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 Peter Alagos
Peter Alagos
Peter Alagos reports on Business and general news for Gulf Times. He is a Kapampangan journalist with a writing career of almost 30 years. His photographs have been published in several books, including a book on the 1991 Mt. Pinatubo eruption launched by former Philippine president Fidel V. Ramos. Peter has also taught journalism in two universities.
Michael Javier, founder and CEO of fintech firm CWallet
‘Cross-functional tech’ pivotal in enhancing tourism experience, says Doha-based startup founder

Maximising technological advancements currently available in the market could play a pivotal role in enhancing the experience of tourists visiting the country, according to a Doha-based startup founder.Michael Javier, founder and CEO of fintech firm CWallet, stated that visitors to Qatar could benefit from the solutions provided by different startups and tech firms catering to tourists and the tourism industry.“Technology will ease tourists’ worries and simplify their journey while they are enjoying their visit to Qatar. Having cross-functional tech will provide a plethora of information for visitors here, plus various options from accommodations, gastronomy, and simplified payment transactions while staying in Qatar,” Javier told Gulf Times.Javier also emphasised that migrating from cash to digital payments, especially among small retailers, will help boost tourists’ experience considering that they prefer to use credit cards or digital transactions.“Aside from simplified payments and cashless transactions, the rates should also be competitive. Allowing tourists to download and register local apps, such as delivery, wallets, and government, for example, will allow them to access good deals, better options and FAQs to know more about the culture and to explore the best places to visit,” he pointed out.Javier emphasised that tech startups in the country should leverage the partnerships that Qatar has forged with leading global companies as part of the government’s efforts to roll out the latest technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI) and cloud computing.Qatar’s collaboration with tech giants like Google and Microsoft has allowed the government and key stakeholders to align with the objectives of global tech players, said Javier, who added that by having local cloud providers, data is now being hosted locally or “on-prem,” which will support local startups and tech providers from a regulatory perspective.Javier also noted that while startups in Qatar “are trailing behind their regional counterparts,” many of these companies have learned a lot from the experience of successful founders, investors, and other stakeholders in the last three to five years.“This is why I believe a breakthrough for the country should be on the horizon. The objective now is to keep pushing forward faster. Keep dreaming big and do not hesitate to solve the problems ahead. In time, this mindset will contribute to discovering different ways to accomplish the task at hand and enhancing sectors like ICT,” Javier explained.

Michael Trick, dean of Carnegie Mellon University-Qatar, bestowing a token of recognition to QBWA vice chairperson Aisha Alfardan, who was the guest speaker during the latest edition of the ‘Dean's Lecture Series’ held on Monday at CMU-Q. PICTURE: Thajudheen
QBWA official highlights women’s pivotal role in Qatar’s progress

Women in Qatar have been key players in the country's socio-economic development in sectors such as business, government and policymaking, and education, a top official of the Qatari Businesswomen Association (QBWA) said on Monday.QBWA vice-chairperson Aisha Alfardan delivered meaningful insights on the role of businesswomen in community development during the latest edition of the ‘Dean's Lecture Series’ held at Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar (CMU-Q).During the lecture, Alfardan presented a video, which enumerated the achievements of Qatari women in several milestones achieved by the country, the latest of which was the 2022 FIFA World Cup.The World Cup highlighted the unique generosity, rich culture, and infrastructure development of Qatar. The global sporting event also emphasised the role of women as leaders, visionaries, and innovators in driving change.Alfardan stressed that Qatari women “often outperform their male peers” and that Qatari educators have gained global recognition for their achievements. Their influence extends beyond classrooms to administrative boards and policymaking domains, she pointed out.She said Qatari women also made great strides in government and policymaking, as well as in the country’s business sector, making a strong presence and serving as a source of new ideas and leadership. Qatari women also help guide corporations and startups, becoming major players in Qatar’s burgeoning economy.Amid these milestones is QBWA, according to Alfardan, who noted that the association has been championing women’s participation and fueling the drive to new achievements and is both a driving force and key contributor to the Qatar National Vision 2013 through various initiatives, programmes, and local and international events.Alfardan emphasised that women are not only the hub of society, “but they are the society itself” because they are in charge of raising and taking care of their children and families, especially in the Arab world, “so, there is no doubt that educating and investing in women benefits the whole community.”Beyond economic development, Alfardan said businesswomen in Qatar also champion gender equality, break barriers, mentor others, and advocate for inclusivity, making the workforce more diverse. She noted that women in Qatar provide fresh ideas that drive innovation and solve societal problems with creative ideas and groundbreaking solutions.Alfardan also lauded the visionary leadership of Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser and how she provided a “historic opportunity” for Qatari women, enabling them to play a vital role in sustainable development, according to the pillars of the country’s National Vision 2030.She said Her Highness Sheikha Moza has constantly advocated for gender equality and equal opportunity in education and work, allowing Qatari women to make big strides in local financial and business domains, as well as in innovative projects, thus achieving the success stories that are being celebrated in Qatar today.On the sidelines of the event, Alfardan and CMU-Q Dean Michael Trick signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) that stipulates collaborative initiatives between QBWA and the university. “We will work together closely to provide quality opportunities for mentorship and our students,” Trick said.

Sheikha Mayes al-Thani, managing director of USQBC in Qatar.
Official underscores USQBC role in attracting American SMEs to Qatari market

An official of the US-Qatar Business Council (USQBC) has underscored the USQBC’s significant role in providing American small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) access to the Qatari market.Sheikha Mayes al-Thani, managing director of USQBC in Qatar, said the USQBC’s “crucial role” in aiding the entry of American SMEs into the Qatari market includes providing market intelligence, networking opportunities, and business matchmaking services, and connecting these SMEs with local partners, customers, and suppliers.“The council offers one-on-one counselling that provides insight into Qatari business practices, advocates for American business interests and assists in navigating regulatory processes. The USQBC facilitates access to decision-makers, organises trade missions, and collaborates with local institutions to enhance the visibility and opportunities for SMEs in Qatar.“Furthermore, the council keeps SMEs informed about market developments, policy changes, and trade shows, as well as providing personalised support to address the unique needs and challenges of each business,” Sheikha Mayes told Gulf Times in the context of the USQBC’s role in supporting the upcoming SelectUSA Investment Summit.Earlier, Sheikha Mayes noted that the USQBC is planning a series of events to support Qatari businesspeople who will be participating in the investment summit slated on June 23-26 at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Centre in National Harbour, Maryland.To evaluate the potential for collaboration between American SMEs and their Qatari counterparts in various sectors, such as technology, health, education, and tourism, Sheikha Mayes explained that a comprehensive assessment is conducted to ensure that SMEs from the US can effectively collaborate on the Qatari market.“This involves assessing market demand, ensuring compliance with regulatory requirements, and exploring partnership opportunities. It is imperative to adhere to local standards, identify specific needs, and tailor offerings to local cultures and preferences,” she emphasised.Sheikha Mayes also stressed that it is important to consider the following factors: cultural understanding, adherence to regulatory requirements, monitoring of market trends, and active engagement in networking to build relationships.“We ensure successful collaboration and market penetration in Qatar by systematically addressing these factors and tailoring custom-made strategies accordingly,” Sheikha Mayes further pointed out.She said, “The USQBC recognises the difficulties American SMEs may encounter due to cultural differences, regulatory complexity, and market access barriers in Qatar. Despite these difficulties, the USQBC recognises that Qatar’s economic diversification efforts, infrastructure development projects, government initiatives, and the growing demand for education, training, and tourism present significant opportunities.”According to Sheikha Mayes, the council is intended to facilitate collaboration and business continuity for American SMEs in these promising fields. She noted that the USQBC strives to increase the success of American businesses in Qatar by aligning its programmes with Qatar’s economic goals, offering innovative solutions, connecting them and directing them to the proper resources.Based on shared values, interests, and a shared vision for the future, Sheikha Mayes said that Qatar-US ties “are stronger than ever before” and Qatar’s long-term economic development offers ample opportunities for American businesses.Currently, many opportunities for collaboration exist between Qatar and the US, she said, adding that there is a strong focus on the energy sector with Qatar serving as a major natural gas exporter. At the same time, the US has extensive expertise in energy-related technologies.“There are also opportunities in the area of investment and finance, taking advantage of Qatar’s interest in diversifying its investment portfolio and the strength of the US financial sector,” Sheikha Mayes stressed.She added: “Co-operation in the field of defence and security, a historical collaboration area, offers further opportunities for joint projects. Several other areas of collaboration are also encouraged, such as technology, innovation, research and development (R&D), tourism, education, agriculture, and food security.”

