Tuesday, March 21, 2023 | 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.
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National Vision 2030 vital in empowering women in Qatar, says QBWA official

Major work is underway to empower women in Qatar as part of the country’s 2030 national vision, an official of the Qatari Businesswomen Association (QBWA) has said. The Qatar National Vision 2030 prioritises women’s right to study, work, and enhance their social status, according to QBWA board member Awatef Mohamed al-Dafa, who noted that one of the goals of the 2030 national vision is to enhance women’s capacities and help them fully participate in the political and economic spheres, mainly in decision-making. “Our country’s legislation prevents discrimination against women when it comes to employment, whether in the public or private sector,” al-Dafa stated in ‘The Business Year: Qatar 2022, World Cup Special Edition’, which was released recently. “I would like to see more women assuming better positions to play a role in the socio-economic growth of our country and achieve the objectives of Qatar National Vision 2030,” she emphasised. On raising awareness on the role of women in Qatar, al-Dafa said in the mid-2000s, she helped support underprivileged women and children in the US and the Arab world through fundraising and social work while working with the spouses of Arab ambassadors in the US-based Mosaic Foundation. Similarly, she said QBWA has been assisting women for over a decade through vocational training and professional development to help them contribute to Qatar’s economic growth. “Through QBWA, we have launched many initiatives for female entrepreneurs to develop their skills and advance their businesses,” al-Dafa explained, citing the importance of education. She noted that Qatari women have focused on education to play a bigger role in society over the past two decades. At the postgraduate level, “female students have outnumbered males,” she also said. “Almost 75% of Qatari students registered at Qatar Foundation universities have been women, according to the organisation’s official figures. Thanks to Qatar’s wise leadership, young Qatari women were given an alternative to scholarships abroad by attending international universities right here in Doha. “These efforts have empowered women and given them greater opportunities to join the workforce. We have seen female decision-makers playing a pivotal role in the government sector, female doctors who worked day and night at the frontline during the Covid-19 pandemic, and brilliant female engineers in the oil and gas sector, just to name a few,” al-Dafa pointed out. She added: “My message to Qatari women is to stand up for their rights and inspire the new generation of young girls to be future leaders. Thanks to the great leadership of Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, women have gained equal opportunities with men and assumed the leadership positions of ministers, ambassadors, directors in both public and private institutions, and entrepreneurs among other roles. Qatari women have also become the region’s first female judges and prosecutors. “I encourage women to never stop learning, educating themselves, and developing their skills. I call upon women’s organisations to support the building of self-confidence in women and to promote the self-development of young girls. I also call upon women to speak up if they face any kind of discrimination whether in the workplace or in society.”    

HE the Minister of Municipality Abdullah bin Abdulaziz bin Turki al-Subaie is joined by a panel of experts during Qatar Rail's second town hall and stakeholders meeting held Tuesday under the theme u2018Safe and Effective Crowd Management at Metro Stationsu2019. PICTURES: Shaji Kayamkulam
Minister says Doha Metro ‘safe, ready’ for influx of World Cup fans

  Qatar Railways Company (Qatar Rail) is “on track” in terms of its readiness and preparations for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, according to HE the Minister of Municipality Abdullah bin Abdulaziz bin Turki al-Subaie. Al-Subaie, who is also Qatar Rail's managing director and CEO, made the statement during the company’s second town hall and stakeholders meeting held Tuesday under the theme ‘Safe and Effective Crowd Management at Metro Stations’. HE the Minister of Municipality Abdullah bin Abdulaziz bin Turki al-Subaie speaking during the panel discussion. “This meeting comes less than two months away from the start of the World Cup 2022. Qatar Rail is on track with its readiness and preparations for this event as the Doha Metro is a key component in the integrated transport plan for this global event hosted by the State of Qatar,” al-Subaie said during his speech. Since starting operations in 2019, al-Subaie said the Doha Metro’s state-of-the-art driverless system was specifically designed and built to handle large numbers of passengers and to handle major events, adding that the Doha Metro was tested during several large events held previously. “We have incorporated the lessons learnt from these events in a systematic and controlled way to enhance performance. Also, under our preparations for the tournament, we have developed a ‘station plan’ for each station under our networks. “Hosting any major event requires co-ordination across a broad and complex landscape of stakeholders. Crowd management is the key success for a safe and smooth travel experience and this cannot be achieved without the close co-ordination, joint efforts, and the support of our stakeholders,” he said. Speaking to Gulf Times on the sidelines of the event, al-Subaie said: “Our focus now is mainly on crowd and event management. It is important for people to feel safe and secure, and we are ready to provide a very distinguished service to them, so we are working closely with international industry leaders and sharing best practices and experiences. We are trying to break all barriers of communication and ensuring that we have visibility for our strategic direction." During the World Cup, al-Subaie also said there would be 110 trains operating 21 hours per day and more than 10,000 staff manning the Doha Metro. He also noted that from three cars, the Red Line is now running with six cars. Aside from al-Subaie, the town hall was also attended by Engineer Yasir Jamal, director-general of the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC) and chairman of the 2022 FIFA World Cup Executive Committee; Hamad Isa Abdulla, acting assistant undersecretary of Land Transport Affairs at the Ministry of Transport (MoT); and Lieutenant-Colonel Salem al-Naimi, director of Transportation Security Department at the Ministry of Interior (MoI). They were also joined by RKH, the operator of Doha Metro, and key shareholders, including Jean Pierre Farandou, SNCF chairman and CEO; Bernard Tabary, CEO of Keolis Group International; Jean Yves Leclercq, RATP Group CEO; and Hiba Fares, RATP Dev CEO; as well as other senior officials from the MoT, SC, MoI, and Qatar Rail management team and staff. The meeting is one of a series of staff and management town halls and workshops held under Qatar Rail’s readiness programme for the World Cup. It was highlighted by several activities, including a panel discussion on crowd management, management of key risks, emergency preparedness, and crowd control, followed by a presentation on the Role of Operation of Metro Command and Control Centre. RKH is responsible for operating and maintaining Doha Metro and Lusail Tram networks. The company works hand-in-hand with Qatar Rail to ensure safe and effective crowd management at the stations and ensure the delivery of a seamless and safe travel experience during the 2022 FIFA World Cup. In July 2022, Qatar Rail organised its first town hall for staff, stakeholders, and consultants meeting under the theme ‘Transport Management for Mega Events’, which included several sessions on the readiness of Doha Metro services for major events, and the main challenges of hosting the upcoming World Cup.

