Development Bank (QDB), Tasmu, Qatar Science and Technology Park (QSTP), and Qatar Business Incubation Centre (QBIC), as well as leading companies in the private sector, have played a significant role in supporting the growth and development of the country’s entrepreneurship culture and startup ecosystem. During the panel discussion, Gibert, who is a marketing expert with a demonstrated history in digital marketing and content creation, and the founder of the circular fashion platform, ‘Souqti’, explained her project Magaia, which is a blockchain solution that tracks the provenance and carbon footprint of clothing items. On the other hand, al-Adba, a Reliability engineer at Qatar Shell with over 10 years of experience in the oil and gas industry, stressed that Qatar is making its mark in the region’s startup sector. He also underscored the rapid development Qatar has achieved in the entrepreneurship and startup scene in the past 10 to 15 years. Saha explained the importance of joining competitions, such as the E-Commerce Hackathon, and the experiences that the participants would gain from the activities, as well as the valuable advice offered by mentors, who are veterans in their respective fields of expertise. According to Kaur, Startup Grind Doha’s previous in-person event was held prior to the Covid-19 pandemic in February 2020. “From January 2022, we are looking forward to continue hosting in-person events for Startup Grind Doha with the proper health and safety precautions in place.” Kaur also announced plans by ‘Doha Startups’ – a newly-established one-stop platform for startups in Qatar. Doha Startups also aims to make Qatar “one of the startup-friendly nations in the Mena region and worldwide,” she noted.

Tawfeeq Travel Group CEO Rehan Ali Syed.
Qatar
Educate people on Omicron to help keep infection rates low, says travel agency exec

Stakeholders in the travel and tourism sector are supporting health experts in their call for community members to take the booster dose, an industry official has stressed, citing the importance of educating tourists on Covid-19, particularly the Omicron variant. “We all are morally responsible for the safety of our travelers, hence we have to educate them about the Covid-19 booster vaccination, which is recommended by the Ministry of Public Health’s (MoPH),” Tawfeeq Travel Group CEO Rehan Ali Syed told Gulf Times Tuesday. He stressed: “I completely endorse and urge the same to all citizens and residents to take the flu shot along with the booster dose. We have to promote health and safety as a priority amongst all in Qatar. As time passes, vaccinated people become less protected, which is why doctors are asking people to get a booster dose.” Syed also cautioned the public to verify reports, especially those circulating on social media to avoid creating panic and misinformation. “All information needs to be validated from the right source, which is MoPH. The WHO has announced that this variant is considerably weak than the delta variant. Though the majority of the population in Qatar has been vaccinated, we should still be cautious and abide by MoPH guidelines to enjoy the outings and get-togethers,” Syed explained. According to Syed, the Omicron variant has affected airline operations worldwide. There has been major flight cancellations across US and Europe.” This, however, “did not create a major impact with our passengers,” he emphasised. Syed said, “Due to the high vaccination rate in Qatar, it is much safer here. The stringent rules applied in Qatar ensure the safety of the people. On the impact of the pandemic on the travel and tourism industry, Syed said markets have been “on recovery mode since the summer of this year.” However, regular changes or revisions of the list of countries from ‘Green’ to ‘Red’ and ‘Ultra-red’ “have created major uncertainty amongst travellers,” he pointed out. Syed further explained: “With this new variant, we had major cancellations of bookings as most of the families booked to travel for winter cancelled their plans. It is very difficult to suggest or recommend any other place because you are not sure if there will be sudden changes in the Green Zone and some countries might get downgraded depending on the rate of infections. “Nevertheless, for some of our travellers who decided to go ahead with their plans, we strongly recommended having the booster dose, as well as the flu shot in order to avoid any critical illness pertaining to the coronavirus and its variant.”