(From left) Tarek Biour, Jason Holland, ⁠Saad al-Kuwari, ⁠Dr Eddy Borges-Rey, ⁠Dr Abdulaziz al-Khanji, ⁠Nino Rahal, and ⁠Hicham el-Rawass during the special gathering hosted recently by Alfardan Jewellery inside The Pearl Island. PICTURE: Shaji Kayamkulam
Alfardan Jewellery hosts intimate gathering for Doha Watch Club

Alfardan Jewellery recently hosted an intimate gathering for the Doha Watch Club, providing an opportunity for its members to engage, as well as share stories and experiences about their favourite timepieces.The event held at Alfardan Jewellery inside The Pearl Island was highlighted by a surprise unveiling of the latest Ulysse Nardin collection, said director of retail operations Tarek Biour.“Alfardan Jewellery hosted the event to engage with members of the Doha Watch Club, allowing them to discuss their passion for watches and share their favourite watch stories,” he said. “We aim to educate people and explore the idea that watches are more than just tools for telling time.”“A watch is a statement: It’s a legacy, a memory, and it carries emotional attachment to the wearer,” Biour told Gulf Times on the sidelines of the event.“We appreciated the diversity of the club; anyone with a love for watches could join,” he added. “The club is open to growth and potential collaborations, aiming to bring all watch lovers together in one group.”Gulf Times also sat down with the majority of the club’s founding members – Dr Abdulaziz al-Khanji, Nino Rahal, Dr Eddy Borges-Rey, and Jason Holland – who shared their passion for horology and a brief history of the club, as well as its aspirations.Borges-Rey noted that another founding member, Ahmed Kobeissi, was instrumental in bringing together the core members of the club.According to al-Khanji, what makes the Doha Watch Club unique in the country is the international nature of the club, which allows for a rich exchange of cultures.He emphasised that the diverse perspectives presented in the club come from its multinational membership, thus bringing diverse points of view to every discussion or engagement.Holland said that the club offers a unique opportunity for expats in Qatar to find a community and share common interests beyond horology and the love for different types of timepieces.“The club provides an outlet away from work, offering a space to interact with people outside of the professional sphere,” he said. “Members can have a meal, a coffee, and engage in discussions about watches, sports, or any topic with people who share similar interests.”Rahal pointed out that while members of the Doha Watch Club have different preferences, it accommodates collectors and enthusiasts with diverse tastes in watches.Daily active discussions take place, primarily via a messaging platform, which is the main communication channel for the club, he added.“The club is open to all kinds of watch brands and types. Members are always eager to learn about different watch movements, types, and brands,” Rahal said. “There are active discussions about microbrands, including their new releases and the value for money of their watches.”“The Doha Watch Club fosters a non-judgmental environment where members are free to like any kind of watch,” he added. “Members occasionally share pictures of their watches, not to show off, but to share their passion. And this shared passion for watches is humble and varies in intensity and expense among members.”“The club is inclusive and not limited to any specific type of watch or price range,” Rahal stated.Borges-Rey said that the club has experienced exponential growth since its establishment two years ago, with the number of members reaching almost 60, surpassing the regular numbers in other clubs in Qatar.“The club envisions itself as part of a collaborative landscape with other clubs, open to being part of the broader environment of watches and horology in the country, and welcoming initiatives and collaborations,” he added.Al-Khanji said that the Doha Watch Club is anticipating a better presence during the Doha Jewellery and Watches Exhibition (DJWE), which will be held from February 5-11 at the Doha Exhibition and Convention Centre (DECC).“This is the first time that the club is going to the Doha Jewellery and Watches Exhibition as the Doha Watch Club,” Borges-Rey said. “The club has now built a good relationship with various watch brands.”Rahal said one of the advantages of attending the DJWE is that the event provides easy access to various watch brands and showcases new novelties and models that might not be easily found in boutiques.The event offers a hands-on experience where attendees can feel and see the watches, he said, emphasising that “buying a watch should be an experience”.Aside from Ahmed Kobeissi, another Qatari, Saad al-Kuwari, is also considered a key figure who helped propel the Doha Watch Club to its current status, according to Borges-Rey.Al-Kuwari lauded the club’s diverse membership, saying: “The group is not limited to locals but is a mix of expatriates and locals, reflecting the large percentage of expatriates in Qatar.”“Qatar has a significant number of serious watch collectors, whom the group aims to bring together ... establishing the club is greatly aided by recognition from watch brands,” al-Kuwari said. “It’s crucial for the brands to acknowledge the club as a collective entity.”“The Doha Watch Club is going through an exciting chapter, aiming to represent Qatar in the vast watch industry,” he added. “In recent years, the watch industry has grown significantly, with a 300% to 400% increase in people developing a love for watches.”“This growth extends to watchmakers and manufacturers, and the market in Qatar has also seen a surge in interest, particularly during and after the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic,” al-Kuwari said.

CWallet CEO and founder Michael Javier.
Enhancing digital solutions for tourists seen to benefit small businesses

Tourists arriving in Qatar will stand to gain from potential collaborations forged by local tech startups and tourism stakeholders, which could help enhance visitors’ experience in the country.Among these collaborative initiatives would be providing tourists with more options to transact cashless payments whilst visiting Qatar’s various tourism destinations, said Doha-based entrepreneur Michael Javier, the CEO and founder of fintech firm CWallet.According to Javier, a “big synergy” exists between local startups and tourism stakeholders in the country’s private and public sectors that could play a key role in digitising commercial transactions.“Tourists will be able to conduct digital payments that are not currently available in some areas of Qatar like Souq Waqif. This will increase domestic payment transactions,” Javier told Gulf Times.Visitors to Qatar will also get access to special offers, discounts, and buy-one-get-one promos when using local wallets in the country, such as CWallet, Javier stressed, adding that this will not only enhance the trust mark for tourists but also expand opportunities for key players in the business ecosystem.Aside from enhancing digital payments and transactions, Javier said there are other main trends to anticipate in Qatar’s information and communications technology (ICT) sector this year, such as the ever-evolving technology of artificial intelligence (AI).“Nonetheless, innovative ways of conducting offline and online transactions will still be on the rise. Climate tech and the focus on sustainability tech would probably surpass edutech and healthtech this year,” Javier predicted.He also said that while there are challenges to anticipate going forward, opportunities are awaiting local solutions providers, which they could offer to the country’s tourism sector, thus elevating the domestic tourism experience.“The booming tourism industry is already a huge opportunity for local service providers. Tourists are meant to have fun, relax, and enjoy, thus they are willing to spend, which is good for domestic players.“One of the challenges in the sector is that there are still cash-oriented retailers in Qatar and tourists are limited only in spending inside big establishments, such as malls or hotels. Providing tourists with the ability to access digital solutions like digital or cashless transactions will be a big support to local businesses and small players,” Javier explained.