Qatar Chamber chairman Sheikh Khalifa bin Jassim al-Thani.
FIFA World Cup shines spotlight on Qatar’s robust investment climate

Qatar’s hosting of the 2022 FIFA World Cup brings a host of benefits, such as drawing more international attention and consolidating the country’s efforts to emerge as a centre for business and investments, as well as for tourism, culture, and peace, according to Qatar Chamber chairman Sheikh Khalifa bin Jassim al-Thani. He said 2022 will not only be an exceptional year but an unforgettable one for both Qatar and the entire region as it is the first World Cup to be held in an Arab country and in the Middle East. “Long before the official launch of the tournament, Qatar was 100% ready to host the world’s largest sports event. Preparations have lasted for more than a decade,” Sheikh Khalifa stated in the latest edition of Al Moltaqa, the chamber’s economic magazine. After Qatar won the bid to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup, the State “has prepared itself well for the world’s largest football show,” said Sheikh Khalifa, citing the building of a series of mega-infrastructure projects, such as world-class roads, bridges, and other infrastructure; the establishment of state-of-the-art sports stadiums and giant sports facilities. Other massive projects include the expansion of the Hamad International Airport and the establishment of hotels and tourism-related facilities, as well as other developments in the field of maritime transport, subways, and electric buses, among others. “We are firmly certain that hosting this mega event will have a positive effect on Qatar’s long-term growth prospects at various levels. The World Cup will not only generate an economic boom for Qatar but it will place the state on the international map and as a global centre for investments and business, especially in light of the attractive legislative, regulatory, and institutional environment, and advanced infrastructure. “It constitutes a huge boost for Qatar’s national economy and will this further benefit several sectors, including hospitality, tourism, and infrastructure before and beyond the tournament,” Sheikh Khalifa explained. He added: “Furthermore, the World Cup will enhance the country’s position on the world sports map as a destination for major sporting events. In this context, we see that the Qatari private sector is well-prepared to make the event a grand success. It certainly will play its role and meet the expectations of the government during and beyond the event. “Qatar Chamber, in turn, will promote Qatar’s economy and its investment climate among visitors to Qatar during the World Cup championship. In conclusion, we are confident that the event will be the most successful edition of the tournament throughout its history in all aspects.”

South Africa Minister of Transport Fikile Mbalula.
‘Vast opportunities’ await Qatari investors in South Africa’s varied sectors, says SA transport minister

South Africa’s transport minister, Fikile Mbalula, has invited Qatari investors to explore the country’s investment climate, saying many sectors there are rife with opportunities for business and trade. In a statement to Gulf Times, Mbalula said South Africa is eyeing to invite Qatari delegations to accompany HE the Minister of Transport Jassim Seif Ahmed al-Sulaiti, whom he met during a working visit to Qatar recently. “Indeed, we have vast opportunities for Qatari businesses to invest in and would like them to visit our country and explore partnerships with local businesses. We are looking for investments in the areas of aviation, maritime, rail, and broader transport infrastructure,” Mbalula pointed out. Asked what other areas in the transport sector are viable for Qatari investments into South Africa, Mbalula said these sectors include aircraft maintenance; repair and overhaul; aerospace manufacturing and other civil aviation operations; and transport infrastructure, including rail, road, maritime, and aviation. On potential projects or joint ventures that Qatar and South Africa could enter into or explore in the field of transportation, as well as in other sectors, Mbalula said: “We are looking at projects in the areas of improving competitiveness and efficiency at our ports; growing the aviation sector in the southern Africa region through collaboration and skills development programmes; human resource development; and innovation and technology.” According to Mbalula, he has invited al-Sulaiti to visit South Africa in the coming period. “I have extended an invitation to His Excellency the Minister of Transport, Jassim Seif Ahmed al-Sulaiti, to visit South Africa – an invitation that he has graciously accepted. We anticipate that this visit will take place before year-end,” Mbalula said. During Mbalula’s working visit here, the South African transport minister held meetings with al-Sulaiti and other ministries, as well as other key organisations and officials in Qatar. “There were no agreements signed during this visit. However, we have three agreements that are under consideration and should be signed as soon as relevant processes are finalised. “These are the memorandum of understanding on transport-related matters and an agreement on co-operation in the field of maritime transport, as well as a memorandum of understanding on mutual recognition of certificates of competence for seafarers,” he explained. He added: “My visit to Qatar is at the invitation of HE the Minister of Transport Jassim Seif Ahmed al-Sulaiti. The objective of the visit is to discuss matters of mutual co-operation and deepen our bilateral relations. “These relations between our respective countries date back to the dawn of democracy in South Africa in 1994. The growing bond between our respective nations was strengthened by the visits to Qatar by successive South African presidents from president Nelson Mandela, president Thabo Mbeki, to President Jacob Zuma.”

Qmunity Kenz co-founders gather at QSTP for Demo Day.
‘Time banking’ gaining traction in Qatar post-QSTP XLR8 programme

Initiatives like the XLR8 programme of Qatar Science & Technology Park (QSTP), member of Qatar Foundation, have been playing an instrumental role in the development and success of many startups in Qatar. One of these startups, Qmunity Kenz, is steadily attracting the attention and interest of the community and, most notably, important players and stakeholders in the national entrepreneurial ecosystem, co-founder Leyla Mroueh told Gulf Times. Only recently, QSTP has opened applications for cycle 13 of its XLR8 programme. Applications will remain open until October 8, noted Mroueh, who encouraged interested entrepreneurs to take advantage of the opportunities that the programme offers, including QR150,000 for this year’s winning team and a QR100,000 prize for the second place winner. Gulf Times: What role has QSTP played in the development of Qmunity Kenz? Mroueh: Qmunity Kenz is a grass roots initiative that was established to join the dots between people, ideas, and resources to contribute toward building a more connected, equitable, and sustainable community in Qatar and beyond. At the heart of our mission is our people-powered ‘time bank’ that offers a rewarding and enjoyable way to bring people together to share their skills, resources, and time. QSTP played a valuable role in the development of Qmunity Kenz by helping us refine our thinking through the various modules that the programme covers. Sessions ran for over six months with the programme manager for Acceleration at QSTP, Mohamed Zebian, at the helm and included focused workshops around customer validation, segmentation of our beneficiaries and stakeholders, and exploring models that could be considered for future revenue streams that would support us in being sustainable. The programme also connects you to a mentor, and lucky for us, our mentor, Agata Braja, was an incredible guide with her wealth of knowledge and expertise in user experiences and brand building. We are thrilled to say that she remains a core part of our co-founding team to date. So, having this kind of support, as well as the weekly schedule of after-work sessions that you sandbox in your day to focus on your idea was invaluable. It felt like having access to a ‘mind gym’, with weekly classes, after-work hours, and some flexibility to have a chat during breaks or after sessions with fellow XLR8 attendees, mentors, and QSTP staff. Applying the learnings from the after-work sessions into practice and sharing our findings was encouraged to help us test some of the assumptions we had and to find our early adopters and community champions that we wanted to play a role in the development of the time bank. In our case, we took a very analogue approach to each step of our customer validation process by first, trying to ensure that every step of our process and development was made possible through time-banked hours (from our logo design to our pitch deck development) and second, by inviting people interested in the idea of a community, to gathering ideas related to time banking. People signed up via One of the things that programmes like XLR8 reinforces is the need to be agile, so when sandy weather conditions on the day of our gathering were challenging, we took a last-minute decision to run the session from two houses in a local compound. The results were fantastic and provided the kind of problem-solving and insight that money cannot buy. We welcomed 36 people between the ages of nine and 59 at the gathering in March 2022 where we co-defined our guiding principles and leveraged people’s views on ways that Qmunity Kenz and time banking could purposefully contribute to everyday life for people, families, and communities living and working in Qatar within social, educational, and healthcare settings and beyond. Eighty percent of people who were with us during the journey in March are still with us today. They are listed in our new platform as co-founders. Given the objectives that the website described as a “grass roots initiative,” how can Qmunity Kenz complement QSTP’s efforts in developing Qatar’s startup ecosystem and advancing the growth of the country’s entrepreneurship culture? Whilst the focus on Qatar is mostly on its GDP, financial wealth, and global ranking indices, it’s no secret that the social capital that sits within Qatar is one of the nation’s greatest assets, so we hope that we can make a small contribution to the country’s emerging startup scene by providing a platform that enables startups to access and engage with subject matter experts and end-users from all walks of life, whilst also sharing their own skills. Given how bootstrapped most startups are when they start their respective journeys, it is very common for people to swap and barter skills. However, the chance to connect with everyone – from branding and business experts to health coaches – in a measurable and equitable way has always been trickier as people need to use resources wisely; so hopefully, we can help startups address this matter as one hour of everyone’s time has the same value. Considering QSTP’s commitment to hosting and organising programmes like XLR8, how can Qmunity Kenz help promote this initiative to encourage more entrepreneurs and startups to take advantage of this opportunity? We are still in the early stages of building, so it will be interesting to learn how startups will respond to the idea of time banking. That said, Qmunity Kenz’s time bankers bring a wealth of knowledge, wisdom, and listening ears that startups could use to test the waters or shape their ideas. You can plan and think and consider as much as you like but unless you build, test, and measure, it’s impossible to build a product or service. So, we hope time banking will give people who are interested in testing their ideas or building their projects, skills, or a simpler and more manageable way to do that whilst growing their network and mapping the social capital that exists to support them. As an alumnus of XLR8, we very much look forward to giving back to the QSTP programme by contributing a number of time-banked hours to support the next cycle of XLR8 participants in learning more about how they can tap the social capital around them to help them reach their goals. What’s next for Qmunity Kenz and how can people get involved? Research has shown that time banks have a really positive impact on the health and wellness of a community, so we are thrilled to be officially launching the platform to residents during ‘Doha Healthcare Week’ with our first phase pilot platform and English version of the site. The joy of being involved in a grassroots initiative like Qmunity Kenz is that plans and priorities are shaped by the people and community that contribute to them, so at this early stage, we have a number of ‘Qmunity time bankers’ already featured on the platform who are ready to share their skills from health coaches and parenting advice sessions to personal development and coaching activities, and we look forward to welcoming many more community members who are interested in being a part of our sharing economy over the lifespan of this initiative. Depending on Qmunity feedback, some of the areas we may explore include working with our community and partners to develop an Arabic version of the platform. Advocacy and partnership around the use of time banking as a tool to complement existing activities are taking place. This includes exploring ways to integrate time banking into institutional volunteering or within everyday healthcare settings where time banking could be used as a tool for improving health and well-being through nonclinical or medical interventions in line with social prescribing practices that are emerging. Through our positive collaboration and membership of Time Banking UK, we look forward to connecting with other time banks in places like India and the UK that are driving some great work in this space. Supporting Qatar’s diverse thriving student population looking for opportunities to engage within their community is another area that we are exploring in line with our mission, so we are thrilled to be participating in some workshops in the up-and-coming ‘QF EDI Teaching and Learning Forum on October 9th. To find out more about Qmunity Kenz and how you can get involved, visit or e-mail [email protected] For more details about QSTP’s XLR8 programme and to apply for this year’s cycle, visit

