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.
Timo Hammaren
EU-GCC trade investment dialogue seen to restart FTA talks, says European Commission official

The trade investment dialogue between the EU and Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) slated in Brussels by the end of the year may open the possibility to restart EU-GCC free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations. Speaking at the Qatar Trade Summit 2021 Wednesday, Timo Hammaren, Deputy Head of Unit, DG Trade at European Commission, said the EU and GCC have been negotiating for a region-to-region FTA. He said the FTA “would no doubt, have brought great benefits for both parties.” However, these negotiations were put on hold in 2008, and in the past two years there have been informal talks of a possible resumption of these negotiations, Hammaren said. The EU does not have trade agreements with the US, China, India, Russia, and the GCC, which the EU now has “about €100bn” of annual trade, according to Hammaren, who described EU’s trade ties with GCC as “really important.” He noted that the new EU trade strategy released in February 2021 focuses increasingly on enforcement and implementation of existing trade agreements rather than negotiating new ones. “But that does not exclude negotiating FTA with a very important trade partner, such as the GCC if conditions are right,” he said.

Timo Hammaren, deputy head of unit, DG Trade at European Commission
Qatar holds €32bn FDI stock in EU, says European Commission official

The European Union’s bilateral relations with Qatar have developed “very positively” in the past two years, Timo Hammaren, deputy head of unit, DG Trade at European Commission, said yesterday at the Qatar Trade Summit 2021. According to Hammaren, EU-Qatar bilateral trade “has risen steadily” since 2016 to reach a record level of “€17bn” in 2019 in terms of trading goods. In parallel, both countries have witnessed “an increasing trend in trading services that reached “€6.8bn” in 2019. “The Covid-19 pandemic brought down our bilateral trade volumes last year as it did with basically all of our major trading partners. But this is a temporary drop and we're mending this as we speak. The trade figures are already coming up this year,” he pointed out. He said, “While the foreign direct investment flows to Qatar have suffered during the past few years, I'm happy to note that our bilateral FDI stocks remain strong with Qatar, which has invested a total investment stock of ‘€32bn’ in the EU, and the EU having ‘€7.4bn’ in Qatar, corresponding roughly to ‘one quarter’ of all FDI in Qatar.” Hammaren also said this is not the only reason for positive developments in EU-Qatar economic relations. In 2018, Qatar and EU signed a bilateral co-operation arrangement during the official visit of His Highness the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani to Brussels, he said. “This co-operation arrangement aims at providing a framework to extend views on issues of common interest, ranging from security and counterterrorism to economic co-operation. The latter has focused on trade facilitation, investment education, academic mobility, and space co-operation. “These issues are discussed in principle annually in the format of the senior officials meetings and I had the pleasure of co-chairing the first such meeting on economic issues back in 2019 with the Qatari government, and I look forward to coming back to Qatar yet this year for the second round of such meeting,” he said, adding that “further sign of this increased engagement with Qatar is that we are shortly expected to open the diplomatic mission to the State of Qatar.” Hammaren added: “On bilateral relations with Qatar, I remain very optimistic. Our trade and investment flows are on a positive track and we have a lot of common interests in our trade strategies in terms of digitalisation and ‘greening’ of our economies, willingness to iron out any bilateral trade irritants, and cooperation in energy and transport sectors – all of these issues will be discussed in our next senior officials meeting taking place soon. “As an example of one area of co-operation, just last month, we signed an EU-Qatar bilateral air transport agreement, which is important in view of the fast-growing number of passengers between the EU and Qatar; we reached more than 6mn passengers in 2019.”

Ukraine's ambassador to Qatar Andrii Kuzmenko.
Ukraine keen to further attract Qatari FDI, says envoy

On the back of robust political and economic ties, which have been growing steadily over the years, Ukraine is keen on further attracting Qatari investments into the Eastern European country’s economy, according to ambassador Andrii Kuzmenko. Ukraine’s top diplomat to Qatar made the statement Tuesday in his welcome remarks during Qatar Trade Summit 2021, which concludes Wednesday in Doha. Kuzmenko said, “It is obvious that both countries have the necessary opportunities and potential to increase investment co-operation. I am sure that the successful concession of Ukrainian seaport Olvia by Qatari company QTerminals was just the beginning of the implementation of long-term bilateral investment projects between our states. “Moreover, during the visit of Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to Qatar this year, the agreement between Ukrainian enterprise UDP Renewables and Qatari state company Nebras Power on investments in green generation facilities in Ukraine was signed. That, once again, proves the substantive interest of the Ukrainian market for Qatari investors. These two examples are just some of the most visible cases of the successful Ukraine-Qatar business story.” Only recently at the sidelines of the 26th UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, the ambassador said Zelenskyy held a meeting with His Highness the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani. “One of our main common tasks is to intensify trade and economic co-operation,” said Kuzmenko, quoting the Ukrainian president. “We have necessary conditions, legal framework, and political will to expand our economic relations...the leaders of two proud nations discussed the possibility of intensifying bilateral trade, as well as mechanisms for implementing the existing in the food and investment spheres. During the meeting, special attention was paid to the possibility and conditions of supplying Qatari liquefied natural gas to Ukraine,” Kuzmenko stressed. According to Kuzmenko, 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, who said the total volume of trade between Ukraine and Qatar amounted to “$146.12mn” in 2020. In the first eight months of 2021, Kuzmenko noted that Ukraine’s trade turnover in goods stood at nearly “$124.5mn” compared to “$98mn” the embassy recorded for the same period in 2020. “These are so far record-high figures in the history of our bilateral relations. Nevertheless, there is still significant, unused potential for its further expansion and diversification,” the ambassador emphasised. He added: “We are also extremely pleased to witness permanent growth of bilateral trade acceleration of the business contacts between our states beginning with substantive co-operation in the investment sphere.” Kuzmenko also lauded Qatar’s reputation as recognised regional leader and its significant role in maintaining peace and stability, as well as the humanitarian assistance the State extended to the international community, including Ukraine, at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, which the ambassador described as “an unprecedented worldwide humanitarian operation.” Qatar-Ukraine Business Forum (QUBF) founder and chairperson Dr Olga Revina said QUBF is the Association Partner of Qatar Trade Summit 2021 and will be delivering keynotes at the event Wednesday. “As a partner of Qatar Trade Summit, I plan to share more insights about Ukraine and present our QUBF portfolio of attractive business proposals for further collaborative beneficial steps,” Revina told Gulf Times in a statement.

