By Peter Alagos

Qatar’s policymakers should provide strategies that would help “lower the barriers” to encourage entrepreneurship and create more business opportunities, especially among small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), a Qatar-based university professor said.

Dr Thomas Emerson, distinguished career professor of Entrepreneurship at Carnegie Mellon University Qatar, provided several pointers that were the focal point of his presentation during the opening ceremony of ‘Global Entrepreneurship Week Qatar’ held at the Marriott Marquis in Doha yesterday.

Emerson suggested the streamlining of processes for business applications in the country, which he described as among the “barriers to business creation.”

He also suggested that increasing and formalising seed funding would help encourage the growth of the country’s SME sector as well as the creation and funding of technology-based ventures.

Additionally, promoting a private sector angel and venture capital investment industry and creating an Education City free zone were also among the suggestions Emerson raised in his presentation.

Silatech CEO Tarik M Yousef pointed out that policymakers must tackle the barriers that Emerson had identified, which he described as the “key bottleneck” to create and encourage entrepreneurs to “step-in and start-up companies.”

When asked how Silatech could help lower the barriers, Yousef said Silatech can assist in refining policy proposals.

“As an organisation, we have a lot of experience working with policymakers. It is easy to say that policymakers should do something but it’s much more difficult to implement that because a policy should be contextualised, it has to have a timeline, it has to be targeted; and that is where we could come in and help create a dialogue between the policy community and entrepreneurs,” Yousef explained.

According to Emerson, “There’s a lot that say that Qatar can be globally competitive outside the hydrocarbon sector. And that needs to happen because hydrocarbon won’t be here forever.”

“The good news is a lot of infrastructure to support diversification has been already built. There have been some wonderful investments that the leadership in this country has made in order to facilitate that transition,” Emerson told Gulf Times when asked about the role of SMEs in diversification.

Yousef added, “Almost any business in Qatar is viable in the sense that this is an economy that is still growing, diversifying, will be spending tens of billions, if not, hundreds, on massive development projects in the next 10 years.”

“There are a host of industries in the non-hydrocarbon sector associated with these massive projects whether its media, project management, PR, services, human resource management, and who’s going to provide all of these? So, a lot of these are viable,” Yousef said.

In his speech, HE the Minister of Economy and Commerce Sheikh Ahmed bin Jassim bin Mohamed al-Thani stressed that the government “cannot imagine a more competitive economy and a fast developing world without SMEs and innovators.”

He cited GEW Qatar 2014 as among the activities that create the environment and opportunity for entrepreneurs and innovators to source out financing and support.

“This constitutes an integral part of developing and diversifying the economy so we do not rely solely on petrol and gas revenues in order to fulfil the development plans of the country and move to a knowledge-based economy,” the minister added.



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