Khush Choksy, US Chamber of Commerce senior vice-president for Middle East and International Development.
Post-FIFA Qatar seen to offer more investments for US companies

US companies stand to gain from the massive infrastructure projects Qatar has built for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, which will offer a wide range of investment opportunities once the tournament concludes in December, an official of the US Chamber of Commerce has said. “Qatar-US relations from 2023 onwards will be very strong,” US Chamber of Commerce Senior Vice-President for Middle East and International Development Khush Choksy told Gulf Times. Choksy and US Chamber of Commerce Senior Manager, Middle East Affairs Liz Clark previously held a series of meetings in Doha, particularly with HE the Minister of Finance Ali bin Ahmed al-Kuwari and HE the Minister of Commerce and Industry Sheikh Mohamed bin Hamad bin Qassim al-Thani. The US Chamber also held meetings with the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, the Qatar Free Zones Authority (QFZA), Qatar Investment Authority (QIA), and Qatar Financial Centre (QFC), among others, Choksy said. “Qatar’s investments in building physical and regulatory infrastructure and the logistics to supporting such a large event and managing the influx of people provide a huge opportunity for Qatar to capitalise on all of this and plan for the future,” Choksy explained. Not only will this enhance the sports health industry but it will also open investment opportunities in Qatar’s finance industry, as well as the country’s digital sector, which, according to Choksy, “is a huge area for growth that could serve the region.” He said: “Qatar is able to use its capital to attract companies, provide seed financing for ventures, the relocation of back offices and service facilities, and develop the manufacturing sector, as well. “This is part of Qatar’s strategy to diversify away from the oil and gas industry by enhancing other sectors, such as the digital economy, manufacturing, and logistics, which complements the country’s national strategy for 2030.” He said: “Post-FIFA, Qatar really has an opportunity. During our meetings here, we encouraged Qatar authorities to use the spotlight during the World Cup to showcase these opportunities. Choksy said the chamber is planning to bring a group of American companies here during the US-Qatar Strategic Dialogue, which is expected to be hosted by Qatar in the first quarter of next year. “We hope that US companies, specifically our member companies, are interested, and I hope that this materialises into a very good opportunity for American businesses,” Choksy noted. On Qatari investments in the US, Choksy added: “Inward investment is part of the US Chamber’s mandate, as well as attracting investment into the US. Qatar Investment Authority is looking at new technologies and they’ve also made infrastructure investments in real estate, as well as a broad array of investments in different American states.” In the energy sector, Choksy said US companies “are very pleased” with the North Field expansion, which he described as “a huge opportunity for continued expansion and growth of Qatar-US ties.”

Qatar Tourism chairman and Qatar Airways Group chief executive HE Akbar al-Baker shaking hands with Sahl Dudin, managing director of Ayla Oasis Development, in the presence of other dignitaries and officials.
Qatar Tourism, 'Ayla' forge ties for B12 Beach Club in Doha

* Qatar Tourism, Ayla Oasis Development forge ties for B12 Beach Club in Doha, which will open in October   Qatar Tourism (QT) has forged a partnership with Ayla Oasis Development to introduce B12 Beach Club, a family-friendly seaside destination that offers a range of water and sports activities, exceptional dining options, premium services and entertainment, slated to open next month. Qatar Tourism Chairman and Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive HE Akbar al-Baker said, “At Qatar Tourism, one of our biggest passions is helping people discover our home country of Qatar. “Partnering with Ayla allows us to continue this work and expand tourism to Qatar. With the B12 Beach Club, Doha adds yet another world-class attraction for international visitors.” Qatar Tourism chairman and Qatar Airways Group chief executive HE Akbar al-Baker shaking hands with Sahl Dudin, managing director of Ayla Oasis Development, after the signing ceremony held Sunday. Set to open in October, B12 Beach Club Doha will offer an exclusive experience to Qatar’s World Cup visitors through lively beachy vibes, bohemian interiors, featuring graffiti art by Qatari artists, and various entertainment elements to welcome guests from all age groups for a day-to-night experience. The family-friendly beach club, overlooking 40,000m of premium beachfront, will feature exceptional hospitality and service, all-day dining at the beach deck with various culinary options, an indoor restaurant with a versatile gourmet menu, and water and beach entertainment activities. Sahl Dudin, managing director of Ayla Oasis Development, said: “Our strategic partnership with Qatar Tourism to launch B12 Beach Club Doha in time for the 2022 FIFA World Cup gives guests the chance to experience one of Jordan’s premier tourist destinations in the heart of Doha. B12 Beach Club is committed to elevating the guest’s experience by providing bespoke services and unique offerings to the local community, tourists, and visitors.” The opening of the new B12 Beach Club ahead of the much-anticipated 2022 FIFA World Cup demonstrates Qatar’s readiness to host the world’s biggest football tournament. Fans traveling to Qatar for the tournament are encouraged to include a stop at B12 Beach Club in their itinerary to experience yet another unforgettable adventure during their visit. Speaking to Gulf Times on the sidelines of the signing ceremony, Dudin said: “We feel positive about Qatar’s efforts to transform the country into a tourism destination. This is our first collaboration with Qatar Tourism and we are determined and committed to making this partnership work for the benefit of Qatar. “We are optimistic about the country’s planned tourism strategy and we are already in talks about expanding some of our work, either operating more areas or beaches or bringing our expertise from Ayla in Jordan to Qatar.”