FIFA World Cup CEO Nasser al-Khater.
Innovation, expansion to foreign markets bode well for SMEs, say industry experts

Innovation and expansion to international markets are among the key factors that would enable the small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) sector to overcome challenges and continue operating post-Covid-19, according to industry experts participating in the Qatar Trade Summit 2021. The summit gathered a panel of speakers whose discussion revolved on the theme ‘Setting a Course for Positive Economic Growth in the Mena Region’. They are FIFA World Cup CEO Nasser al-Khater, Sohar Port and Freezone CEO Mark Geilenkirchen, and TIACA director general Glyn Hughes. The discussion was moderated by Samvit Kanoria, partner at Mckinsey. Emphasising that SMEs are the backbone of any economy, al-Khater said that while Qatar is small in terms of population, its wealth in natural resources positions it “in a very good place.” “But for the sustainability of any economy, you have to have a very strong SME sector. Unless you’re Singapore and you’re exporting ideas and minds, one of the main pillars is growing your population,” al-Khater said. He said, “For an SME to be successful, it should be able to attract people, people, and large businesses here looking at the different sectors to create the volume that’s required for a strong SME sector. Otherwise, you really need to think as a whole how do you create your regional and global market as a customer base for SMEs? “Qatar, on the other hand, is service-based, so innovation is the keyword here for companies to thrive because Qatar is a small country. The government has done well in terms of putting a lot of funding behind SMEs through Qatar Development Bank. Encouraging companies to go regional and global is also key to the survival of the SME industry.” Speaking on Qatar’s economy post-Covid-19, al-Khater said he is hoping that the decision to expand the country’s LNG production would create a new growth spurt in the country’s economy. “I think the focus is going to shift from infrastructure development, tourism, and globalising some of Qatar’s industries,” he said. He also hopes that the government would further develop Qatar’s private sector and help companies here penetrate the global market. “Beyond that, I think Qatar is going to look at new energy sources, as well, and probably expanding globally,” al-Khater pointed out. “All indications are towards the expansion of the LNG industry. Tourism is a key sector that the government wants to grow, so from the point of view of entertainment offering, the hospitality industry is growing. “Qatar Tourism is doing a good job in marketing the country. Qatar Airways is also doing a good job and I believe that after the World Cup, as we’ve seen with Russia’s post-2018 World Cup, I think Qatar will be going in the same direction. He added: “Qatar also uniquely positioned itself in terms of delivering arts and culture offerings through Qatar Museums. In terms of education in the region, Qatar is also growing its student body through Education City, Hamad Bin Khalifa University, and other educational institutions. There is a lot in that space in that sector to grow ‘education tourism’, as well.”

Lim Meng Hui, CEO, QFZA
‘Qatar is an ideal hub for businesses expanding to new markets’, says QFZA chief

Qatar’s location, advanced infrastructure, digital technology capabilities, and supportive legal environment enable it to serve as an ideal business hub for companies expanding into new markets in the region, an official of Qatar Free Zones Authority (QFZA) has said. Delivering a keynote titled ‘Diversifying Supply Chains in a Post-Pandemic World’ at the Qatar Trade Summit 2021, which concludes Wednesday, QFZA CEO Lim Meng Hui said the Qatari economy is showing “great signs of sustainable recovery,” with expectations for economic growth “looking extremely bright over the next decade.” Hui said this economic resilience can be attributed to the Qatari government’s strong focus on improving international trade and connectivity, providing state-of-the-art infrastructure, and fostering a business-friendly environment. “It’s also fair to say that the strong fundamentals of Qatar’s position in the global economy are as compelling as they were before the pandemic. From our location, which provides easy access to 60% of the world’s population within eight hours, to our award-winning airport, seaport, and airline, Qatar Airways, which is the largest cargo airline today,” he said. Hui said there are also exciting projects coming up in the next few years, which will continue to attract global companies to Qatar. “In natural gas, the North Field Expansion Project will continue to stimulate the economy and drive inward investment. Elsewhere, Qatar is rapidly becoming a global leader in the sports arena, punching far above its weight in the calibre of international events we are hosting, from the FIFA Arab Cup, the Formula 1 Grand Prix to the FIFA World Cup next year. “Lastly, Qatar has impressive long-term potential in the technology sector, able to provide some of the best 5G network coverage and infrastructure in the world and offer huge early mover advantages for companies working in artificial intelligence, advanced mobility, and other future-focused technologies,” he explained. Hui also explained how QFZA positioned itself to unlock the strategic role that its free zones could play in Qatar’s future economic growth. He said QFZA is a regulator, zones developer, and operator, holding at the same time a $1bn fund to promote investment and economic growth. It boasts of nearly 40sq km of well-planned zones next to Hamad International Airport, Hamad Port, and Msheireb Downtown District. “Our direct role is to attract investments and long-term partners to Qatar, especially in three major sectors: logistics, chemicals, and emerging technologies. These sectors are chosen to capitalise on Qatar's vast natural gas reserves, powerful infrastructure, and high Internet and IT penetration to make Qatar an excellent hub for tech operations, across automotive, marine, aviation, pharma, and chemicals industries,” Hui said. He added: “We are committed to fostering economic growth by focusing on sectors where Qatar has a strong value proposition across private sector and international companies. Our aim is to create a diversified and flourishing Qatari economy, through developing the right business partnerships for Qatar. We intend to do this by helping and facilitating the potential investors, to be on board for this purpose.