Qatar Chamber chairman Sheikh Khalifa bin Jassim al-Thani.
Business
Private sector is a priority to the Amir, says Qatar Chamber official

Qatar Chamber chairman Sheikh Khalifa bin Jassim al-Thani has ensured that the country’s private sector will continue its role as an engine of economic growth and “a real contributor to the country’s development march.” Sheikh Khalifa made the statement in light of His Highness the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani’s “high regard” for the private sector, particularly during his speech at the inauguration of Shura Council’s 50th annual session. “In his speeches before the Shura Council, His Highness the Amir always refers to the private sector and its role in economic activity,” Sheikh Khalifa stated in the latest edition of Al Moltaqa, the chamber’s monthly economic magazine. Sheikh Khalifa stressed that the Amir’s speeches reflect “his interest and keenness to develop the private sector, enhance its role in the economic development, and increase its contribution to achieving the goals of Qatar National Vision 2030.” “There is no doubt that the wise leadership's insightful vision is of a great advantage to the development of the national economy, and at the same time stresses the key role of the private sector as a basic pillar of the economy, especially that the private sector has been able to make remarkable achievements in all sectors during the Covid-19 pandemic. Thanks to this support, the private sector has successfully been able to overcome the pandemic's negative repercussions and return to its normal state,” said Sheikh Khalifa. He noted that the Amir’s speech at the 50th annual session of the Shura Council has summed up the state’s milestones in the previous period and laid a roadmap for the country’s future based on the objectives of Qatar National Vision 2030. “The speech reiterated His Highness the Amir's continuous support and interest on the role performed by the private sector as a genuine partner in the inclusive development march Qatar is witnessing,” he emphasised. Qatar’s economy “gained confidence” following many achievements in various sectors, Sheikh Khalifa pointed out, citing the “notable position and high ranks” that Qatar occupies in many global competitiveness indicators. Sheikh Khalifa said: “His Highness the Amir's emphasis on the progress made by the state in regards with the economic diversification, the participation of the private sector in mega projects, and the progress achieved towards building a knowledge-based economy, stressed the soundness of policies adopted by the state to diversify the economy in the presence of a sophisticated infrastructure, stimulating economic legislations, and attractive investment climate.” He added: “In fact, these accomplishments would not have been possible without these sound policies that facilitated ease of doing businesses, enhanced competition, and encouraged foreign investments. These policies also contributed to a privileged position for the national economy globally, enabling it to attract major international companies to invest in Qatar.”

QDB acting CEO Abdulrahman Hesham al-Sowaidi.
Business
Qatar’s entrepreneurial activity up in 2020 despite Covid-19 impact, says QDB official

Amid the challenging impact of Covid-19 on many businesses, the pandemic has also led to an increase in Qatar’s entrepreneurial activity, according to Qatar Development Bank (QDB) acting CEO Abdulrahman Hesham al-Sowaidi. “The pandemic showed us that some entrepreneurs have the resources to be resilient and thrive, while others have seen their existing challenges and barriers accelerate and exacerbated, further restricting their chances of success,” al-Sowaidi stated in the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) Qatar National Report 2020. Published this year, the report “is the most comprehensive study of the level of entrepreneurial activity in Qatar,” said al-Sowaidi, who added that QDB is the lead institution responsible for Qatar’s participation in GEM 2020. Adults in Qatar have “a very positive attitude” towards entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship, GEM 2020 results highlighted. It stressed that the potential for entrepreneurship is evident in the large proportion of the population who consider entrepreneurship “a desirable career choice” and believe entrepreneurs are well regarded and enjoy a high level of social status and respect. The positive societal attitude towards entrepreneurship plays an important role in building a healthy pipeline of prospective entrepreneurs in the country, it further stated. “In 2020, Qatar has experienced an increase in entrepreneurial activity despite the unprecedented impact Covid-19 has had on the global economy. The proportion of adults involved in early-stage entrepreneurship in Qatar has steadily increased since 2017, and the rate of established business ownership has reached an all-time high since the benchmark study was conducted in 2016. “In addition, the rate of entrepreneurial employee activity has nearly doubled since 2019. As entrepreneurial activity in Qatar is rising, the rate of business discontinuance is declining,” stated the report. It also stated that the coronavirus pandemic has led to a “drastic shift” in consumer behaviour and has created a “lasting ripple effect” on businesses from all industries. The short-term behaviours of consumers coping with this crisis are likely to have a long-term impact on business models, partnerships, and the competitive landscape. “The GEM 2020 results highlight that Qatar’s entrepreneurs are evolving and innovating to meet growing customer demands in the post-pandemic world. One in two early-stage entrepreneurs and two-thirds of established business owners agree that Covid-19 has provided new opportunities that they would like to pursue with their business. “One in every four adults surveyed in the Adult Population Survey (APS) knows of someone in Qatar who has started a business because of the coronavirus pandemic. Over half of the adults with entrepreneurial intentions report that Covid-19 has influenced their expectations around starting a business,” stated the report. It added: “Qatar’s government has taken an active role in providing support to new and established businesses during the pandemic – eight in 10 entrepreneurs agree the Qatar government has responded effectively to the economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic. “One in every four established business owners in Qatar have received or expect to receive financial support from the government because of Covid-19. Furthermore, over a quarter of early-stage entrepreneurs in Qatar feel it is easier to start a business now when compared to before the pandemic.”