Sheikha Mayes al-Thani, managing director of USQBC in Qatar. PICTURE: Shaji Kayamkulam
USQBC gears up to support participating firms in SelectUSA Investment Summit

The US-Qatar Business Council (USQBC) is planning a series of events to support the participants of the upcoming SelectUSA Investment Summit, an official has said.In an interview with Gulf Times, Sheikha Mayes al-Thani, managing director of USQBC in Qatar, elaborated on the benefits that Qatari businesspeople would gain from participating in the summit, which is slated on June 23-26 at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Centre in National Harbour, Maryland.She said the SelectUSA Investment Summit provides businesses with valuable networking opportunities, including opportunities to speak with investors, professionals, and experts. She noted that it also exposes businesses to a broader audience and enhances their visibility through media mileage.Sheikha Mayes said the event facilitates knowledge sharing through a series of panel discussions and workshops, which will provide insight for strategic decision-making. She noted that companies can explore opportunities to secure deals, form partnerships, establish credibility by associating with reputable events, and gather market intelligence, which is crucial to remaining competitive and adhering to laws and regulations.“The USQBC reiterates what has been recently announced, the signing of the US Trade and Investment Strategic Partnership Memorandum of Agreement between the International Trade Administration (ITA), the US Department of Commerce, and the US-Qatar Business Council. Having experienced SelectUSA 2023’s success, we are very excited about this collaboration.“Through our collaboration with ITA and the American embassy in Doha, we are planning a series of events to support SelectUSA Investment Summit participants. The events will offer a lot of information about how to navigate and get the most out of attending, as well as various insights and strategies,” Sheikha Mayes pointed out.According to Sheikha Mayes, a comprehensive strategy was proposed to raise awareness of bilateral trade and investment between Qatar and the US. She said the plan involves active engagement with local business networks, government agencies, and industry groups through event participation and collaborative workshops.“Educational seminars will be organised, featuring insights from experts and officials from both countries. Efforts are also focused on connecting with business associations, participating in forums, and collaborating on initiatives promoting bilateral trade. Partnerships with US economic development agencies and trade promotion platforms will provide valuable resources and support.“Virtual events and webinars are conducted to bring stakeholders together to discuss market trends and regulatory environments. Building strong relationships with key stakeholders in both countries and a commitment to continuous monitoring and adaptation ensure the strategy’s effectiveness over time,” she explained.Asked about the main sectors and industries that have the most opportunities for growth and partnerships between Qatari and American firms, Sheikha Mayes said collaboration between both countries’ companies holds significant potential across various sectors.Sheikha Mayes said Qatar’s strong presence in the energy sector, particularly in natural gas and petrochemicals, can be leveraged through technological collaboration and mutual investment. In technology and innovation, she emphasised that there are opportunities for American firms to contribute expertise, while Qatari firms provide investment and market access.“The healthcare sector offers avenues for collaboration in medical research, pharmaceuticals, and infrastructure development. In aerospace and defence, considering Qatar’s interest in bolstering its defence capabilities, collaboration in aviation and military equipment is promising.“Both countries’ vibrant tourism industries provide room for growth through collaborations in tourism infrastructure, hospitality management, and cultural exchanges. Additionally, addressing challenges in agribusiness, food production, and food security through collaborative initiatives contributes to sustainable development in these sectors,” Sheikha Mayes added.

Qaiser Nawab, president of the Belt and Road Initiative for Sustainable Development, and Pegasus Wong, chairman of the Belt and Road Group, during the signing of a co-operative agreement between BRISD and Belt and Road Trading and Contracting. PICTURE: Shaji Kayamkulam
4 firms under Belt and Road Group to boost Chinese investments in Qatar

The recent Qatar launch of four Hong Kong and China-based international companies under the Belt and Road Group is seen to attract more Chinese investments into the country, according to a top official.Pegasus Wong, chairman of the Belt and Road Group, said Qatar is an ideal gateway to the region due to the proximity to its Gulf neighbours and other countries beyond the region.“After the 2022 FIFA World Cup, we saw that Qatar is an excellent hub and it is near Saudi Arabia, thus we realised that it is ideal to start our businesses here now,” Wong told Gulf Times on the sidelines of the international launch of the Belt and Road Trading and Contracting, Gallery Five International, Fangda Partners, and SW International.Wong also said: “The timing is right. We have come to Qatar to support the country’s enterprises, projects, and government initiatives, as well as to serve as a link between Asia, Hong Kong, China, and Qatar.“Owing to Qatar’s advanced infrastructure, upcoming events, and the business opportunities it would offer both here and in other GCC countries, we believe Qatar is a strategic location for our future development.”Wong emphasised that the Middle East is “a very important region” for China, which intends to promote its Belt and Road Initiative and collaborate not only in infrastructure-related projects but also in the areas of new energy, high technology, artificial intelligence (AI), electric vehicles (EV) and EV chargers, among others.“China has already developed many advanced technologies and we would like to share this with all countries and the Middle East is one of our major partners. We share a strong relationship with countries in this region, so we expect to forge many collaborations going forward,” Wong explained.He noted that the group has already forged partnerships with LuLu Group and Qatar Post. Still, future collaboration is expected in the fields of airport and port development, and business opportunities with middle-sized companies.In a speech, Wong further explained: “We are committed to excellence across various industries, including investment, infrastructure, trading and contracting, engineering design, new energy, high technology, education, e-commerce, culture, professional services, and more.“With 12 subsidiary companies taking pride in our diverse portfolio and international reach, our primary mission is to foster cooperation between enterprises in China, Hong Kong, and Qatar, aligning seamlessly with the Belt and Road Initiative.”Wong added: “We also play an important role in supporting the Qatar government’s economic and local enterprises, facilitating connections and business opportunities between China and Hong Kong. Today, as we come together, let us celebrate the spirit of partnership, innovation and mutual growth. We intend to serve as a bridge connecting nations and industries.”The event’s guest speaker, Qaiser Nawab, president of the Belt and Road Initiative for Sustainable Development (BRISD), stated: “Since its inception in 2013, we have achieved great success, embodying principles like coexistence, mutual benefit, and sustainability. These principles deeply resonate with Pakistan, creating and connecting beyond borders.“China’s remarkable strides in economic growth and poverty alleviation serve as a beacon in illuminating paths for nations facing similar challenges. The six pivotal roots of the BRI hold the key to uplifting communications along the path, impacting global dignity, happiness, and sustainability.”Nawab added: “Qatar’s geo-economic significance offers potential for global business expansion. Through partnerships, we envision playing a significant role in fostering global economic prosperity, creating employment opportunities and elevating poverty.Collaborations across high technology, artificial technology, AI, sustainability, and cultural arts signify a commitment to innovation and global progress.”During the event, Wong and Nawab signed a co-operative agreement between BRISD and the Belt and Road Trading and Contracting for initiatives in the areas of emerging technologies, IT, climate change and environment technologies, and renewable energy, among others.