Ministry of Commerce and Industry Undersecretary Sultan bin Rashid al-Khater is digitally inaugurating Hospitality Qatar 2021 in the presence of Qatar Tourism Chairman and Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive HE Akbar al-Baker; Italian ambassador Alessandro Prunas; Turkish ambassador Dr Mustafa Goksu; IFP Qatar general manager Haider Mshaimesh, and Qatar Chamber first vice chairman Mohamed bin Towar al-Kuwari. PICTURE: Noushad Thekkayil
MoCI undersecretary opens Hospitality Qatar 2021

Ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, the hospitality and tourism sector are expected to further stimulate economic activities and open new windows of opportunities to bolster the market, which is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 12.1% between 2019 and 2022 to reach $1.4bn. This was revealed on the occasion of Hospitality Qatar 2021, which was digitally inaugurated by Ministry of Commerce and Industry Undersecretary Sultan bin Rashid al-Khater in the presence of Qatar Tourism Chairman and Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive HE Akbar al-Baker; Italian ambassador Alessandro Prunas; Turkish ambassador Dr Mustafa Goksu; IFP Qatar general manager Haider Mshaimesh. Held in strategic partnership with Qatar Tourism until November 11 at the Doha Exhibition and Convention Centre (DECC), the sixth edition of Hospitality Qatar gathered more than 170 HORECA (hotel, restaurant, café), tourism and F&B suppliers, and service providers from more than 30 countries, as well as investors and industry leaders in Qatar to explore potential investment opportunities in the Qatari hospitality and tourism market. Mohamed al-Mahmeed, head of Tourism Investment Promotion Section at Qatar Tourism, officially opened the first day with a keynote speech addressing Qatar’s tourism and hospitality sector’s readiness to welcome fans for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, and highlighted new products and services catering to visitors. Denisa Spinkova, leading service excellence at Qatar Tourism, provided an overview of Qatar Tourism’s strategy from its approach to increasing visitor arrivals and spending, as well as infrastructure developments, particularly in hospitality. In addition, Spinkova provided an overview of the country’s new promotional campaign, and its execution across platforms. Monday’s opening kicked off with the ‘Countdown Begins’ conference, a multi-themed conference that focuses on the tourism, hospitality, and F&B sectors, and serves as a platform for industry key players and policymakers to exchange new insights and discuss recent developments in the industry. Further, the conference’s opening sessions featured presentations and discussions on significant industry topics including, ‘The Experience Starts from your Home Country: An Unforgettable Travel’ by Qatar Airways, ‘Hamad International Airport Strategy to Increase Customer Capacity’ by HIA, and ‘Integrating Brand Standards within the Local Context for Exceptional Design’ by Katara Hospitality. The Certified Training Programme is back to provide industry professionals with the necessary training and knowledge for free. The first day also witnessed the start of the barista training sponsored and organised by Corona International Company. Café workers in Doha will enjoy free training in the first two days with an international barista competition to be held in the remaining days. The ‘Destination Pavilion’ sponsored by Qatar Airways is also open to visitors and participants. Other activities during the four-day event include live cooking shows, Qatar Restaurant’s Choice Awards, Food Tech Talks by talabat, and the Food Safety and Qatar Clean trainings by Boecker. Prunas said, “The hospitality market in Qatar is a major interest for Italian producers as reflected in the Italian pavilion, which is one of the biggest in the event.” Christoph Hodapp from Qatar Tourism said, “Trade exhibitions like this support sector development by introducing international expertise and showcasing our business events ecosystem. As an important subsector of tourism, it helps drive awareness and investment; at Qatar Tourism, we are very glad to extend our support to MICE organisers and operators.” Hospitality Qatar 2021 seeks to mirror the success of its previous edition, which has recorded a total of more than 11,000 visitors, said Mshaimesh.

Italian ambassador Alessandro Prunas touring the ITA pavilion at Hospitality Qatar 2021. PICTURE: Noushad Thekkayil
Trade agency puts spotlight on Italian firms at Hospitality Qatar

Italian Trade Agency (ITA), the Trade Promotion Section of the Italian embassy, is hosting 16 food sector companies from Italy at Hospitality Qatar 2021, which will run until November 11 at the Doha Exhibition and Convention Centre (DECC). Italy is taking part in the sixth edition of Hospitality Qatar “with one of the biggest pavilions” at 180sq m, Italian ambassador Alessandro Prunas told Gulf Times on the sidelines of the exhibition Monday. “For Italian suppliers, Qatar Hospitality is an important trade show and well-established platform for connecting with hotel operators, hospitality businesses, and investors. It is also a unique opportunity to spread knowledge about food cultures and traditions from all over the world,” Prunas said in a statement. “As the 2022 FIFA World Cup comes closer, Hospitality Qatar is the perfect opportunity to display the latest products and services for the HORECA sector, which are key to the success of any major event. “Our booth is one of the exhibition’s highlights where all the visitors and professionals will experience in person a wide commercial offer from Italian excellences in the food industry,” he added. Within the pavilion, major attention will be devoted to the second edition of ‘Breakfast Made in Italy’, a concept by the Italian Confederation of Craft Trades and SMEs (CNA), developed to promote the authentic taste of traditional Italian breakfast. Drawing inspiration from both Italy’s tradition and expertise in the hospitality sector and new trends in breakfast products, the format aims to foster the tastes and rituals of authentic Italian breakfast abroad through the internationalisation of the sector’s companies. The pavilion offers a wide range of opportunities to explore the Italian culinary tradition and spread awareness of Italian food specialties for the Qatari market. Bilateral business meetings between local trade operators and the exhibiting Italian companies are also provided by ITA Doha. “Trade volume between Qatar and Italy in September 2021 increased year-on-year by 51.9%, reaching a total value of €1.96bn. In the third quarter of 2021, Qatar's total imports from Italy stood at €853mn, a 26% increase compared to the same period of 2020, placing Italy in sixth place among Qatar's supplier countries. In the agri-food sector, Qatar's imports from Italy recorded an increase of 1.2% in the third quarter of 2021 for a total value of €34mn,” according to ITA’s latest data.