Qatar Chamber first vice-chairman Mohamed bin Towar al-Kuwari.
Business
Major sport events offer economic gains for Qatar’s private sector, says chamber executive

The successful staging of major sports events like the 2021 FIFA Arab Cup has triggered a “positive economic impact,” especially among stakeholders in Qatar's private sector, a top Qatar Chamber official has said. Qatar Chamber first vice-chairman Mohamed bin Towar al-Kuwari stressed that hosting sporting events not only puts the country under the international spotlight but also attracts many tourists, creating a ‘trickledown effect’ on the local economy. “There is a lot of movement seen in different sectors in the country, such as hospitality, travel and tourism, services, transportation, food and beverage (F&B), commercial and retail, and even contracting services, among others because of the influx of many visitors who will watch these events,” al-Kuwari told Gulf Times yesterday. He said: “In all directions, it is very positive, which is why we need to continue hosting more sporting events, considering that the negative effect of the Covid-19 pandemic on the country has been successfully managed by the government.” Al-Kuwari emphasised that the recent conclusion of the FIFA Arab Cup 2021 provided Qatar a wealth of experience, making it well-prepared to host the FIFA World Cup next year. “The achievements made during the FIFA Arab Cup will reflect the success that we are anticipating for the World Cup in 2022. This recent sports event has enhanced Qatar’s confidence to deliver a world-class sports event and spectacular fan experience next year. Qatar is very much ready to host the World Cup,” he noted. According to al-Kuwari, Qatar Chamber supports the Ministry of Sports and Youth and the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC), as well as other government authorities concerned, to guarantee the success of their respective projects. “The chamber has several different committees catering to all sectors in the economy. For example, these committees work hand-in-hand with the authorities concerned to assure food security, the availability of hotels, and access to transportation, among others. Al-Kuwari noted that the private sector has a significant part in achieving Qatar’s goal to become a sports hub or a regional sports destination. “So, the private sector is not only benefiting from the trickledown effect when sports competitions are held in Qatar, but it is actually supporting and playing a huge role in ensuring that all the needed requirements are met to guarantee the success of these events, such as the upcoming 2022 FIFA World Cup,” al-Kuwari explained. He added: “As it was proven in recent years when Qatar was facing different crises, the private sector has stepped up to support the government in meeting the needs of the economy, as well as the needs of the country’s citizens and residents. Qatar Chamber and the private sector have always been the government’s partners for development.”

Dr Mohamed Althaf, director, LuLu Group International, delivering a speech. PICTURE: Shaji Kayamkulam.
Qatar
LuLu to put premium on health, wellness, says Althaf