AFREEQ chairman emeritus Joseph Timothy Rivera (2nd from left), who is also co-chairman of the conference’s organising committee, is joined by (from left) Edgar Boyano, chairman, Overseas Filipino Investors and Entrepreneurs Movement; Adnan Khan, general manager, ABESQ Hotel; Dahlia Agbanlog, chairperson, Kulinarya Qatar; and Jonald Reyes, co-ordinator, Balitang Q, during a press conference held in Doha on Wednesday.
Conference slated to promote Qatar-Philippines investment opportunities

Leaders in the Filipino business community in Qatar are slated to gather this month for an upcoming conference aimed at promoting investment opportunities between the Philippines and Qatar in various sectors, it was announced on Wednesday.The ‘Philippine Wealth & Wellness Conference Qatar’ is being organised by the Association of Filipino Real Estate Executives in Qatar (AFREEQ) and will be held at the ABESQ Hotel on January 19-20, AFREEQ chairman emeritus Joseph Timothy Rivera told Gulf Times in a statement.Rivera, who is also co-chairman of the event’s organising committee, said the conference aims to raise awareness among the Filipino and expatriate communities in Doha on the available investment opportunities between both countries, specifically in the financial and wellness sector.“In line with the objectives of the conference’s predecessor, the Philippine Property & Investment Show – Qatar (PPISQ), this upcoming event is aligned with the current trends on pursuing health and economic resilience in the post-pandemic era,” Rivera explained.Among the highlights of the conference are exhibits and special talks on significant topics like financial literacy, social entrepreneurship, real estate and tourism opportunities between the Philippines and Qatar, which will be delivered by leading captains of industry and government leaders from both countries. It will also be complemented by a trade fair and exhibition, food bazaar, and several cultural presentations, Rivera said.The undersecretary of the Philippines’ Department of Health will be the keynote speaker, Rivera noted, adding that the organising committee is awaiting confirmation from other guest speakers from the health and finance committees of the Philippine Congress.Similarly, representatives from the state-owned Overseas Filipino Bank, one of the conference presenters, will also be providing financial education lectures mostly in digital banking, Rivera pointed out.Rivera said, “Qatar is home to 260,000 Filipino expatriates with many of its entrepreneurs contributing to the nation’s economy. The country is known for its prioritisation of well-being and wellness initiatives with an investment of at least ‘$6bn’ in its healthcare industry since 2017. The country has greatly liberalised its business establishment rules, thus encouraging more startups that support the economic sustainability and diversification objectives of the Qatar National Vision 2030.”He said other highlights of the conference would be the induction of AFREEQ officers for 2024 led by incoming chairperson, Bhem Asperilla of Megaworld International, and the Annual Philippine Gala Night, which will be held on January 19, in partnership with Kulinarya Qatar. This will be followed by the awarding ceremonies of notable Filipino workers in Qatar on January 20, in collaboration with AKO OFW Inc.All leading medical and wellness establishments, as well as business-oriented and entrepreneurial organisations in Qatar, have been invited to attend the conference, Rivera added.

Gulf Times
QBA hosts several high-level delegations in 2023 to boost Qatar’s global ties

The Qatari Businessmen Association (QBA) has hosted several high-level delegations and top government officials from North America, Europe, and the Middle East for the entire stretch of 2023.The meetings hosted by QBA have played a role in enhancing Qatar’s partnerships and collaboration ties with its partners in the international community to boost trade and explore potential investment opportunities.Earlier this month, QBA chairman HE Sheikh Faisal bin Qassim al-Thani led a host of members and officers during a meeting with Arun Venkataraman, US Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Global Markets, to discuss investment and trade opportunities between Qatar and the US.According to Sheikh Faisal, the value of Qatar-US trade exchange stood at about $6.7bn in 2022. In the first nine months of 2023, trade volume amounted to $5.55bn, he said.Sheikh Faisal said this value reflects the importance of the Qatari market to the US, adding that the country is full of diversified opportunities that require the presence of American companies. He noted that QBA and the Qatari business community are ready to work together further to develop the economic partnership between the two countries.Describing Qatar as “a strategic and commercial partner to the US,” Venkatraman said: “We are seeking more cooperation with Qatari Companies in various sectors and we also encourage American companies to explore the Qatari market.”He emphasised that the US and Qatar have potential cooperation opportunities in the infrastructure, technology, and services sectors, which aligns with Qatar National Vision 2030’s objectives to diversify the Qatari economy away from the energy sector.Venkatraman also cited great investment opportunities that exist within different US states, saying his team is fully prepared to provide all information about each state with the aim of facilitating cooperation and trade exchange.Similarly in December, QBA hosted a private meeting with Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel and his accompanying delegation of Cuban ministers representing the foreign affairs and tourism, energy, education, health, and investment sectors.Aside from the health sector, there are also new fields to increase potential cooperation in the areas of biotechnology, medicines, tourism, trade, culture, sports, and education, said Sheikh Faisal, who called on Qatari businessmen to cooperate with their Cuban counterparts through bilateral FDI exchange.In November, QBA held a business dinner in honour of a number of ministers and officials accompanying Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who was in Qatar on a state visit.The meeting, which was attended by HE the Minister of Commerce and Industry Sheikh Mohamed bin Hamad bin Qassim al-Abdullah al-Thani, discussed investment opportunities, improving investment relations between the two countries, and enhancing efforts to develop economic and investment ties between Qatar and Brazil.In his welcome speech, the minister underscored Qatar-Brazil investment partnerships in energy, mining, agriculture, food industry, financial services, petrochemicals, logistics services, and real estate and ways to enhance them, as well as opportunities to increase investments by Qatari and Brazilian companies in both countries.In the previous month, QBA held a luncheon in honour of the visit of Lord Alderman Nicholas Lyons, Mayor of the City of London, and his accompanying delegation. Sheikh Faisal said Qatari-British relations have been greatly strengthened in recent years by the increase in Qatari investments in Britain.He added that Qatar is currently “a real opportunity” for many investors around the world as the country enjoys security, in addition to various opportunities to develop many industries other than oil and gas. Qatar’s constantly growing investments in Britain exceeded $40bn, including shares in the Sainsbury’s chain, BAA, which operates four airports in the UK, the London Stock Exchange, Barclays Bank, the Shard building in London, and the Olympic Village.Somalia’s Prime Minister, Hamza Abdi Barre, called on Qatar to invest in the country’s agricultural, fisheries, and livestock sectors during a meeting with QBA officials held in Doha last October. The meeting explored Somalia’s agriculture, commercial, real estate, and industrial sectors, which are open for public or private investment.With a population of 14mn, Barre said Somalia has enormous livestock wealth exceeding 40mn heads of cattle, in addition to more than 8.5mn hectares of fertile land and a huge coastline spanning 3,700km with a large fish wealth – all of which are available for Qatari investments.Last February, US Republican Senator Roger Marshall lauded Qatar’s efforts in optimising its oil and gas resources investments in the country during a meeting hosted by QBA.During the meeting, Marshall highlighted the importance of the positive relations between Doha and Washington, which extend for more than 50 years, as the two sides seek to strengthen bilateral relations in the future, supported by the role of the US as the largest direct foreign investor in Qatar and the largest single source of its imports.In the same month, the QBA, in cooperation with the German Embassy in Qatar and the German Industry and Commerce Office in Qatar (AHK), organised a roundtable discussion, which focused on investment opportunities, joint cooperation, and ways to overcome obstacles facing investors, as part of the objectives of the Qatari-German Joint Taskforce that was established on September 7, 2018, during the Qatar-Germany Business and Investment Forum held in Berlin.Other meetings held in February include QBA’s business lunch in honour of Dr Hala el-Saeed, Egypt’s Minister of Planning and Economic Development, and a meeting with Ville Skinnari, Finland’s Minister of Development Co-operation and Foreign Trade, who was in the country to attend the official opening of the Embassy of Finland in Doha.During the meeting with el-Saeed, both parties discussed a number of joint co-operation topics and followed up on a number of previously signed agreements, especially after the successful visit of QBA to Egypt in 2022.Meanwhile, Skinnari praised the close relations between Qatar and Finland and called on Qatari businessmen to explore Finland’s investment opportunities to enhance co-operation in sectors like oil and gas, advanced technological industries, smart cities, maritime industries, and other fields. The meeting also discussed ways to enhance relations in the economic and trade fields and reviewed the investment climate and opportunities available in both countries.