Ministry of Commerce and Industry Undersecretary Sultan bin Rashid al-Khater touring Hospitality Qatar 2021 along with Qatar Tourism Chairman and Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive HE Akbar al-Baker; IFP Qatar general manager Haider Mshaimesh; Qatar Chamber first vice chairman Mohamed bin Towar al-Kuwari, and other VIPs.
Hospitality Qatar showcases country's growing sector, says MoCI undersecretary

Hospitality Qatar, which is on its sixth edition this year, is an opportunity to learn about developments in Qatar’s hospitality sector, especially in light of potential commercial opportunities due to the projected growth of the national economy, Ministry of Commerce and Industry Undersecretary Sultan bin Rashid al-Khater has said. Al-Khater inaugurated the exhibition, which will run until November 11 at the Doha Exhibition and Convention Centre (DECC), and stressed that Hospitality Qatar 2021 is an important platform for forming new investment partnerships with major international companies specialised in this sector. “It also contributes to encouraging investors and businessmen to explore promising prospects and investment opportunities available within the Qatari hospitality sector, and thus benefit from developing their businesses and expanding into regional and global markets,” al-Khater said in a statement Monday. After the inauguration ceremony, al-Khater toured the exhibition and visited the various pavilions, services, and products offered by the participating companies and institutions. He was accompanied by Qatar Tourism Chairman and Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive HE Akbar al-Baker; Italian ambassador Alessandro Prunas; Turkish ambassador Dr Mustafa Goksu; IFP Qatar general manager Haider Mshaimesh; and Qatar Chamber first vice chairman Mohamed bin Towar al-Kuwari. Speaking to Gulf Times on the sidelines of the event, Prunas said the participating Italian firms are small companies making high-quality products and specialising in artisanal production. Their presence is also the Italian Trade Agency’s (ITA) way of helping them penetrate international markets, such as Qatar, Prunas also noted. ITA trade commissioner Augusta Smargiassi also said the agency will be scheduling B2B meetings for participating Italian companies and their SME counterparts in Qatar to enable them to expand their network in both countries. According to Prunas, there are several Italian companies that took their own initiative to participate in Hospitality Qatar, which reflects “Italian entrepreneurship and the will to expand to other markets abroad.” “While Qatar is already an important market, the country’s hosting of the FIFA World Cup next year is driving a lot of business inwards, so many Italian companies want to be here to get the right exposure during this historic moment, which is under the international spotlight being a very prestigious sporting event,” the ambassador said. On niche brands, Prunas explained that Qatar “is a market with interest for coffee,” citing small companies that specialise in specific products. “Often, the smaller brands make excellent products but they are really niche. While some may be more expensive than other well-known brands, but niche products have a market in Qatar because the country is a rich market. It is a connoisseur market,” Prunas added.

The Carpet Cellar owner and director Dhruv Chandra. PICTURE: Shaji Kayamkulam
‘Qatar is setting bar high in building smart cities’, says Indian entrepreneur

Qatar has set the bar high in terms of building ‘green’ and smart cities as evidenced by Msheireb Downtown District and Lusail City, according to Indian entrepreneur, Druv Chandra. “Smart city is a nice buzzword; however, most people are just talking about it. But in Qatar, they have done it. There is great vision by the leadership. Qatar is such a small country when you compare it to so many other places but I feel like there is a great push towards sustainable living,” said Chandra, the owner and director of The Carpet Cellar, which is located inside the Msheireb Downtown District in Doha. Chandra told Gulf Times, “Qatar is setting the standards of what a sustainable green city should be like. I don’t see many cities around the world that could match what was built in Doha. The proof is in the pudding; it is already here for people to see. “And I believe more things will happen in Qatar in the years to come, not just the FIFA World Cup in 2022 because there has been a lot of infrastructure that was built and would be utilised for so many events, as well.” With many economic activities in the pipeline, Chandra said Qatar “is eager to prove itself” to the international community as an investment destination the way the State demonstrated its resiliency during the June 2017 economic blockade. “The blockade has proven how strong the people are and how resilient the country is against adversity. When adversity hits you, I always believe that these things are great for you when you have a little hiccup because it makes you stronger; it makes you get up and get out of your comfort zone and try and prove certain things to other people,” he emphasised. Chandra explained that Qatar’s thrust towards sustainable living is also “sinks in” with The Carpet Cellar’s philosophy. “We don’t want to create fads and trends, but rather something that is timeless and has value – something that you can pass on to the next generation,” he stressed. He also believes that there is a lot of synergy between Qatar and India in terms of trade and expertise, as well as in culture and tradition. “There is so much that Qatar is importing that India manufactures. We have many people who are extremely skilled; we have a great IT sector and so many areas of expertise, which can play a role in helping each other. In years to come as we build more partnerships and as we get to know more people, I’m sure it will be a ‘win-win’ for both countries,” Chandra pointed out.