Not only is LuLu cementing its reputation as an environment-conscious company that strongly advocates sustainable development, but it is also Qatar’s partner in promoting sports, as well as an active and healthy lifestyle, a top official has said. Dr Mohamed Althaf, director, LuLu Group International, was referring to the Abu Sidra Mall, which houses LuLu’s “biggest and most innovative hypermarket in Qatar.” The hypermarket, LuLu’s 15th store in Qatar, opened to the public in September. “This mall is complete, so we plan to fully open it by January 2022. This shopping mall is focusing on health, wellness, and fitness, as well as sustainability. It is a sports and wellness-themed establishment, hence people will find a wide variety of products and services that promote a healthy lifestyle,” he noted. According to Althaf, the Abu Sidra Mall will not only feature different stores connected to fitness and wellness, but it will also boast of wellness clinics, yoga studio, and gyms for both ladies and gents. “But aside from these, the mall will also offer amenities for entertainment sections and family fashion brands,” noted Althaf. He said, “We are not aggressively looking for high-profile brands but rather brands that we believe will fit in the theme of our shopping mall. The stores will offer a lot of ‘healthy brands’ and sports apparel. “A large area is dedicated for sports and entertainment, where a lot of activities could be held, especially for the kids. Around the shopping mall, we have a jogging track that caters to the health-conscious and for those looking for an area to exercise and get fit,” explained Althaf, who noted that “the majority of the spaces in the mall have already been leased out.” Harun Kadri, Leasing & Mall manager, said the Abu Sidra Mall is almost 75% leased, offering “very premium brands.” With the presence of LuLu’s hypermarket spanning 24,000sqm, he said customer footfall may reach as high as almost “10,000 visitors on weekends,” and around “8,000 people daily” on weekdays. In an earlier statement, LuLu Group chairman and managing director Yusuffali M A stressed that the hypermarket reaffirms the group’s confidence “in the vision and energy of Qatar’s leadership and part of a global expansion plan that has already put the group in the Deloitte Top 150 list of Global Retailers for 2021.” In a previous interview with Gulf Times, Althaf stressed that LuLu Group is seeking to reduce its carbon footprint by 50% by 2030 as part of its sustainable development initiatives. As a retail outlet pioneering in sustainable development in Qatar, Althaf said all new LuLu outlets in the country are based on the principle of sustainability. “Our strategy is very clear that at least by 2030 all our carbon footprint should be reduced by 50%, and by 2050, we definitely want to become net-zero and to become carbon neutral,” he emphasised. Ends    

Vodafone Qatar chief operations officer Diego Camberos. PICTURE: Shaji Kayamkulam
Business
‘Together We Can’ initiative takes Vodafone Qatar to greater heights, says COO