Qatar Chamber board member Ali bin Abdullatif al-Misnad
Qatar Chamber official calls on local private sector to join FIATA Qatar

The private sector will gain from supporting the development of the country’s freight forwarding industry by joining the International Federation of Freight Forwarders Associations (FIATA) in Qatar, an official has said.Speaking to Gulf Times in an interview, Qatar Chamber board member Ali bin Abdullatif al-Misnad, chairman of the FIATA Qatar, emphasised that a robust logistics sector is a sign of a “very healthy” economy.“Freight forwarding, shipping and logistics, and transportation are among the most important cornerstones in any economy,” explained al-Misnad, who also called on private sector stakeholders in the country and Qatar’s international partners to join FIATA Qatar.According to al-Misnad, Qatar Chamber is committed to prioritising future supply chains, adding that through its activities, the chamber is promoting the development of this sector within the Qatari business community.“Establishing a FIATA chapter through the support of Qatar Chamber and by transforming it as a gateway to the international arena is a very successful step towards enhancing this industry and the activities of the freight forwarding sector, which is very important,” al-Misnad stressed.He said: “Very soon, we will start the activities of FIATA Qatar, so I would like to invite all stakeholders in the local private sector, including Qatar’s international partners, to join us, so we can discuss the challenges of the freight forwarding sector and address the corresponding any issue.”Al-Misnad also emphasised the significance of the interdependent relationship of all FIATA chapters across the globe, particularly those in Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) countries, in addressing the needs of the freight forwarding industry.Last month, al-Misnad participated in the ‘Global Freight Summit 2023’ held in Dubai under the theme ‘Making the Future Supply Chain a Reality’, wherein he underscored Qatar’s substantial investment in the transport sector, propelled the country “to the second-best position in the region for logistics efficiency.”Citing some of Hamad Port’s milestones, al-Misnad said the state-of-the-art port has established “15 direct shipping lines,” linking it to “40 ports” across three continents. He also noted that the port has an annual capacity of “7mn tonnes”, Hamad Port handles “1mn tonnes” of grain, and accommodates the shipment of “500,000” cars, as well as livestock.Aside from Hamad Port, al-Misnad pointed out that Qatar has successfully established itself as an aviation hub, citing the Hamad International Airport, which handles “more than 220,000 flights annually”, facilitating the transportation of over “35mn passengers” and “2mn tonnes” of cargo to “54 destinations worldwide”.

Sheikh Khalifa bin Jassim al-Thani, Qatar Chamber chairman.
Qatar Chamber caps 2023 with successful showcase of national products

Qatar Chamber capped the year with the successful showcase of many national products during the staging of the ‘Made in Qatar 2023’, with the participation of small and large Qatari companies.Sheikh Khalifa bin Jassim al-Thani, Qatar Chamber chairman, said the participation of 450 companies and factories reflects their keen interest in promoting homegrown products in the local market to achieve the desired self-sufficiency and reduce dependence on imports.“The expo mainly aims to promote the Qatari industry and products, encourage the use of domestic products, reduce reliance on imports, and bolster the state's initiatives to support the industry. Additionally, it aims to encourage investors and business owners to invest in industrial projects.“Moreover, the exhibition offers a valuable opportunity to activate the private sector's role in industrial development, expand the productivity of national factories, and foster cooperation and coordination among Qatari firms. It particularly highlights the participation of a select group of Qatari companies and factories that have made significant strides in the industry, along with new exhibitors joining the event for the first time,” he stressed.In other achievements this 2023, Sheikh Khalifa emphasised that the realisation of Arab economic integration remains a paramount challenge for collective Arab endeavours, particularly in light of global economic dynamics and international economic blocs.“Indeed, Arab nations possess the essential elements that can facilitate the integration of their economies, including abundant natural resources, a skilled workforce, capital resources, and a strategic geographical location that serves as a bridge between the East and the West, coupled with linguistic unity.“It is undeniable that achieving Arab economic integration will elevate the economic standing of the Arab world, positioning it as an active and robust economic bloc within the global economy. Such integration is poised to attract investments, generate more employment opportunities, and bolster overall economic growth,” he noted.In this regard, Sheikh Khalifa stressed that chambers of commerce and industry in Arab nations play a pivotal role in working towards this objective, particularly through collaborative efforts under the Union of Arab Chambers (UAC). During a recent meeting convened by the UAC in Manama, he said discussions revolved around revitalising Arab economic integration and fostering a conducive business environment.“This collaborative effort is a fundamental pillar for the economic and social development of Arab nations, enabling them to be more integrated into the global economy and better equipped to address international challenges. Moreover, the efforts undertaken by the Gulf States towards achieving Gulf economic integration are instrumental in the pursuit of Arab economic integration.“In a recent meeting of the Federation of Gulf Co-operation Council Chambers (FGCCC), discussions revolved around bolstering Gulf economic integration and enhancing economic and commercial cooperation among Gulf states, along with supporting public-private partnerships (PPP) across the GCC states,” Sheikh Khalifa said.In May this year, Qatar Chamber held its Second General Assembly Meeting, which was highlighted by the election of the chamber’s seventh council (2023-2028).“We are confident that the new board will focus on strengthening the chamber’s role in supporting the private sector and protecting its interests, promoting the national economy and investment climate, and highlighting Qatar as a leading global investment destination and hub for business and investment, as well as enhancing the ease of doing business and attracting foreign investment,” Sheikh Khalifa said.He said the chamber’s strategy mainly aims to enhance the private sector’s competitiveness, accelerate its growth, and increase its contribution to the state’s economic development, in line with the Qatar National Vision 2030, whose most important pillar is promoting economic diversification and achieving inclusive economic growth.Sheikh Khalifa said: “During the new council, we will work towards the completion of the chamber’s new headquarters in Lusail City, as we are planning to transfer to a sophisticated and modern building that keeps pace with the state’s economic renaissance in the country.“Furthermore, we will also focus on organising more activities to support the private sector, promoting the national economy, and expanding meetings with various economic and trade sectors to discuss and find solutions to all issues and obstacles facing the private sector.”Qatar Chamber also organised earlier this year the Private Sector Forum (PSF), which was held in Doha on the sidelines of the 5th UN Conference on the Least Developed Countries (LDC5).“In partnership with the UN Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (UN-OHRLLS) and Microsoft, the event provided a very important opportunity for us to emphasise the chamber’s tireless efforts in providing all kinds of services to support the private sector and enable it to enhance its contributions to economic activity under the Qatar National Vision 2030,” he said.Sheikh Khalifa added: “The event also highlighted the chamber’s keenness to provide all needed facilitations for private sector companies and institutions to create the best possible environment for businesses."