Qatar Chamber general manager Saleh bin Hamad al-Sharqi
Qatar Chamber e-services benefit members, private sector, says al-Sharqi

Qatar Chamber is keen to develop further its digital structure to launch more e-services, which have proven vital during the pandemic by being able to provide uninterrupted services to its members at the height of Covid-19-related challenges, general manager Saleh bin Hamad al-Sharqi has stressed. Al-Sharqi, in the chamber’s latest edition of Al Moltaqa economic magazine, said Qatar Chamber continues to implement its digital transformation plans as part of “tireless efforts” to serve the Qatari business community and the import role of technology in “translating these efforts into tangible reality.” “Qatar Chamber continues to implement its plans towards digital transformation. Therefore, it has developed its digital infrastructure to transform its services to e-services to meet the needs of all companies and save members time and effort. “There is no doubt that the chamber's efforts are in line with the objectives of the Qatar E-Government 2030 Strategy, which aims to help businesses and private organisations find easier and faster ways to operate their businesses,” al-Sharqi said. According to al-Sharqi, this strategy also comes in line with Qatar's strategy for economic diversification that relies on creating the right environment for investment and companies, and removing any barriers to doing business, so that the economy can continue to grow and develop. “In that respect, Qatar Chamber has recently launched a host of e-services with the aim to streamline the country's business environment and develop services offered to the business community, investors, and companies in Qatar. “The chamber's e-services will allow members to issue certificates of origin and ATA Carnet, register in training programmes, and update company data. They will also have easy access to the online Qatar Chamber Commercial and Industrial Directory. “Undoubtedly, the digital transformation adopted by the chamber, in accordance with the highest international standards, has borne fruit during the Covid-19 pandemic. This digital development allowed the chamber to provide its services to the private sector without interruption during the precautionary measures in a way that preserved the safety and health of affiliates and visitors and facilitated the business environment in the country,” al-Sharqi explained. Al-Sharqi said this includes the listing companies in the online Qatar Chamber Commercial and Industrial Directory, an electronic platform that includes lists of commercial and industrial companies operating in Qatar and registered at the chamber and classified according to commercial activity and the most important sectors in the country. He said the directory offers an important platform that enables investors and businessmen inside and outside Qatar to explore the local market and identify companies of various economic sectors. “In general, the chamber seeks to further develop its digital structure to launch more e-services with the aim to enhance the services provided to the private sector as making transactions and services digitally available would contribute to the state's efforts to achieve economic development,” al-Sharqi said.

Hospitality Qatar will be held at the Doha Exhibition and Convention Centre (DECC) from November 8 to 11. PICTURE: Shaji Kayamkulam
Italy, Turkey record trade growth with Qatar in 2021

Italy and Turkey have recorded growth in their bilateral trade with Qatar, it was announced yesterday during the comeback announcement of Hospitality Qatar slated at the Doha Exhibition and Convention Centre (DECC) from November 8 to 11. Citing data from Qatar's Customs authorities, Italian Trade Agency (ITA) trade commissioner Augusta Smargiassi said Qatar’s imports from Italy’s agri-foods sector “are growing continuously,” reaching €34mn in the first nine months of 2021, or a 1.2% growth over the same period last year. Qatar’s total imports from Italy between January and September 2021 stood at €853mn, a 26% growth over 2020, making Italy the sixth-largest supplier to Qatar, Smargiassi told Gulf Times on the sidelines of the press conference yesterday. Also speaking at the event, Turkish ambassador in Doha Dr Mustafa Goksu reported that Qatar-Turkey total trade last year stood at $1.2bn or a 6% growth over 2019. This year, Turkey expects total trade with Qatar to reach $1.5bn having already achieved $1bn in the first eight months of 2021, said Goksu. Haidar Mshaimesh, general manager of IFP Qatar, said the event will gather over 170 exhibitors from more than 30 countries. More than 70 international stakeholders and about 100 Qatari entities will join, which is the same number of participants during its pre-pandemic edition in 2019. “Holding Hospitality Qatar two years after its last edition is important at this time as it confirms the success of the hospitality and tourism sector in Qatar in surpassing pandemic-related challenges. Qatar is now moving forward with its preparations as the host of FIFA World Cup in November 2022,” said Mshaimesh. Highlighting this strong comeback, Mshaimesh added: “IFP Qatar has prepared a comprehensive and interactive programme for this edition in partnership with several government and private stakeholders, most notably the ‘The Countdown Begins’ conference, which will be held in partnership with Qatar Tourism. “Other programmes include the ‘Destination Pavilion’ sponsored by Qatar Airways, an awards ceremony recognising the best restaurants in Qatar in partnership with talabat, and a barista competition to be held in co-operation with Corona International, as well as live cooking shows with the participation of the best chefs in Qatar. The event will also hold a number of training workshops in various areas and other activities to make this edition exceptional.” Italian ambassador Alessandro Prunas said, “Italy’s participation will be marked with our own national pavilion led by the ITA. Italy has been participating in the event for successive years to further promote the importance of the hospitality sector in Qatar for Italian companies, and to unlock more opportunities for further development in this sector through exchange of experiences and technologies.” Goksu said, “Turkey is participating with the largest international pavilion led by the Turkish Ministry of Trade as a testament of the strong trade relations between Turkey and Qatar. Turkey has a long and comprehensive experience in tourism and hospitality as one of the top tourist destinations in the world, and we leverage this to support Qatar’s hospitality sector ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.”    

Hospitality Qatar
‘Business as usual’ for Qatar hospitality sector, says industry stakeholders