The companyu2019s inaugural entry to Qatar marks a strategic milestone for Hisenseu2019s regional expansion initiatives in the Middle East.
Hisense opens first brand store at Lagoona Mall

Hisense, the global electronics and white goods manufacturer and sponsor of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, in partnership with Fifty One East, Qatar’s favourite department store, recently opened its first branded store at Lagoona Mall. The company’s inaugural entry to Qatar marks a strategic milestone for Hisense’s regional expansion initiatives in the Middle East. (Frm left) Jason Ou, president of Hisense Middle East and Africa; Saoud al-Darwish, vice chairman of Darwish Holding; Bader al-Darwish, chairman and managing director of Fifty One East; and Chinese ambassador Zhou Jian. The Hisense brand store opening ceremony was held under the patronage of Chinese ambassador Zhou Jian, who attended the event alongside Bader al-Darwish, chairman and managing director of Fifty One East; Jason Ou, president of Hisense Middle East and Africa; Saoud al-Darwish, vice chairman of Darwish Holding; and other distinguished guests. Hisense is a sponsor of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 This brand store reflects the strong partnership between the two entities and underlines Fifty One East’s reputation as the partner of choice for international electronics brands. It also demonstrates Hisense’s steady growth in the region and the Qatari market as it strengthens its position as one of the leading brands in the consumer technology sector. Hisense’s brand store, the first in Qatar, provides customers with a home-like experience as it showcases its entire product line-up: top-of-the-range TVs, refrigerators, air conditioners, washing machines, dishwashers, microwaves, and smartphones, as well as its award-winning smart consumer technology ‘Laser TV’, a 100-inch TV screen that brings cinema to the living room. Bader al-Darwish, chairman and managing director of Fifty One East, welcomes the opening of Hisense's branch opening at Lagoona Mall - a first in Qatar. Al-Darwish said, “We are honoured to host the first and exclusive Hisense store in Qatar at Lagoona Mall, the home of some of the world’s most desired brands. This reflects our strong relationship and shared values, and is in line with our expansion strategy to bring the latest international labels to Qatar. We stay committed to offering the best tech brands and high-end services that exceed our customers’ expectations and fulfill their lifestyle aspirations.” Jason Ou, president of Hisense Middle East and Africa, delivering a speech. Ou added: “We are elated to announce the launch of our first brand store in Qatar, in the same year as the 2022 FIFA World Cup, making it even more special. Hisense is one of the fastest-growing brands globally as it focuses on delivering best-in-class technology and products that resonate with local demands. Through our brand stores, we want to showcase the innovation and exceptional experience of our technology the moment shoppers step inside. The store provides customers with a home-like experience as it showcases its entire product line-up. “We are also glad to have collaborated with Fifty One East, with their expertise and recognition in the market, as we believe it will be a great start for the Hisense brand store concept in Qatar. Having said that, this is part of our ambitious expansion plan to open Hisense brand stores across the Middle East region.” The Middle East market is enthusiastic about advanced technology, and for Hisense, a brand known for its consumer technology innovations, expansion is just the beginning. The brand will soon launch its smart technology in the region making it extremely accessible for consumers to stay connected with their appliances. Being the year of the FIFA World Cup in Qatar, Hisense has ambitious plans to elevate its brand awareness across the region. With an innovative product line-up and exciting FIFA campaigns, Hisense is highlighting that it is the “perfect match” for your entertainment, as well as your home. It creates a lifestyle with not only smart but also healthy technology for its end-users.

The participants and winners of the u2018Entrepreneurship World Cupu2019 national qualifiers competition, which was organised by Qatar Development Bank (QDB) in Doha. PICTURE: Thajudheen
QDB announces winners of ‘Entrepreneurship World Cup’ national qualifiers competition

Qatar Development Bank (QDB) announced the winners of the ‘Entrepreneurship World Cup’ national qualifiers competition, which concluded Tuesday at the 3-2-1 Qatar Olympic & Sports Museum in the presence of the most prominent names from the local entrepreneurial ecosystem. The three winning startups, Sponix Tech,, and Droobi, were presented with prize money of $100,000 during the event, which marks the first time the national qualifiers were held in Qatar under the organisation of QDB. This is the fourth Entrepreneurship World Cup since it was launched in 2019 as the largest entrepreneurship competition of its kind that celebrates prominent entrepreneurial ideas and innovative projects from various fields. The upcoming finals will feature participants from more than 200 countries and the attendance of the most distinguished startups from across the globe. QDB is the national organiser of the competition, in partnership with the Ministry of Commerce and Industry and the Qatar Financial Centre Regulatory Authority, and sponsored by QNB, Doha University of Science and Technology, and the Ministry of Sports and Youth. The brightest Qatari startups competed for the opportunity to qualify and represent the State of Qatar in the finals of the global competition, which will be held in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Abdulrahman Hesham al-Sowaidi, acting CEO of QDB, opened the event with a speech, in which he pointed out the importance of these national competitions that help support and motivate startups to rise to the highest levels of competitiveness and professionalism. In his speech, Global Entrepreneurship Network founder and president Jonathan Ortmans thanked QDB for organising the event, emphasising his admiration for the emerging projects that took part in the competition with the aim of reaching the final rounds of the competition. Twelve participating companies presented their business ideas before a panel of judges and the audience. The pitches reflected pioneering and innovative ideas that are worth representing Qatar in various fields on a global stage, such as VR and AR technologies, sustainability, and solutions in the fields of SportTech, fintech, smart payment, and HealthTech. At the end of the presentations and judges’ deliberations, QDB recognised the participating partners, sponsors, and judges in appreciation of their outstanding efforts toward making this competition a success. Al-Sowaidi said, “We extend our congratulations to the three winners and wish them a successful journey in the global stages of the competition. We are confident in our entrepreneurs and their ambitious capabilities. “This competition achieved a great turnout in its first edition in our country, a testament to the strength of the national entrepreneurial ecosystem, which we always seek to strengthen through many initiatives and programmes in line with our strategy and our country’s national vision. Hence the importance of competitions, such as the Entrepreneurship World Cup lies in its capability to motivate aspiring entrepreneurs to come up with innovative solutions.” Heba Ali al-Tamimi, general manager Group Communications at QNB, said: “We would like to seize this opportunity to congratulate the winning teams for their success and contribution to the national development. “As the strategic partner of these National Qualifiers, we are proud to witness the qualification of these start-ups as a testament to the advancement of the entrepreneurship ecosystem in Qatar.” The winning startups from Qatar, along with the rest of the winning ventures from across the globe, will attend an intensive virtual boot camp early next year. By the end of the boot camp, the top 100 startups will move on to the global finals, which will be held in Saudi Arabia in March 2023.