AHK Gulf Regional CEO Oliver Oehms. PICTURE: Thajudheen.
Qatar-Germany partnership seen to accelerate EV market rollout

Owing to robust government-to-government (G2G) partnerships between Qatar and Germany, discussions on hydrogen energy, efficient building technologies, and sustainable modes of transportation, especially e-mobility, are on track, an official of AHK Gulf has said.“For the past couple of years, we have had G2G-driven energy and climate partnerships; the one with Qatar is still quite young compared to the UAE. (But) there’s already an excellent communication channel at the government level.“And we, as AHK, have been, in both cases, mandated by the German government to get the private sector involved,” AHK Gulf Regional CEO Oliver Oehms told Gulf Times in an interview.Unlike Saudi Arabia, which has a nationwide grid of charging stations, Oehms said Qatar presents an interesting case for e-mobility since the country is mostly a city-state with short distances.“We see an interesting case in Qatar. Distances are short; it’s relatively easy and different from other countries like Saudi Arabia. So, there’s an interesting potential for quickly accelerating the market rollout of e-vehicles not only on a commercial but also on a private basis,” Oehms noted.According to Oehms, the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) is a key shareholder of Siemens, which is one of the leading global companies pushing the topic of electrification and digitalisation.“From this perspective, Qatar plays an active role in that area. And we know that QIA is continuously looking into complementary investment targets in Germany, therefore, Qatar has the potential to play an important role as an equity partner, a strategic partner for these mid- to long-term developments,” Oehms said.Aside from e-mobility, Oehms also noted that climate conditions and the many high-rise buildings across the region, including Qatar, there’s “an interesting potential” in introducing technologies to reduce the carbon footprint of those buildings.Asked about potential partnerships in smart cities, citing Msheireb and Lusail, Oehms said: “There’s a lot of German technology already in those smart cities, making the assets fairly green. This is due to German and other European technology providers.”Oehms said, “I would underline that Qatar, with its robust financial and diplomatic capabilities, has the chance to be not only an influencer but also a role model and, again, an equity partner in green sustainable projects in other parts of the world.He added: “We have seen that Qatar has been starting to play a more active role in Africa. Utilising German technology, Qatari influence and funding, and emerging markets, such as, in this case, Africa, is an interesting business case and this is something that we would love to engage more often.”

Eman al-Kuwari, Director of Digital Innovation Department at the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology. PICTURE: Shaji Kayamkulam
More tech firms see Qatar as hub to the region

Qatar has been attracting global innovative companies seeking to tap the region by expanding their operations in the country, according to the director of the Digital Innovation Department at the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT).According to Eman al-Kuwari, the influx of international companies through the Tasmu Accelerator will also benefit entrepreneurs, startups, and tech founders in Qatar in terms of potential collaboration, thus enhancing the Qatari economy.Only recently, the Tasmu Accelerator, a flagship programme of the MCIT, was able to attract over 540 applicants from 78 countries for its inaugural cohort, al-Kuwari said. She noted that after a stringent selection process, 25 startups participated in the programme’s six-month acceleration phase.“These graduates from the programme’s first cohort have set the bar high, so we anticipate that the next applicants have very high profiles,” al-Kuwari told Gulf Times. Following the conclusion of programme’s 2023 cycle, the Tasmu Accelerator has announced the opening of the early registration phase for the 2024 cohort.In an earlier statement, Reem al-Mansoori, Assistant Undersecretary of Digital Industry Affairs at MCIT, emphasised that the Tasmu Accelerator is set to drive Qatar’s digital economy forward and help position the country as a leader in the global tech industry by providing an all-inclusive, supportive ecosystem for global and local tech startups.This was reiterated by al-Kuwari, who said the Tasmu Accelerator is a smart country programme, which is focusing on entrepreneurs establishing their startups here. It is also geared to support the growth of these companies, she also said.Al-Kuwari pointed out that Qatar has successfully established itself as a tech hub, citing the country’s hosting of the Web Summit in 2024. She noted that startups establishing themselves here will benefit from the country’s strategic location, ease of doing business, and a wide range of complementary programmes.Backed by a 10-year road map, al-Kuwari emphasised that the Tasmu Accelerator is aligned with the objectives of the Qatar National Vision 2030 and aims to strengthen the Qatari economy, enhance private sector competitiveness, and broaden the country’s revenue streams by introducing 80 innovative solutions to the local market and generating 800 job opportunities.During the previously held Tasmu Accelerator 2023 Demo Day, the ministry recognised Albert Health, Direk, and Fleetroot for their groundbreaking solutions. The three startups stood out from the accelerator’s healthcare, environment, and logistics tracks, respectively. Each startup received a QR200,000 cash boost from their respective Track Champions to further grow and scale their businesses, all while maintaining 100% equity.The event took place following the inauguration of the Tasmu Accelerator Hub at Ooredoo HQ2, which was officiated by HE the Minister of Communications and Information Technology Mohamed bin Ali al-Mannai.Designed to nurture startups, the dedicated workspace will welcome graduates of the 2023 cohort. This strategic positioning will provide them with invaluable local market insights, and industry expertise, as well as facilitate their successful entry and growth into the Qatari market.

Megat Iskandar Ahmad Dassilah, MATRADE trade commissioner.
Qatari firms seen to benefit from success of Malaysian halal exhibition