Qatar’s hospitality sector, like the wider tourism industry here, has proven to be extremely resilient, according to Qatar Tourism’s Christoph Hodapp on the occasion of Hospitality Qatar, which will be held from November 8 to 11 at the Doha Exhibition and Convention Centre (DECC). “At Qatar Tourism, we remain committed to working with our stakeholders to offer authentic experiences to visitors – rooted in the country’s tradition of hospitality. We are proud to support events, such as Hospitality Qatar, where sector partners come together to share best practices and innovations in the field. The business events sector introduces new audiences to Qatar, facilitating investment and showcasing the breadth of our offerings,” Hodapp said. This was reiterated by Haidar Mshaimesh, general manager of IFP Qatar, at a press conference yesterday, saying “the confidence is there; the resilience is there. The hospitality sector has what it takes to overcome the impact of the pandemic.” “Amid the deadlines to be delivered before Qatar hosts the 2022 FIFA World Cup, the country also has its 2030 National Vision, which sets many targets,” Mshaimesh said, citing Qatar Tourism's global campaign to attract “6mn tourists by 2030.” He said, “These ambitions give participants and stakeholders of Hospitality Qatar the opportunity to grow the sector and to also develop it further. It is also an indicator that Qatar’s hospitality sector is the fastest growing industry in the country.” Italian ambassador Alessandro Prunas added: “Hotels and restaurants in Qatar have become busier and busier, which is an indication that the sector is getting back to normal or has gone back to normal and is actually growing even further.” Turkish ambassador in Doha Dr Mustafa Goksu underscored Qatar and Turkey's robust relations, saying Turkey is keen to support Qatar in its bid to position itself as a leading destination in the hospitality industry, which has witnessed steady growth amid the challenges of Covid-19. Hospitality Qatar 2021 offers a rich blend of exhibition, conference, training workshops, an awards ceremony, various competitions, and live performances to promote the hospitality, tourism, and food sectors. The ‘Destination Pavilion’ sponsored by Qatar Airways, will once again be key feature at the event. Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive HE Akbar al-Baker, said: “For the second year in a row, Qatar Airways is sponsoring the Destination Pavilion in Hospitality Qatar. This year, the pavilion will be larger than before to accommodate 22 different tourist destinations where Qatar Airways operates flights. As the world reopens to travel, we encourage everyone to visit the pavilion and get inspired for their next destinations.” Participating for the first time, delivery mobile app, talabat, is this year's ‘Food Tech Partner’. Francisco Miguel De Sousa, managing director of talabat Qatar, said: “talabat will feature the ‘tala-bot’ autonomous delivery vehicle and will present the Food Tech conference. We are also thrilled to present, for the first time, the Restaurants Choice Awards, in which talabat will pick the customers favourite restaurants. This event fits within talabat’s engagement in supporting the hospitality sector in Qatar and helping it flourish.” During the first two days of the exhibition, Corona International Company will organise a free barista training for café workers in Doha followed by an international competition with the participation of international experts recruited from outside Qatar. Boecker, a global leader in health and safety, will also hold a free food safety training and the Qatar Clean Programme for workers in Doha hotels and restaurants. Participants will receive certificates accredited by the CPD Foundation in London after completion of the training. In addition to the business programmes and industry training, culinary lovers will be able to enjoy live cooking shows throughout the four days which feature the best chefs in Qatar as they present innovative recipes for various cuisines.    

QDB communication and partnerships manager Soud al-Boinin. PICTURE: Shaji Kayamkulam
4,500 Qatar companies benefited from QDB’s National Guarantee Programme

Several countries worldwide have studied Qatar Development Bank's (QDB) National Guarantee Programme, which had already benefited over 4,500 companies in Qatar, a QDB executive has said. At the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, QDB created the National Guarantee Programme, the government’s 100% guarantee scheme to aid companies and the SME sector struggling to pay rents and employees’ salaries, QDB communication and partnerships manager Soud al-Boinin said. Speaking to Gulf Times on the sidelines of the launch announcement of Rowad Qatar 2021, al-Boinin said more than 4,500 companies in Qatar had benefited from the National Guarantee Programme, which was part of the QR75bn economic stimulus released by the government. Al-Boinin said the National Guarantee Programme was “a success story” for QDB, adding that “countries around the world have actually studied that model and they were very flexible with getting the lessons learned and how they could develop similar products for their countries if and when similar pandemics would occur.” “It is also a success story for Qatar that we share to other countries when we participate in government strategic meetings on a national level,” al-Boinin further explained. While globally and in Qatar, the appetite to start a business during the pandemic was low, al-Boinin emphasised that there was a rise in tech companies that were catering to the needs of people through digital and innovative solutions, citing fintechs and other technology-based startups. On the growth of export companies in the country, al-Boinin said QDB participated in the St Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) held in June this year where around 18 exporters from Qatar were able to sign deals worth QR75mn in various fields, such as medical, healthcare, and manufacturing. “It was a diverse basket of products…regardless of which sector but a company will always have the potential to export if their product is good, and this was what we were able to do during the event,” he said. He said initiatives like Rowad Qatar 2021, otherwise known as ‘Qatar Entrepreneurship Conference’, aims to help the local economy and Qatar’s private sector through workshops and top-notch speakers who will discuss topics revolving around this year’s theme ‘Digital Transformation & Thriving in the New Economy’. “Digital transformation is a key to make sure that businesses would transition easily from something tactical and physical prior to the pandemic to efficient and agile operations moving forward. “This includes adopting robotics and technology within their operations and AI solutions in data gathering, among others. The idea is to expand their knowledge on these innovative techniques to prepare them for similar incidents like Covid-19 and help them manage the impact of any new crisis,” he said.    

QSTP executive director Yosouf al-Salehi. PICTURE: Shaji Kayamkulam
Rowad Qatar is seen to fast-track entrepreneurship growth, says QSTP official