South African Minister of Transport Fikile Mbalula during a meeting with HE the Minister of Transport  Jassim Seif Ahmed al-Sulaiti.
South Africa grants more frequencies to Qatar Airways, says SA transport minister

South Africa has granted Qatar Airways’ request to add more frequencies, which will play a key role in Qatar’s hosting of the 2022 FIFA World Cup from November 20 to December 18. This was announced on Sunday by South African Minister of Transport Fikile Mbalula during a meeting with HE the Minister of Transport Jassim Seif Ahmed al-Sulaiti. Both officials discussed Qatar-South Africa co-operation in transportation, civil aviation, and ports, among other topics. During the meeting, Mbalula said both countries have worked together over the last few years to strengthen the footprint of Qatar Airways in the southern Africa region. This led to “progressively increased frequencies” resulting in 28 passenger flights per week and 10 flights for all cargo per week, which, according to Mbalula, “bears testimony to the strong co-operation between our two countries.” “In preparation for the 2022 FIFA World Cup and further increasing the footprint of Qatar Airways, we have received a request to increase these frequencies. I am pleased to inform you, Your Excellency, that we have taken the view to support Qatar Airways’ optimised schedule for the FIFA World Cup and grant the required frequencies to enable you to host a successful World Cup. “However, the implementation of this optimised schedule should be undertaken in a manner that supports our local airlines and contributes to the growth of the industry in the region. The long-term arrangements post the FIFA World Cup in relation to these frequencies are being considered through our internal processes. This process will be finalised through engagements with our respective officials. This request has been on the table since 2016 and I, therefore, commit that this process will be concluded by the end of October 2022,” Mbalula informed his Qatari counterpart. Mbalula also underscored the importance of forging Qatar-South Africa partnerships to spur faster recovery of the transport sector, especially in the field of aviation, which took a huge toll at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. “Recovery of [the transport] sector, particularly aviation, requires new partnerships that not only enable faster recovery, but also give expression to the new economy premised on creating opportunities for investment, employment, and skills development. “Investments in transport infrastructure in road, rail, aviation, and maritime sectors represent the best opportunity to leapfrog the economic slump we are all struggling to recover from,” Mbalula further explained to al-Sulaiti. Mbalula also said his country “is indeed open for business,” emphasising that South Africa sees Qatar as a strategic partner in economic growth and jobs creation, “but will unlock critical investments that will give practical expression to economic recovery.” “Our economic recovery plans place emphasis on massive investments in rail, road, maritime, and aviation infrastructure. We see aviation as a catalyst that will unlock the potential of the sector as an enabler of economic activity. “The development and growth of South Africa’s aviation sector are anchored on our integrated development that will be delivered through investment in the concept of aerotropolis in our major economic hubs, amongst others. This requires seamless integration of airport infrastructure as a foundation for economic activity delivered through special economic zones and other forms of economic activity,” Mbalula stressed.

Qatar Chamber first vice chairman Mohamed bin Towar al-Kuwari handing over a token of recognition to Asharqia Chamber chairman Badr bin Suleiman al-Raziza in the presence of both chambers' delegations.
Qatar-Saudi business meeting seeks to expand investment ties

Officials of Qatar Chamber and Saudi Arabia’s Asharqia Chamber participated in the Qatar-Saudi Business Meeting held in Doha Sunday in the presence of key dignitaries from both sides. The meeting, hosted by Qatar Chamber, was co-chaired by first vice chairman Mohamed bin Towar al-Kuwari and Asharqia Chamber chairman Badr bin Suleiman al-Raziza. The participants discussed ways to enhance co-operation between Qatari and Saudi businessmen in the fields of trade and investments, as well as the investment opportunities available on both sides. They also discussed the possibility of building alliances and partnerships between companies in Qatar and their counterparts in Saudi Arabia to achieve economic and commercial integration. Addressing the meeting, al-Kuwari stressed the interest of Qatar Chamber to boost co-operation and open new partnership channels between both countries’ companies. He said the meeting would contribute to achieving further development in the two countries economic and commercial relations. Al-Kuwari said Qatar and Saudi Arabia share “close and historic relations,” which are reflected in their economic ties, especially with the common desire of the private sector in both countries to bolster co-operation and forge alliances and partnerships. He noted that Qatar-Saudi bilateral trade exchange “began to gradually return to its previous levels,” which amounted to “QR674mn” in 2021, which, according to al-Kuwari, “is still below expectations compared with pre-2017 levels.” Al-Kuwari underscored the close relations between the Qatar and Asharqia chambers and both organisations’ drive to cement relations and encourage companies from Qatar and Saudi’s Eastern Province to develop cooperation links and establish joint investments and partnerships. This also affirms that the Eastern Province represents special importance to the Qatari private sector due to its geographical position and the presence of all incentives and facilitations to develop trade exchange between both sides. Al-Kuwari underscored the importance of co-ordination between both chambers in expanding private sector co-operation, activating trade, and forging new investment opportunities. He called on Saudi businessmen to expand their investments in Qatar and benefit from incentives being offered by the government. Al-Kuwari urged Qatari businessmen to explore opportunities available in the Eastern Province and co-operate with their Saudi counterparts in joint ventures that would expand the private sector’s contribution to achieving both counties’ 2030 national vision. Al-Raziza said Qatar and Saudi Arabia enjoy extended relations and a unified vision to achieve an “inclusive renaissance” for the interest of their people. He lauded the role of the Qatar-Saudi Co-ordination Council in strengthening bilateral relations and expanding partnerships between both countries in line with the 2030 national vision, which supports joint-Gulf co-operation and creates new opportunities between the two brotherly peoples. He said Saudi Arabia is looking forward to broader partnerships between the business sectors in the two countries, especially in light of the favourable conditions that are supported by the aspirations of both nations’ leaderships and the fast-growing markets and sectors in Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Al-Raziza stressed that this contributes to creating new vistas of co-operation and partnerships, achieving economic integration, and increasing the trade exchange in the private sector. During the meeting, the Qatar Investment Authority delivered a presentation on investment opportunities available in Qatar. The Saudi delegation reviewed a number of investment elements in the Eastern Province, such as land and air border crossings in the region, which contains 1,845 factories or 22% of the total factories in Saudi Arabia. The most important industries in the province include chemical industries, textiles, paper, foodstuffs, non-metallic industries, oil, gas, coal, and minerals, among others.