Vodafone Qatar has launched its ‘Together We Can’ campaign, which reflects the company’s commitment to Qatar in overcoming all the challenges the world and the country have faced in the last few years. It is also geared at supporting the Qatar National Vision 2030. In this exclusive one-on-one interview with Gulf Times, chief operations officer Diego Camberos discusses Vodafone Qatar’s shift from a telco to ‘techco’, as well as the three pillars upon which the campaign is founded. Camberos also discusses a first in Qatar – Vodafone’s breakthrough in the millimetre wave (mmWave) 5G trial and what this means to the millions of fans arriving in Qatar for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. What is Vodafone Qatar’s ‘Together We Can’ campaign? Camberos: “‘Together We Can’ is a summary of what we’ve been focused on over the last three years. A lot has changed over the years, with the pandemic adding complexity to that change so the world adapted. And that’s exactly what we have done: we have adapted. “We have combined technology and the human spirit; this is a winning combination in order to turn challenges into opportunities. This is Vodafone’s guiding principle. ‘Together We Can’ represents a big change for us – moving from being just a telecommunications company to using technology for a purpose.” Please elaborate further on the campaign’s three pillars: innovations, sports, and sustainability “We launched ‘Together We Can’ on November 1, 2021, where we highlight how technology turns challenges into achievement across sports, innovation, and technology. In sports, we are committed to promoting a healthier society, as well as enhancing the sports industry by offering innovative solutions to help organisers and participants better connect and have exceptional experiences. We’ve been keen to be more involved in various sports, especially those with a strong following here in Qatar. For instance, we’ve been sponsoring a host of padel tournaments in Qatar, which are popular, promoting a healthy lifestyle in our communities. We’re also involved with many other sports such as golf, volleyball, and horse riding, where we look to continue our support of the health and well-being of Qatar’s population moving into 2022. “In terms of innovation, we continuously look for opportunities for technology to fuel better outcomes. For example, we just trialled our new millimetre wave (mmWave) technology – this is the evolution of 5G. That’s a great example of how we’re innovating and how we’re evolving; using our investment in 5G to boost network capacity and speeds with the aim of providing new functionality for businesses and consumers. Other examples of our recent innovation include our range of solutions and support services for Qatar’s SMEs, through our state-of-the-art Internet of Things (IoT) technologies that revolutionise the way they do business. “On sustainability, we believe in the importance of preserving the planet for future generations. Our green initiatives and partnerships provide the technologies to enable the development of innovative solutions that will reshape the future. We have a range of IoT products, such as Fleet Management and Asset Tracking, as well as those for the agriculture and manufacturing sectors, among others. We worked with Kahramaa for a big project in which we are using our narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) network to digitise their information systems. We have also powered a range of green solutions, including the Msheireb Smart City project via our high-speed 5G coverage. Our goal is to be at the forefront of providing sustainable innovative solutions to industries around the country.” Please explain Vodafone Qatar’s transitional journey from a telco to ‘techco.’ “We call it ‘techco’ - this essentially encompasses all digital technologies. For instance, before it was all about minutes and voice calls. But now it is about data - we are tapping into the new normal and data has become so important to people. “The amount of data that people are using now is five times more than it was five years ago, so we have to adapt to this and find new ways to serve the customer’s needs. We don’t think like a telecommunications company anymore but rather, we think like a digital company. “For us, we’re testing new technologies all the time and combining them with the human spirit, all to fuel a world that adapts and achieves. We’re also very focused on simplification; the simpler the better so that in three clicks you can get a simple solution to a problem, for example.” Will this journey lead to adding more to Vodafone Qatar’s portfolio of solutions and services? “Yes. That never stops. We are a very customer-centric organisation, so new products and services will always come, especially in digital. Our app is evolving every day and we want everything to be simple and related to our app. We want to digitalise as much as we can to bring more value to our customers, so we are adding more products and services based on our customers’ needs, such as more mobile plans, IoT, fibre rollout, and 5G services.” What is the current status of Vodafone Qatar’s 5G rollout in Qatar, and what is the value of the company’s investments to extend its 5G footprint in the country? “In the last three years, we have poured more than QR1.5bn worth of investment into Vodafone Qatar’s advanced network. During that time, the number of Vodafone outdoor and indoor mobile sites in Qatar has increased by over 35%. For competitive reasons, we don't disclose details of our 5G itself exactly. However, it is evident that our network is growing every day. In our last campaign, we clearly saw see a huge difference in our network compared to two years ago. “And in the last three years, our network grew by around 47% due to our investments not only in 5G but also in our fibre rollout, which gives our customers access to fixed lines across the country. “This year, Vodafone Qatar has continued to lead the development of 5G - the next generation of mobile connectivity which brings faster speeds, increased network capacity and lower latency levels. 70% of Qatar’s population can now access Vodafone’s 5G network. As well as mobile technology, Vodafone Qatar’s GigaHome 5G has allowed customers to be among the first in the world to connect their homes with 5G.” Following the progress in your 5G rollout, what benefits would this offer to your customers and to FIFA World Cup fans? “Today, we are providing world-class services on 5G and across our network. If you look into the CRA reports and how we rank on Internet penetration, connectivity, and speed, we're up there. That shows that as a network, Vodafone is world-class. “Vodafone’s GigaNet network is now bigger, faster and stronger than ever before, and it will facilitate a fantastic experience for football fans in Qatar that are enjoying the game either at home or in stadiums. We haven't stopped our rollout yet, so between now and the World Cup next year, we will continue to keep improving our network. “We have recently launched and enhanced our new Network Operations Centre (NOC) in Lusail. The centre is a key part of our operational excellence strategy and contributions to the Qatar National Vision 2030 by enhancing the country’s digital infrastructure to drive digital transformation. Vodafone’s NOC also uses emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and automation, as well as other best industry practices and tools to ensure that the Vodafone GigaNet network is available to customers at all times” Only recently, Vodafone has completed Qatar’s first successful trial on the millimetre wave (mmWave) spectrum. How will Vodafone Qatar’s business and consumer segments benefit from mmWave technology? “Vodafone is proud to be the first to showcase the millimetre wave experience in Qatar. It’s the evolution of 5G and this demonstrates what this technology can enable. With mmWave technology, you can provide high bandwidth in very crowded places. This makes it easy when using 360? cameras in situations where you have a massive audience, such as the World Cup. “Vodafone Qatar has been trialling the use of mmWave technology to boost network capacity and speeds, with the aim of unlocking new functionality for both consumers and businesses. Users will benefit from faster upload and download speeds, and the technology will also open the door for new experiences. “For businesses, 5G mmWave will transform performance and user experience beyond what is currently possible with existing network capabilities, including across mobile broadband, fixed wireless and industrial applications such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and augmented reality (AR).” What is your projected growth for total mobile customers in Qatar by the 2022 FIFA World Cup and beyond? “We cannot disclose projections, however, our ambition is to continue growing alongside our customers. As we expect the arrival of fans for the World Cup, our strategy is to continue growth across all of our segments. We want every person in Qatar to be able to enjoy the world-class services that we offer.” What is your strategy or plans in the pipeline to maintain continued expansion in the company’s mobile telecom services, as well as postpaid revenue and fixed broadband services? “We will continue delivering our strategy and have many developments in the pipeline across– a wide variety of services, such as prepaid and postpaid, fixed services to TV, IoT and now millimetre wave, and our continued 5G rollout. Of course, we are also focused on the corporate segment. “As a matter of fact, we are proud now to say that we have been awarded by the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC) for the broadcast of the 2022 FIFA World Cup. That’s a big responsibility for us, especially in showcasing how world-class our services and infrastructure are.” What are the steps Vodafone Qatar is taking to continue reporting robust financials to its shareholders? “We are very focused on profitable growth. This is incredibly important to us and we have continued to deliver that over the past few years, to the market and to our shareholders. We have many plans in the pipeline but the essence of our strategy will be the same, which is to deliver robust results.”