The Qatar Entrepreneurship Conference (Rowad Qatar) 2021, which will be held during Global Entrepreneurship Week from November 8-10, serves as a key platform to accelerate the development of innovative ideas, an official of Qatar Science and Technology Park (QSTP) has said. QSTP executive director Yosouf al-Salehi made the statement during a press conference held recently to announce the launch of Rowad Qatar 2021, which is now on its seventh edition under the theme ‘Digital Transformation & Thriving in the New Economy’. Rowad Qatar is Qatar Development Bank’s (QDB) national initiative of bringing together Qatari entrepreneurs and industry key players to exchange ideas and explore opportunities to support entrepreneurs across different sectors. Speaking at the press conference, al-Salehi said: “Rowad Qatar is a very important event for many entrepreneurs; at QSTP, we recognise the strong partnership we have with QDB. QSTP, which focuses on entrepreneurship and technology, works for the development and growth of innovation in the State of Qatar.” Al-Salehi further said: “QDB is a significant tool in helping entrepreneurs in Qatar succeed. Similarly, QSTP works tirelessly in encouraging the youth and creating an ecosystem for innovation and technology. We support ambitious entrepreneurs at the onset and we help them by opening opportunities to get their ideas to the market. “By collaborating with QDB, our aim is to put more effort in supporting startups and new ideas in different fields, such as technology and education. We have seen different ideas from the youth in the State of Qatar who have presented a wide range of technological solutions.” On the sidelines of the press conference, al-Salehi told Gulf Times that the Covid-19 pandemic has encouraged a lot of entrepreneurs to think of innovative ideas and create new solutions. “The pandemic also ignited the people’s passion to think differently to cope with the challenges of the times. As part of QSTP’s goals, we are working with entrepreneurs to accelerate their concepts and ultimately develop and grow these ideas, especially now that the world is in a pandemic, so we really need to push the growth of their plans. To do this, al-Salehi said QSTP are engaging Qatari entrepreneurs, students, and a variety of people with programmes, such as XLR8. Similarly, al-Salehi said QSTP is also engaging the youth through the Arab Innovation Academy (AIA), which is currently being held virtually in observance of Covid-19 health and safety protocols. XLR8 is a pre-startup programme that offers intensive training and mentorship for early-stage technology entrepreneurs and enables them to transform their ideas into commercially viable businesses. On the other hand, AIA is the first and the most extensive entrepreneurship programme in the pan-Arab region and aims to provide aspiring university students and young entrepreneurs with the authentic experience of developing and launching new tech ventures under the guidance of leading global tech startup mentors.    

QDB acting CEO Abdulrahman Hesham al-Sowaidi (2nd from left) announcing the launch of Rowad Qatar 2021 during a press conference Wednesday. He is joined by (from left) QDB communication and partnerships manager Soud al-Boinin, QSTP executive director Yosouf al-Salehi, and QIIB head of business development and alternate channels Sector Omar Abdelaziz al-Meer. PICTURE: Shaji Kayamkulam
Rowad Qatar 2021 to explore digital transformation, new global economy

This year's staging of Qatar Entrepreneurship Conference (Rowad Qatar) 2021 will highlight how entrepreneurs could leverage technology and innovation to accelerate solutions for a post-pandemic era. This was emphasised during Qatar Development Bank’s (QDB) announcement of the launch of the conference, which will be held during Global Entrepreneurship Week from November 8 to 10. The seventh edition of the conference celebrates the achievements of entrepreneurship locally and globally and inspires entrepreneurs, startups, and SMEs to develop their skills and knowledge by providing them with a platform that encourages innovation and initiative, and opens communication channels among actors in the entrepreneurship ecosystem to exchange ideas and collaborate towards achieving mutual benefit. QDB acting CEO Abdulrahman Hesham al-Sowaidi said: “Held under the slogan ‘Digital Transformation & Thriving in the New Economy’, the Qatar Entrepreneurship Conference 2021 seeks to create a productive exchange on the new economy that was expedited by the coronavirus pandemic and explore the opportunities and challenges that are transpiring as a result.” “It also aims to identify ways to invest in all available opportunities by harnessing innovation and digital solutions to develop more agile business models and thrive in this new era,” al-Sowaidi added during a press conference held Wednesday in the presence of QDB communication and partnerships manager Soud al-Boinin; Qatar Science and Technology Park (QSTP) executive director Yosouf al-Salehi, and QIIB head of business development and alternate channels sector Omar Abdelaziz al-Meer. Following the success of its first virtual edition in 2020, this year's conference will blend virtual and in-person activities. The event will be held under the strategic sponsorship of the Qatar Investment Authority, platinum sponsorship of QSTP, and golden sponsorship of QIIB. The year’s edition is also organised in collaboration with an array of high-profile governmental and semi-governmental national partners, in addition to a number of global partners, such as Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and the World Economic Forum, among others. As the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic tapers off globally and with the concerted efforts of entrepreneurs and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) towards finding a foothold in the new economy amid an accelerating digital transformation, QDB aims to leverage Rowad Qatar to reaffirm the need for entrepreneurs to adapt to the new global economy and to integrate technological and digital solutions in their businesses towards harnessing innovation and providing added value. In line with QDB’s endeavour to create an authentic discussion space based on the exchange of experiences and knowledge among aspiring entrepreneurs and industry experts, the conference will feature more than 30 workshops that cover a multitude of topics focused on entrepreneurship, digital transformation, and the new economy over the course of three days, with the participation of many renowned speakers. This is in addition to a high-level keynote speech and three-panel discussions, making the conference a true meeting point for all individuals and institutions in their leap forward into the post-Covid world. The conference will also witness the announcement of the third Rowad Awards across five categories. QDB is anticipating the participation of all members of the entrepreneurship ecosystem, including business owners, institutions, and micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) in the conference and their engagement with the leading platform that it presents, towards achieving its goals and objectives.

QIBC president Farhan al-Sayed. PICTURE: Shaji Kayamkulam
Virtual expo to help Qatar businesses tap Indonesian market, says business council exec