Liz Clark, senior manager, Middle East Affairs, US Chamber of Commerce. PICTURE: Shaji Kayamkulam
Digital economy seen among strategic drivers post-World Cup in Qatar

The US Chamber of Commerce recently met with key players and stakeholders in the country, including Doha-based American companies, to discuss ways to further develop Qatar’s digital economy sector. Liz Clark, senior manager, Middle East Affairs, said the US Chamber’s meetings were led by senior vice president for Middle East and International Development Khush Choksy, who held discussions with the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT). Other meetings were also held with HE the Minister of Finance Ali bin Ahmed al-Kuwari and HE the Minister of Commerce and Industry Sheikh Mohamed bin Hamad bin Qassim al-Thani, as well as with the Qatar Free Zones Authority (QFZA), Qatar Investment Authority (QIA), and Qatar Financial Centre (QFC), among others. Clark underscored the chamber’s robust relationship with the MCIT, citing the formal launching of the US Chamber’s ICT Regulatory and Policy Landscape of Qatar white paper, which was held in June this year. The white paper was created by the US-Qatar Digital Economy Working Group to outline Qatar’s digital economy ecosystem and provide analysis and recommendations for key areas, such as cloud services, data privacy, cybersecurity, and digital transformation. Clark said the white paper aims to identify gaps and areas that may offer opportunities to improve Qatar’s digital economy sector and transform the country into a “more attractive destination for outside events.” “But one of the white paper’s main findings was that there is such a robust digital infrastructure in Qatar. And considering the amount of data being collected in relation to the World Cup, what do you do with that data and how can we capitalise on everything that’s happening with the World Cup?” Clark told Gulf Times in an exclusive interview. She said, “During our roundtable discussion with many of the major digital economy players in Qatar and the main US companies based here, the focus of the session was about ‘What comes next?’ ‘What do we do after the World Cup?’ There’s all this infrastructure that’s being put into place to accommodate such a major event.” Clark stressed that there are plenty of opportunities to capitalise on the data collected, utilising it to improve future events inside and outside Qatar, as well as other future World Cups. The roundtable also identified ways to improve the sector and what companies need to attract more investments in this sector. “We’ve seen that the digital economy sector is one of the main areas that companies are excited about. Besides oil and gas, it’s one of the fastest growing and thriving sectors in Qatar, so we see a lot of US companies wanting to enter the local market. “Microsoft is the chair of our Digital Economy Working Group. They were one of the driving forces behind the white paper, and they’re such a huge player in Qatar and the opening of their data centre is added value for the country, especially with the World Cup coming up. Looking beyond, Microsoft will be able to offer a lot to US companies and encourage them to come here and use this as a launch point for operations throughout the region,” Clark emphasised.

Hilal al-Kuwari, incubation specialist at QDB.
QFTH seeks to be ‘flagbearer’ of Qatar’s fintech agenda, says QDB official

Acting as a catalyst to transform Qatar’s financial services industry to become globally competitive, Qatar FinTech Hub (QFTH) aspires to become a globally-recognised hub that connects likeminded hubs, organisations, and regulators worldwide, an official of Qatar Development Bank (QDB) has said. QFTH will continue to be the flagbearer of the fintech agenda in Qatar, focusing on empowering the country’s fintech ecosystem by connecting relevant stakeholders. It is well on its path to becoming a globally-recognised and leading hub for fintechs, Hilal al-Kuwari, incubation specialist, QDB, told Gulf Times in an exclusive interview. Al-Kuwari said one of QFTH’s key objectives is to transform Qatar into an advanced society capable of achieving sustainable development, “which is perfectly aligned with the Qatar National Vision 2030.” “By nurturing local talent and sourcing the best international fintechs to Qatar, we are creating a pool of companies that is contributing towards the economic, social, and human development in the region. We have companies that are even disrupting the local market with cutting-edge technology and solutions, such as cashless payments, artificial intelligence, NextGen banking, and digital identity, among others. “We have carefully identified the gaps in the Qatari market and strategically positioned each of our waves to focus on a specific challenge that needs to be solved to support the country’s development. Our Wave 1 was focused on payments, Wave 2 on emerging technologies, Wave 3 on embedded finance and techfin, and Wave 4 on Next Generation banking. Throughout each wave, we strive to attract fintechs that offer services that are not yet available in Qatar,” al-Kuwari explained. In its fourth wave, al-Kuwari said QFTH’s prestigious incubation programme is attended by five early-stage fintechs, including Yougo Payway from Qatar, FinMind and Nervegram from the US, FUNDSAIQ from the UK, and from Malaysia. On the other hand, eight mature fintechs, including ADGS and UrbanPoint from Qatar, Cadorim from Belgium, Bankograph from Singapore, Authenteq from Germany, Mihuru from India, Paycruiser from the US, in addition to Qatar-based Anchor FinTech and Zwipe from Norway, are participating in the accelerator programme, he also said. According to al-Kuwari, QFTH has achieved many milestones, having supported graduating fintechs to reach great heights since its launch. Doha-based fintech startup Karty, the winner of QFTH Hackathon, has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Doha Bank in a strategic partnership aimed at promoting, improving, and elevating financial literacy and innovation in Qatar. This marked the beginning of a collaboration between Doha Bank and Karty under the startup’s Financial Literacy Campaign as part of the fintech fast-track programme in the Central and Eastern Europe, Middle East, and Africa (CEMEA) region, in partnership with Visa. Karty, also an awardee of the Innovation Coupon (IC), a funding programme under Qatar Foundation Research, Development and Innovation (QFRDI), has fast-tracked its growth in the Qatari market since its launch in 2021, said al-Kuwari. With the support of major public and private sector players in Qatar, including the Qatar Financial Centre (QFC), Qatar Science and Technology Park (QSTP), and the Digital Incubation Centre (DIC), the startup is now extending its fintech expertise to the wider community, he said. Al-Kuwari said, “Qatar Islamic Bank is the first bank in Qatar to launch a conversational virtual assistant using AI and machine learning algorithms as part of QIB’s ongoing efforts to provide digital solutions to empower its customers and meet their ever-changing banking needs. “This was powered by Active.Ai’s, a startup from Singapore and a graduate of QFTH’s Wave 2 accelerator programme. Active.Ai is a conversational AI platform that enables institutions to communicate digitally with their consumers, understand their intent, be contextually aware, handle a variety of instructions in multiple languages, and even handle acronyms or slang in a delightful manner.” He also said, “This is in addition to TESS Payments, which has been playing an active role in the market to provide merchants with a one-stop solution to use multiple payment options, and Twayla, which has been a leading payment service provider with a number of merchants as part of their ongoing business.”    

Hani Dabash, Ezdanu2019s deputy Group CEO, during the press conference. PICTURE: Thajudheen
Ezdan Real Estate unveils Al Janoub Gardens project