French ambassador Jean-Baptiste Faivre. PICTURE: Shaji Kayamkulam
Business
France will continue to support Qatar’s economic development, says envoy

Following French President Emmanuel Macron’s successful state visit here earlier this month, more business delegations from France are expected to arrive in Qatar in 2022, ambassador Jean-Baptiste Faivre has said. These visits from France’s leading business organisations and major companies are part of the Western European nation’s objectives in enhancing and developing Qatar-France bilateral relations in a wide range of sectors. During Macron’s visit here, the French president was accompanied by some 30 CEOs as part of France’s delegation in the trip, said Faivre. He said in September, a delegation of French businesspersons also visited the country and held meetings with authorities in the public and private sectors. The delegation included Total chairman and CEO Patrick Pouyanne, Movement of the Enterprises of France’s (Medef) Qatari-French Committee chairman Guillaume Pepy, representatives from the French Qardan Association, and a number of French company CEOs. “Qatar has a very clear strategy, which is a very impressive one in many sectors. And it is clear that we will be with Qatar in its future development; the confidence between both countries is good in this area. I have no doubt that these delegations will come and will continue to come here,” Faivre told Gulf Times in a recent meeting with the media at his Doha residence. Data provided by the French embassy in Doha reported that Qatar-France bilateral trade stood at €1.9bn in 2020. “This reflects the strength of the ties that unite us also appears in the economic field,” noted Faivre, who also said a large number of French and Qatari companies have established long-term partnerships. “To date, 120 French companies and 90 franchises are established in Qatar (mainly large groups, but SMEs presence is increasing as well), whether in the oil and gas industry, in defence and aeronautics, in infrastructure and construction, in transport, in the environment, in finance, in the digital sector, in the hospitality industry or in distribution. “Our two countries are resolutely looking to the future and wish to extend their cooperation to new areas, such as innovation, energy transition, and sustainable development. President Macron reaffirmed France's commitment to supporting Qatar’s 2030 vision, in particular on its energy transition strategy,” Faivre told reporters earlier. Aside from economic ties between Qatar and France, Faivre stressed that among his top priorities is to keep both countries’ political links and confidence “at the highest level as possible,” citing “a very dense agenda” is in the pipeline, especially on regional issues. “I think the regional issues are very important for France and Qatar, which are two countries that could play a positive role in the region. We are countries that want to resolve the issues; France and Qatar are not in favour of confrontation but are looking for ways how to resolve crises. On the 2022 FIFA World Cup, he said: “We have a history of co-operating with Qatar in sport events like the 2006 Asian Games, which was held successfully in the country with the support of France. Since then, we had the confidence in co-operating in these kinds of events and I’m sure such will be the case with the World Cup,” he said.

French ambassador Jean-Baptiste Faivre: Qatar is a strategic partner of France.
Qatar
Macron state visit reaffirms robust Qatar-France ties: envoy