The success of the previously held Malaysia International Halal Showcase (MIHAS 2023) could serve as a jump-off point for Qatari businesses seeking to take a chunk out of the burgeoning halal industry, an official of the Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (MATRADE) has said.MIHAS, regarded as “the world’s largest halal exhibition,” recorded $656.1mn (RM3.11bn) worth of sales during its five-day run in Malaysia last September, exceeding its target of $527.4mn (RM2.5bn) by 24%, according to figures provided by MATRADE to Gulf Times.This achievement during the 19th edition of the exhibition further underscores MIHAS’ significance as a premier global trade platform for the halal industry.Dubai-based MATRADE trade commissioner Megat Iskandar Ahmad Dassilah emphasised that Qatari businesses can benefit from the growing interest in the halal industry through MIHAS.“We hope to receive more participation from the Qatari companies in next year’s MIHAS as this event complements the strong development of the halal industry in Qatar,” Dassilah noted.During the exhibition, which was hosted by Malaysia’s Ministry of Investment, Trade, and Industry (MITI) and organised by MATRADE, sales were contributed by business deals concluded from two MIHAS key programmes: the International Sourcing Programme (INSP) organised for Malaysian exporters and the signature trade exhibition involving exhibitors from 44 countries.MIHAS 2023’s focus on elements of sustainability and digitalisation has further enhanced its value to the global halal community by facilitating and accelerating the mainstreaming of the halal ecosystem into global supply chains.Preliminary calculations showed that the INSP, MATRADE’s flagship programme, achieved sales worth $257.4mn (RM1.22bn), while the exhibitors garnered total sales of $398.8mn (RM1.89bn). According to MATRADE, these preliminary sales figures could potentially increase as the virtual INSP business matching lasted until November 30.The exhibition covered 13 halal segments and the business matching involved companies in all sectors, resulting in opening market access for Malaysian companies in some of the largest supermarket chains in the world, including Walmart, Aldi, Asda, Marks & Spencer, Guardian, Sainsbury, and Woolworth. It also provided access to Malaysian companies to global markets where Malaysia currently does not have a strong presence, such as Romania, Poland, and Morocco.The in-person INSP, which occurred at MATRADE, connected 469 Malaysian companies with 231 international buyers from 44 countries, including 11 premium buyers. This initiative facilitated a total of 2,788 business meetings. MATRADE, through its trade office in Doha, had brought in four buyers to this flagship programme.MITI Minister YB Senator Tengku Datuk Seri Utama Zafrul said, “Malaysia’s Halal Industry Master Plan 2030 targets an industry contribution of $56.1mn (RM266bn), or 11% of Malaysia’s GDP by 2030. In achieving this, we will continue to build on the momentum generated by MIHAS 2023, particularly in facilitating market access for our Halal industry players to major supply chains globally.”The minister added: “Most importantly, in line with our New Industrial Master Plan 2030’s economic security and inclusivity agenda, platforms like MIHAS also contribute significantly to the government’s objective of internationalising micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) and strengthening Malaysia’s position as the halal hub in Asia.”MATRADE chairman YB Dato’ Sri Reezal Merican Naina Merican said, “We are committed to promoting sustainable growth and ensuring that the halal industry continues to thrive in a responsible and environmentally friendly manner.“More than 30 MoUs were exchanged between Malaysian and foreign organisations throughout MIHAS. MATRADE also expended considerable effort to engage other government organisations, resulting in the participation of 34 federal and state agencies in this year’s MIHAS.”He added: “We are proud to have played our part in MIHAS 2023’s success. Not surprisingly more than 800 exhibitors have already expressed their interest in participating in MIHAS 2024 scheduled for September 17-20, 2024, proving its key role in advancing and elevating the global Halal industry.”For its 2024 edition, MATRADE will organise MIHAS under the theme ‘Globalising Halal Innovations’ and will continue its digitalisation initiative for the halal industry through a hybrid manner. Also, MIHAS 2024 will maintain its four major components: the showcase, International Sourcing Programme (INSP), Knowledge Hub, and MIHAS Awards.

Indonesian ambassador Ridwan Hassan. PICTURE: Thajudheen
Indonesia eyeing Qatari FDI in dairy sector, says envoy

Indonesia is seeking to attract more Qatari investments in a variety of industries, including the dairy sector, said ambassador Ridwan Hassan, who expressed the embassy’s support for Qatar’s food security strategy.Speaking to Gulf Times recently regarding the southeast Asian nation’s food exports to Qatar, Hassan pointed out that Indonesia is not only working on ramping up trade exchange but also expanding ties in investments and knowledge exchange.“We have been working with Baladna for quite some time. Two Indonesian companies have signed an MoU with them already. Of course, we have to see the progress on more technical details. But at least the communication is already taking place for quite some time,” the ambassador explained.In May this year, Baladna, Qatar’s leading dairy producer, signed memoranda of understanding with Indonesian companies PT Perkebunan Nusantara III and PT Berdikari to cooperate on dairy farming initiatives.PT Perkebunan Nusantara III specialises in crop processing and agribusiness. At the same time, PT Berdikari primarily deals in farming infrastructure and farm management system services, according to a Qatar News Agency (QNA) report.The report stated: “In a statement published on the Qatar Stock Exchange website on Monday, the proposed joint efforts aim to enhance cooperation, exchange of information and experience to identify, assess and initiate projects relating to the dairy sector in Indonesia to reduce dependency on the import of food products by developing its agricultural and livestock industries through building a reliable livestock breeding infrastructure in Indonesia to enhance food security.“Baladna has inked similar agreements with leading companies in the Philippines and Malaysia, as part of the dairy company's efforts to expand its successful business model in other countries to enhance worldwide food security.”Hassan also ensured Indonesia’s support to Qatar’s food security strategy, saying it has already been cooperating with its regional neighbours and other countries through exports of various commodities.“Food security issue is one of the important agendas for many countries. And Indonesia is also doing that and we are cooperating with many countries, as well as with Qatar,” Hassan explained, adding that Indonesia is among the largest fruit exporters to countries like Singapore, Malaysia, Japan, and China, among others.On Qatar-Indonesia trade, data provided by the Indonesian embassy in Doha revealed that figures stood at $975.3mn in the first six months of 2023. The southeast Asian country’s exports to Qatar in the first half of 2023 reached $368.7mn, while its imports were pegged at $606.7mn.From January to June this year, Indonesia’s exports to Qatar comprised ‘articles of iron or steel’, ‘paper and paper pulp’; ‘electrical machinery and equipment and parts’; ‘vehicles and parts and accessories’; ‘footwear, gaiters’; ‘soap, organic surface-active agents’; ‘furniture, bedding, mattresses’; ‘wadding, special yarns, ropes and cables’; ‘ceramic products’; ‘wood, plywood, wood charcoal’: ‘apparel and clothing accessories, knitted or crocheted’; and ‘essential oils and resinoids, perfumery, cosmetic or toilet preparations’.During the same period, Qatar’s exports to Indonesia included ‘gas, oil and products of their distillation’; ‘aluminium and articles’; ‘plastics and articles’; and ‘organic chemicals’, data from the Indonesian embassy stated.In 2020, trade exchange between the two countries stood at $895mn but slightly dipped the following year to $893mn. Trade between both nations stood at $1.3bn in 2022 comprising $296.8mn worth of Indonesian exports to Qatar and imports amounting to $974mn for a trade balance of $677.2mn in favour of Qatar.

CRA president Ahmad Abdulla al-Muslemani (centre) during a panel discussion at Doha Forum Monday. He is joined by (from left) Dan Murphy, Dr Hussein Ali Mwinyi, Arnoldo André Tinoco, Dr Bruno Lanvin, Keyzom Ngodup Massally, and Selim Eddé. PICTURE: Shaji Kayamkulam.
Strategic government initiatives propel Qatar’s digital transformation, says CRA top official