Ezdan Real Estate Company announced on Monday the launch of the multi-purpose Al Janoub Gardens, touted as one of Ezdan’s “most important projects” to rise in the Al Wukair area this year. Hani Dabash, deputy Group CEO, told a press conference that the project boasts of residential and commercial units comprising 2,368 fully-furnished apartments of various sizes and 240 retail outlets available by the end of 2022. He said Al Janoub Gardens features many spacious parking spaces for residents and visitors or more than 4,400 external parking lots and basement floors, as well as mosques, kids play areas, and 10 swimming pools spread across the project. Dabash said Al Janoub Gardens is divided into two phases, spanning over 300,000sq m. Construction operations have exceeded 75% and the project will be offered for leasing during the last quarter of this year, he said. “The project is rendered as a wonderful urban leap for the surrounding area of Al Wukair as it provides a vein linking residential and commercial units and an integrated package of services, which would add a distinguished, high-quality real estate product to the market at competitive prices. “It aims to meet the rising demand in the realty market for residential units, which comes in alignment with Qatar’s hosting for many events, conferences, and international championships,” Dabash stressed. He said the most important feature of the project is its provision of a fully-serviced property, granting residents a feel of living a modern life with luxury and harmony surrounded by nature-like green lawns, sports pitches, outdoor and indoor gyms, swimming pools, and children’s play areas. “Such outstanding project highlights Ezdan Real Estate Company’s long expertise in the real estate sector to serve its vast audience of institutions and individuals seeking to obtain a quiet and comfortable residence, granting prosperity and happiness for all family members,” Dabash said. Al Janoub Gardens is located in a vital area along Al Wakra Expressway and Al Wukair main road opposite Al Janoub World Cup Stadium and is a few minutes away from Al Thumama Stadium, Al Wakra Hospital, and Ezdan Malls in Al Wakra and Al Wukair, Dabash explained. He noted that the surrounding area is witnessing a boom in business from massive road and infrastructure development projects that were implemented in parallel with the metro and road projects that opened to traffic, serving these regions and linking them to the rest of the country. “We consider Al Janoub Gardens a master stroke in 2022, adding a milestone achievement record to Ezdan Real Estate Company, which abounds in accomplishments and initiates a new stage in the company’s journey with the announcement of its plans to launch a series of completely modern residential compounds, pumping more than 4,000 residential units into the real estate market. “This meets the aspirations and requirements of the market during that historical stage of the State of Qatar, in light of its hosting of the largest and most prominent international sports tournaments ever,” Dabash said. He said the residential properties that will be put on the market are characterised by their qualitative differences in terms of the services they offer, “which we believe will contribute to meeting growing market needs and have an effective role in upgrading the real estate market by providing a wonderful product to those looking for quality and excellent rentals.” Regarding the new compound, Dabash said: “It is located near Al Janoub Stadium, which is one of the most important stadiums that will host key sports matches during the coming period. “As for the choice of the word ‘gardens’, it was an expression of the company’s interest in providing green areas within the scope of the project, which enhances environment preservation and serves mental comfort and happiness for all residents of the compound.” On the development plan launched by Ezdan at the end of 2021, Dabash said the company focuses on improving and developing its services continuously as the company completed the development of a large number of villages and residential compounds during the last period of 2022. The plan is scheduled to include 37 residential villages with a total number of units exceeding 15,000 units in five phases, a large number of which have already been completed, Dabash explained. These include residential villages in Al Wakra and Al Wukair and residential compounds and buildings in Doha. The renovations included a structural revamp, including floor replacement, painting walls, and performing integrated maintenance operations for buildings, in addition to replacing most of the furniture, electrical appliances, and air conditioners in the residential units. “The company had announced an integrated plan whose main objective is to reach the satisfaction of its customers and it has conducted a comprehensive re-evaluation of all properties belonging to Ezdan Real Estate Company to assess the condition of all residential units and their requirements in terms of construction developments, furniture, electrical appliances, and air conditioners, among others, and thus launched the plan that is carried out in successive stages,” Dabash said. Ezdan Holding Group owns about 32,000 real estate units for various purposes in Doha, Al Wakra, and Al Wukair. During the last period, it has offered for rent one of the phases of the Ezdan Oasis realty project, the largest of its kind in Al Wukair. Otherwise known as “the land of a million,” the project comprises residential, administrative, and commercial units, and is an integrated city in the Al Wukair area, Dabash said.    

Alfardan Group chairman Hussain Ibrahim Alfardan, Turkish ambassador in Doha Dr Mustafa Goksu, and Commercial Bank chairman Sheikh Abdullah bin Ali bin Jabor al-Thani lead the ribbon-cutting ceremony, while Alfardan Group president and CEO Omar Hussain Alfardan looks on. PICTURES: Shaji Kayamkulam.
Commercial Bank opens 2nd exclusive Premium Lounge at Place Vendome Mall

Commercial Bank opened on Monday its second Premium Lounge at Place Vendome Mall as it continues to lead the way in providing world-class banking experience for the bank’s Premium customers in Qatar. Commercial Bank chairman Sheikh Abdullah bin Ali bin Jabor al-Thani and board members officially opened the lounge during the inauguration ceremony, which was attended by key dignitaries and the bank’s top officials.   Following the successful launch of the first CB Premium Lounge along D-Ring road, this additional facility presents a new milestone in Commercial Bank’s plan to expand the availability and accessibility of banking for its premium clients. It provides them with access to a full range of financial services in luxurious and discreet surroundings and really helps establish Commercial Bank as the number one choice for premium customers in Qatar. Located at Place Vendome Mall’s C-level, the new CB Premium Lounge is designed to welcome Sadara and Private Banking clients in an extraordinary environment, where they will experience a distinct level of service, accessing a full range of banking services, including wealth and investment management, real estate financing, secure access to stock markets, and the full range of banking services offered in the privacy of individual suites. As part of the opening celebration, Commercial Bank is offering eligible guests the chance to win a VIP shopping trip to Turkey for two people, plus the chance to win instant prizes through a grand draw for both new and existing members of Sadara and Private Banking. Commercial Bank Group CEO Joseph Abraham said, “The launch of our new luxurious CB Premium Lounge at Place Vendome Mall is a continuation of our focus on providing our Premium clients with an exclusive experience in luxury premises combining innovative products catered to their lifestyle and wealth needs combined with personalised service and offerings.” To highlight the exceptional services and unique customer experience provided in the new Premium Lounge, Shahnawaz Rashid, EGM and head of Retail Banking, said: “The new CB Premium Lounge aims to exceed our Premium client’s expectations by providing them with access to a wide range of financial services in an extremely luxurious and comfortable environment where they can discuss all their financial matters in total discretion. “All handled by specialists and relationship managers, they will enjoy access to financial advice helping them achieve their goals, accessing wealth, tailored investment and borrowing solutions, plus traditional banking services and access to safety deposit boxes.” Also, Hussein al-Abdulla, chief marketing officer and head of Premium Banking, added: “Our commitment to investing in our Premium customers starts with understanding their deepest needs. We find solutions often in an innovative way to go beyond the ordinary. “This new exclusive Premium Lounge shows our capability in providing them with world-class services in the highest levels of modernity and luxury they have come to expect. Once again, Commercial Bank leads the way in redefining the banking experience in Qatar.”  

USQBC president Scott Taylor delivering a speech during his visit to Doha.
US firms eye investments in energy, food security says, USQBC president