French President Emmanuel Macron’s recent state visit here has reaffirmed the strength of Qatar and France’s relations in all fields, ambassador Jean-Baptiste Faivre said. Addressing the media on Wednesday, he stressed that among the key results of Macron’s visit is the “unique and privileged dialogue between the two heads of state”. “The two heads of states discussed with friendship, affection, and frankness all issues of common interest in a privileged one-to-one exchange,” Faivre said. “His Highness the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani offered a very warm welcome to the president and his delegation.” “Qatar is a strategic partner of France,” the ambassador pointed out. “The president reaffirmed the historical depth of our relations, the strength of our friendship, and of our partnership.” Faivre said that His Highness the Amir and Macron will lead the third meeting of the bilateral strategic dialogue next year, “taking the strategic partnership a step further”. He added that they also agreed to relaunch two-way visits at the ministerial level. In the educational and cultural fields, Faivre said that 2020 was marked by the celebration of the Qatar-France Year of Culture. Major French educational institutions, such as HEC Paris in Qatar, are leading actors in this field. “Designer Christian Dior’s first exhibition in the region was unveiled last month at the M7 Museum in Msheireb,” Faivre said. “To deepen our co-operation in the educational and cultural fields, President Macron and His Highness the Amir have decided to launch new structuring projects,” he added. In the economic field, Faivre said that some 30 chief executives toured key investment destinations in Qatar. A large number of French and Qatari companies have established long-term partnerships. “In 2020, our bilateral trade stood at €1.9bn. To date, 120 French companies and 90 franchises are established in Qatar (mainly large groups, but SME – small and medium enterprises – presence is increasing, as well), whether in the oil and gas industry, in defence and aeronautics, in infrastructure and construction, in transport, in the environment, in finance, in the digital sector, in the hospitality industry or in distribution,” the ambassador said. “Our two countries are resolutely looking to the future and wish to extend their co-operation to new areas like innovation, energy transition, and sustainable development,” Faivre added. “President Macron reaffirmed France's commitment to supporting Qatar’s 2030 vision, particularly its energy transition strategy.” According to envoy, two agreements were signed during Macron’s visit: a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between French Minister of Economy, Finance and Recovery Bruno Lemaire and HE the Minister of Finance Ali bin Ahmed al-Kuwari, and a letter of intent on cultural co-operation between Minister of Culture Roselyne Bachelot and HE the Minister of Culture Sheikh Abdulrahman bin Hamad al-Thani. Faivre stressed that France will also stand by Qatar to make the 2022 FIFA World Cup a success: “We will be glad to contribute to the organisation of the World Cup in 2022, particularly in the field of security.” On the subject of Afghanistan, he said that France “sincerely extends its gratitude” to Qatari authorities for their “decisive help” in planning and carrying out complex operations there. Faivre said that Macron’s visit to Qatar came after two successful operations held on December 2, enabling the delivery of 40 tonnes of emergency aid to Kabul on a Qatari military flight in the framework of the joint Franco-Qatari humanitarian operation, and the departure of more than 250 Afghan nationals from Kabul to Paris, via Doha. “During his meeting with His Highness the Amir, President Macron praised Qatar's exceptional support in the operations carried out since the end of the summer to enable the departure of French and Afghan nationals from Kabul to Paris via Doha,” the ambassador said, adding: “He also underlined the exceptional commitment of Qatari teams in charge of these operations, particularly HE the Assistant Foreign Minister and Spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Lolwah bint Rashid bin Mohamed al-Khater.” “To date, around 100 French nationals and nearly 400 Afghan nationals at risk left Kabul to France via Doha,” Faivre said. He said that Qatar and France have a “shared will” to work together on regional issues and reaffirmed their willingness to maintain stability in the region, citing in Lebanon and developments in the Gulf and neighbouring relations. “Our goal is to foster peace for a more stable and prosperous region,” Faivre said. “This can only be achieved through a structured regional dialogue.” “This dialogue was successfully launched at the Baghdad Conference on August 28,” he pointed out. “France, with Qatar, intends to deepen this dynamic by ensuring the follow-up of this important conference for regional co-operation.” “On Lebanon, the two heads of state strongly reaffirmed the need to preserve the stability and security of that country,” Faivre said. “They expressed their solidarity with the Lebanese people and they reaffirmed their willingness to increase their emergency assistance.” “They reaffirmed the need for a way out of the current multifaceted crisis in Lebanon,” he added. On Libya, the ambassador said that “both leaders reaffirmed their commitment to promote a comprehensive and political solution to the Libyan crisis, which must be Libyan-led”. “The resolution of the crisis lies in the holding of the elections scheduled for December 24,” Faivre added. The envoy also said that Qatar and France have a common commitment to pursue the fight terrorism: “There is a major threat to our collective security. President Macon and His Highness the Amir have underlined their commitment to continue and deepen our fight against terrorism and radicalisation, including its financing.”