Qatar’s rapid progress and the advancements it has made in its digital transformation journey have played a crucial role in fostering innovation and enhancement of efficiency, a top official of the Communications and Regulatory Authority (CRA) said Monday.Speaking at the session ‘Building a Digital Economy: Is Your Country Future-Ready?’ held on the sidelines of Doha Forum, CRA president Ahmad Abdulla al-Muslemani shared examples of how Qatar leveraged advanced technology, particularly during the 2022 FIFA World Cup preparation and for modernising communication and information exchange.Al-Muslemani also highlighted other major initiatives done by the Qatari government to migrate to the cloud. He said more than “40%” of consumer services in Qatar today are powered by artificial intelligence (AI).“We recently hosted Microsoft, their regional hub, and also Google, not only to serve the State of Qatar, but also the region,” he pointed out.From a regulatory perspective, al-Muslemani emphasised the importance of empowering businesses to compete effectively in the market workplace. He highlighted the need for regulatory frameworks to evolve harmoniously with technology, ensuring consumer protection and facilitating smooth navigation in the digital environment.Acting as both an innovator and a regulator, al-Muslemani explained how the CRA is balancing between digital technologies, digital transformation, and regulation. He emphasised that the CRA has taken a “comprehensive approach,” noting the authority’s “dynamic and forward-thinking regulatory framework,” which was implemented to foster innovation while ensuring relevance and reliability.“Emphasising the challenges of technology convergence, the CRA adopted an integrated regulatory framework, avoiding separate approaches to telecom, IT, and media regulations,” said al-Muslemani, citing the example of the cloud policy framework, setting guidelines, implementing regulatory measures, and collaborating with industry partners to share knowledge and ideas.Al-Muslemani said, “The CRA has empowered its staff with knowledge and put them with the knowledge that is needed to tackle all the regulatory matters. Awareness and enhancing awareness between the stakeholders are crucial.”According to al-Muslemani, the CRA is also focused on adaptability, collaboration, and proactive engagement within a reliable framework. He also highlighted the significance of striking a balance in the ever-evolving landscape of digital transformation and regulation.During the panel discussion, which was moderated by CNBC anchor and correspondent Dan Murphy, al-Muslemani was joined by Dr Hussein Ali Mwinyi, President of Zanzibar and chairperson of the Revolutionary Council; Arnoldo André Tinoco, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Worship of Costa Rica; Dr Bruno Lanvin, founder and president of the Descartes Institute for the Future; Keyzom Ngodup Massally, head of Digital Programmes, Chief Digital Office at the UN Development Programme (UNDP); and Selim Eddé, director of Government Affairs and Public Policy for Emerging Markets at Google Cloud.

Oman's Minister for Energy & Minerals, Salim bin Nasser al-Aufi (2nd from left), during a panel discussion held on the sidelines of the Doha Forum Sunday. He is joined by (from left) Dr Cinzia Bianco, Gulf Research Fellow, European Council on Foreign Relations; Luigi Di Maio, EU Special Representative (EUSR) for the Gulf region; and Dr Elif Calik of Women in Smart Energy - WSE UK. PICTURE: Shaji Kayamkulam
Oman on track for green hydrogen expansion, says Minister for Energy & Minerals

Oman has accelerated its infrastructure development and the forging of global partnerships for green hydrogen expansion, Salim bin Nasser al-Aufi, the sultanate’s Minister for Energy & Minerals said Sunday on the sidelines of the Doha Forum.Speaking at a panel discussion titled ‘Energy Transition: Powering up Green Cooperation between Europe and the Gulf’, al-Aufi emphasised that Oman is gearing up to become a global hub for green hydrogen production.“Since late last year, we announced that Oman is positioning itself to become a global hub for hydrogen, specifically green hydrogen, both for local and international consumption,” he said, noting that 50,000sq km of land was dedicated primarily for the production of green hydrogen, utilising renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind.“We think the area is extremely competitive; it’s probably one of the top four or five locations globally that can offer the lowest possible cost of hydrogen,” al-Aufi explained, adding that Oman has initiated a transparent and open auction system, resulting in signed agreements that position the country to achieve almost 50% to 60% of its 2030 target of 1mn tonnes of hydrogen production.Al-Aufi said, “Our ultimate target, of course, is much bigger than that. We believe if all these lands are consumed in renewable energy production and hydrogen, then we could be potentially producing anywhere between 25mn to 30mn tonnes of hydrogen, which is extremely sizable, even by world demand.”He also discussed Oman’s collaboration with European nations, including Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, and Austria. Likewise, he emphasised that the sultanate is also targeting the German market, which he described as the largest in Europe.The minister stressed that Oman’s collaboration with EU nations signifies its commitment to international standards and market demands, establishing the country as a key player in the burgeoning green hydrogen landscape.Al-Aufi said Oman will be utilising green energy to desalinate water, which is a critical element in green hydrogen production. The byproduct, 'reject water', will be repurposed for vertical farming, he noted.According to al-Aufi, Oman has identified industry, electricity generation, mobility, and oil and gas as major CO2 emission sources. However, he also expressed confidence in meeting Oman’s emission reduction target and outlined strategies, including carbon capture and sequestration, capture and use, and innovative capture and mineralisation methods.Al-Aufi also that emphasised Oman is putting attention on workforce upskilling for a sustainable future by recognising the pivotal role of a skilled workforce in meeting the demands of the green transition. He added that traditional skills like electricians, mechanics, and instrument engineers remain crucial, but new skills in data science and system management are identified as vital for the evolving energy landscape.During the panel discussion, al-Aufi was also joined by Luigi Di Maio, EU Special Representative (EUSR) for the Gulf region; Dr Elif Calik of Women in Smart Energy - WSE UK; and Dr Cinzia Bianco, Gulf Research Fellow, European Council on Foreign Relations, who acted as moderator.

Dr Mohamed Althaf, director of LuLu Group International. PICTURE: Shaji Kayamkulam
Rapid development in Qatar’s manufacturing industry to propel export of local products, says LuLu top executive

Qatar’s manufacturing industry has witnessed rapid development in recent years, showing potential growth in the export of locally-made products, a top executive of a retail group has said. Dr Mohamed Althaf, director of LuLu Group International, explained that just as the Covid-19 pandemic caused disruptions in the e-commerce industry, the 2017 blockade had a similar positive impact on driving the ‘Made in Qatar’ trademark to the forefront. Dr Althaf noted that there was a shift in Qatar’s Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) sector from bulk importing and packaging to scratch manufacturing. “Local products are now being manufactured from the very basic components to the most advanced level, including packaging, within Qatar itself,” Dr Althaf pointed out, citing an increase in the number of national products on LuLu Hypermarket shelves. Dr Althaf emphasised that the “remarkable progress” in Qatar’s FMCG sector, particularly in adopting scratch manufacturing and enhancing local production capabilities, would mean that companies in the country will not only be able to meet domestic demand but will also be capable of exporting their products in the future. He said: “As the capacity for this type of manufacturing increases, it is expected that there will be a rise in competition among companies in Qatar, as well. Dr Althaf also emphasised the progress and development among agriculture farms in Qatar, noting that these facilities are performing well commercially. “If you look at the agriculture industry here prior to the 2017 blockade, 50% of the farming activity here was recreational. It was never treated at that time as an important economic activity from a national perspective. Over the years, people understood their priorities and focused on what was important and this was a huge disruption. “It all started with commodity and seasonal products. But now, it has become fairly sophisticated, and in all speciality sectors. There are some 70 farming units in Qatar and they all run on a commercial basis,” Dr Althaf stressed, adding that “even without any other incentive, they can still become profitable, viable operations.” Earlier, LuLu, in collaboration with the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, launched the ‘National Product Week’ initiative, which concludes today, under the theme ‘Together, We Support the Qatari Product’. The initiative was designed to promote locally produced food and non-food items, supporting small Qatari businesses and entrepreneurs. In an earlier statement, Dr Althaf said: “This event has been growing each year, promoting a sense of connection with Qatar’s food heritage and contributing to our food security. Qatar has made remarkable progress in local production, with many items now locally produced. “This initiative is vital in maintaining momentum, especially in times of political crises and climate changes. We are partnering with more than 70 farmers in Qatar, showcasing our commitment to promoting Qatari products.” LuLu Group’s longstanding partnership with local farmers demonstrates its commitment to marketing local agricultural produce and its socio-economic commitment to the nation. The group, with a global presence, has been a pioneer in promoting Qatari products and farm produce, the statement added.