Qatar’s energy sector and food security initiatives are among the many investment opportunities that US companies are keen to explore, according to an official of the US-Qatar Business Council (USQBC). Scott Taylor visited the country for the first time since he was appointed president of USQBC in June this year and has held meetings with the Ministry of Municipality, Qatar Free Zones Authority (QFZA), Qatar Financial Authority (QFC), Hassad Foods, and Media City Qatar, among others, during his trip. “These meetings lead into my vision, where I see USQBC, and what we should be doing. USQBC is a bespoke organisation, which has very tailored solutions and access, and is helpful to our members, especially US companies that want to have connections or may need our help to do business in Qatar and vice versa. “Where I think we need to go is one of the reasons why I'm here, and why we'll get to be here fairly often is to understand the direction of the country – where it is going in terms of defence, energy, and food security, climate change, and genomics, ICT, and so on. This country has a vision and USQBC needs to grow with it and aligned with Qatar’s focus, as well,” Taylor told Gulf Times in an exclusive interview. Citing Qatar Media City, for example, Taylor said it has “an ambitious plan,” which includes e-sports and gaming that complements Qatar’s direction post-FIFA 2022. “We have a lot of that (e-sports/gaming) in the US, so that gives me an understanding of where they’re going and where they want to be, so I can reach out to US companies in that space who may want to do business here and have a presence in Qatar. It all comes down to aligning USQBC’s efforts with this country and where it is headed,” he explained. Taylor also lauded the recent arrival of US ambassador Timmy T Davis, with whom he had discussions on US-Qatar business and commercial ties, as well as on the growing relations of both countries. “I’m excited to have him. I know he is going to be a massive resource not just for commerce and business, but also for the relationship of our two countries,” Taylor pointed out. Taylor also assured USQBC’s role in facilitating Qatari investments into the US, citing sectors like real estate and investments in equities and companies, as well. He stressed that USQBC will be bringing different business delegations representing US companies from a variety of sectors to Qatar by next year. “The USQBC will be bringing trade groups, as well as business and congressional delegations, among others, to Qatar after the World Cup. We also would be inviting Qatari companies to explore the investment climate of the different states in the US. The best is yet to come, and we will create a lot of bilateral trade to strengthen the relations of our two nations,” he added.

Hilal al-Kuwari, incubation specialist at QDB.
Fintech industry offers opportunity to drive Qatar’s economic diversification, says QDB executive

As an industry, financial technology (fintech), offers a significant opportunity to drive Qatar’s economic diversification, one of the four pillars of Qatar’s National Vision 2030, an official of Qatar Development Bank (QDB) has said. Regulations and support dynamics, such as access to funding, have been put in place bringing up an exciting future for this rising sector, Hilal al-Kuwari, incubation specialist, QDB, told Gulf Times in an exclusive interview. “In fact, the country is steadily becoming a regional fintech hub with a determined growth agenda,” said al-Kuwari, who explained that QFTH is founded by QDB to support the growth of the fintech industry in Qatar. According to al-Kuwari, the country is already taking “big steps” to become a global fintech hub, notably by establishing the QFTH. This has created a sound ecosystem for incubating domestic fintechs and providing an enabling environment for foreign fintechs to invest and grow in the region, he stressed. With two flagship incubator and accelerator programmes, running two waves per year, QFTH has completed three waves and its fourth is ongoing, al-Kuwari explained. “QFTH has already supported 66 fintechs worldwide out of over 2,300 applications we have received across the four rounds we have launched. So far, we have invested more than $7mn in fintechs from early-stage startups to matured companies to support accelerating their growth. “We have also mobilised partnerships with 13 global fintech hubs and have signed MoU’s with the industry’s big players, such as Microsoft, Visa, Mastercard, Vodafone, and most of the leading banks in Qatar,” al-Kuwari emphasised. Furthermore, al-Kuwari said QFTH has launched a whitepaper to analyse the factors and conditions driving fintech in Qatar and to showcase globally why and how the country is emerging as a new home for this growing industry in the Middle East and North Africa. He said the report features the results of detailed studies on various topics, such as the emerging players in the industry, key global fintech trends, drivers of Qatar’s startup attractiveness, key fintech collaborators and venture capitalists in Qatar, and other insights about the fintech ecosystem and their enablers in Qatar. Al-Kuwari noted that the whitepaper had a wide audience of more than 10,000 people and was featured in various platforms across the region. It was in line with the Qatar Central Bank’s vision and was welcomed by all the major fintech associations globally, he also said. Al-Kuwari stressed that QFTH’s incubator and accelerator programmes target entrepreneurs with innovative and cutting-edge fintech ideas, offering financial, mentorship, and training support. “QFTH has, to date, registered 25 fintechs in Qatar, out of which, 15 are Qatar-based startups. These fintechs are operating and creating jobs in the local market. The impact of QFTH’s efforts can also be seen in the achievements of QFTH alumni – from raising funds to partnering with global players and launching new services in the local and regional markets. “Moreover, we are in talks with Qatar University and others to create an internship programme for students, in partnership with QFTH fintechs with an aim to further cultivate and foster fintech talent in the country,” al-Kuwari added.  

Dorna Sports CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta. PICTURE: Diego Sperani
Qatar is ‘2nd to none’ in sports-related facilities, says Dorna Sports CEO

Gulf Times’s two-part interview with Carmelo Ezpeleta, the chief executive officer of Dorna Sports, concludes with a preview of the company’s plans for Qatar. He also shares optimism about the future of youth in Qatar, especially in the world of motorsport. Ezpeleta also praised Qatar for the mega infrastructure it has built not only for the country’s hosting of the 2022 FIFA World Cup this coming November and December but also for future sporting events to be held here, as well as Qatar’s commitment to the development of athletes. According to Ezpeleta, Qatar has set such high standards aimed at elevating sportsmanship to greater levels – a feat that would help inspire the youth and future generations. Gulf Times: During the Qatar Economic Forum, Powered by Bloomberg, you mentioned plans to have riders “from many nationalities.” Is Qatar on your radar and are you optimistic that you would be able to tap young talents from this country, as well? Ezpeleta: Qatar is very much on our radar and that of the Road to MotoGP programme. The Road to MotoGP is unrivalled in motorsport – it aims to open doors and increase access to the sport across the world, wherever a rider is from and whatever their background. That includes Qatar and we have already seen Qatari riders compete in the Asia Talent Cup and take podiums, as well as move into the European Talent Cup in JuniorGP. To see this system working makes us very proud. The Road to MotoGP now starts with the FIM MiniGP World Series, in collaboration with the FIM and motorcycle federations and unions around the world. It’s the first global initiative in motorsport aimed at creating grassroots equality, and we were delighted to see the FIM MiniGP Qatar Series immediately become part of this vision. Creating a ladder where opportunity is equal for everyone, whatever the biggest challenge is for each rider, is one of our key goals. Do youth in Qatar have what it takes to become a part of MotoGP? Yes. Young people from Qatar and those from every corner of the world have what it takes. We are very proud that our grids, across MotoGP, Moto2, and Moto3, are so full of talent and riders who have shown their ability and been rewarded for it. This is so important to the sport and to our audience and fans too – all doors to MotoGP are open. On track and off, we want everyone to enjoy motorcycle racing, whether they ride or come to see the sport in the grandstands. Or both! Kindly comment on Qatar’s infrastructure and its sports-related facilities, and do you think these facilities would play a role in encouraging the youth here to aspire and pursue sports as a career? Qatar is second to none in sports-related facilities. From Lusail International Circuit which is the track used for MotoGP as well as Formula1 and the case for all other motorsports, including the Academy, but it also serves as a base for sports in general like cycling and running. The Qatar Motorsport Academy is closely engaged with Aspire, Qatar’s world-leading project for athlete development. These opportunities to grow and test new skills can’t be underestimated. The same will be true in other sports too as Qatar continues to invest. Having amazing facilities like these is only a positive, and an inspiration too. As well as physical infrastructure, the organisational and human side is also important and the QMMF (Qatar Motor and Motorcycle Federation) provides a good example of both. We can already see the results of their investments – including the time, effort, and work put into building each project. This is very important, and the combination of world-class facilities and systemic investment can only encourage and inspire the young people of Qatar. As a major sports property, we are truly grateful that Qatar has set such a high standard and taken such a big commitment to sports as a nation. The values of sport, entailing sacrifice and competition are vital for the new generations.