Businesses in Qatar will have the opportunity to tap into one of Southeast Asia’s vibrant economies by participating in the ‘36th Trade Expo Indonesia Digital Edition 2021’, which will run until November 4, according to Qatar-Indonesia Business Council (QIBC) president Farhan al-Sayed. Al-Sayed noted that Indonesia, which is targeting “$1.5bn worth of transactions” during the trade expo, is an investment haven for halal foods and various food and beverage (F&B) brands. Indonesian F&B products have been “highly-acknowledged” in the international market, he noted. He said Qatar has been importing top-rated foodstuff from Indonesia ranging from ingredients and spices, seafood, fruits and vegetables, instant and frozen foods, canned foods, snacks, coffee, tea, cocoa, milk, juices, and soft drinks, as well as herbal food supplements, organic products, coconut oil, and processed foods. Aside from F&B, businesses in Qatar will be able to view other products, including manufactured goods in textile, leather, building material, rubber, metal, pulp and paper, palm oil, automotive parts and lubricants, perfume and cosmetics, said al-Sayed, adding that the manufacturing industry played a significant role in Indonesia’s economic growth in Q2 reaching “17.34%.” “Trade Expo Indonesia is held this year in a digital edition to adhere with Covid-19 restrictions. This is an opportunity for all businesses in Qatar to explore and tap into the Indonesian market. Indonesia is a trillion plus dollar economy among member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), al-Sayed pointed out. Underscoring innovation and technology, the expo also focuses on digital lifestyle and services in e-commerce, social media, digital campaign, mobile apps, web hosting, and web design, as well as services in the financial, banking, insurance, and tourism sectors, al-Sayed said. “The pandemic has also put an impetus on medical and healthcare. The expo will showcase medical supplies, medicines, vitamins, dietary supplements, sports nutrition, essential oils, and hair and body care products. Indonesia has 241 pharmaceutical manufacturing industries, 17 pharmaceutical raw material industries, 132 traditional medicine industries, and 18 natural product extraction industries. “Also, the expo highlights Indonesia’s abundant natural resources and technology potential to develop renewable energies focusing mainly on solar, wind, hydro, geothermal, biomass, and biodiesel energies,” said al-Sayed.

Team members of Qatari fintech company, Dibsy.
Local fintech player brings Apple Pay to Qatari market

Financial technology (fintech) companies in Qatar are constantly innovating to meet the needs of their clients, spurring growth in the industry, according to local fintech player, Dibsy. Dibsy, which was the Local Payment Partner of the Arab Fintech Forum 2021 held recently in Qatar, offers affordable, straightforward onboarding, and fast integration with a simple Application Programming Interface (API). “With this tool, business owners can accept payments through their website, Apps, or messaging platforms,” according to co-founder Ahmed Isse, who was also one of the panel of experts at the forum. Isse said Dibsy is fulfilling its promise to deliver easy payment solutions by becoming the “first payment processor in Qatar” to integrate Apple Pay for its customers. “With Apple launching its mobile payment and digital wallet solutions, it was only in due time that users worldwide would start using this service. Thanks to Dibsy, Qatari businesses can now take advantage of this opportunity, too,” Isse pointed out. Not only does this feature make paying online easy, Isse said it also gives Qatari businesses access to thousands of Qatari Apple users and millions more worldwide from over 60 countries where Apple Pay is supported, including the US and the UK. “Apple Pay has the potential to improve success rates for international and local transactions and a strong move towards digital transformation, which is a big part of Dibsy’s vision,” Isse further explained. Isse noted that Dibsy’s integration with Apple Pay lets businesses accept local and international online payments quickly and securely from Apple Pay users. Users can authorise payments with Touch ID or Face ID, instead of manually filling out long payment forms. “Anyone in Qatar with an iPhone, Apple Watch, iPad, or Mac can easily pay anytime from anywhere,” he said. As businesses are looking to connect to customers in the global market, payment channels like Apple Pay help local companies reach a wider audience, said Isse, who added that “Dibsy is looking forward to integrating more payment channels in the future to help connect our merchants to the global economy and give their customers more payment choices.” For more information on how to integrate Apple Pay during checkout, visit    

Dr R Seetharaman, CEO, Doha Bank
Doha Bank CEO underscores role of ‘Digital Innovation in Financial Services’

Digital innovation is continuously changing financial services and how the industry creates a positive impact on end customers, Doha Bank CEO Dr R Seetharaman emphasised during a recently held webinar. Titled ‘Digital Innovation in Financial Services’, Seetharaman was joined by a panel of experts Gaurang Shah, senior vice president, Product Management, Digital Payments & Labs, Mastercard; Shahid Khan, Strategic Leader - Banking & Insurance, ME & Africa, Oracle; Inigo Viti, CTO, Financial Services, IBM; Basel Haddadin, regional sales manager, Google Cloud, and Peter Clark, chief operating officer, Dona Bank. During the webinar, Seetharaman stressed that the Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the digital transformations that were already happening even prior to the global health crisis. “Today, economics is converging with ‘e-conomics’, everywhere, we're seeing the overall changing dynamics for a green nation…sustainable development goals have been the new world order,” Seetharaman said. He said: “To address major challenges in the world, we need to come together; create a new world…and digital is the solution – and that’s convergence in your business model. Future technologies and digital innovations are here to stay and they’re going to make an extraordinary set of transformations to the betterment of the world. “The message we are getting now is that the Internet will become a basic right in 2024, as well as the increase in usage of mobility and smartphones, among others,” said Seetharaman, who also underscored the impact of 3D printing on healthcare, the evolution of robotics and automation, and how artificial intelligence (AI) can learn from mistakes and from big data. Seetharaman’s video presentation stressed that “cash is no longer king” in the future and that payment transactions will, instead, be made through smartphones or wearables “rendering physical cards unnecessary.” “60% of financial organisations are expected to make wearables a common payment method. Physical shops will still exist but the way you pay will change with money changing hands virtually,” the presentation pointed out. Further in his presentation, Seetharaman elaborated on mobile wallets, which allow shoppers to use their payment details to easily make payments or purchases. “The main benefit of a mobile wallet is to make checkout quicker and easier across devices, and more secure because the shopper doesn't have to re-enter their card at billing details every time they make a purchase,” the presentation stated. On the mobile wallet’s benefits to merchants, Seetharaman’s video presentation said: “Since checkout is easier for the shopper with the mobile wallet, then you can increase your conversion rates by just allowing your shoppers to pay using a wallet. Removing an obstacle to check out means that fewer shoppers will abandon the shopping cart and more will finish the checkout process.” It added: “Over the last decade, large and successful digital players in various industries have used open application programming interfaces or APIs to connect their services with Apps and websites of third parties. “Today, open API technologies have evolved to an extent that allows them to be applied by the financial services industry where security is key. This opens up new opportunities for banks and other financial services providers to offer innovative digital services themselves.”