Doha has “significant” first-mover advantage for international firms, especially fintechs and others, in the digital landscape, in view of the opportunities in the country, whose ICT spending is expected to reach $9bn by 2024, according to the top official of the Qatar Financial Center Authority (QFCA).

“Due to the pandemic situation, we have seen spike in demand from technology and digital companies which want to take advantage of the first mover into the market. This is an unsaturated market,” QFCA chief executive Yousuf Mohamed al-Jaida told a webinar on "Digital Opportunities in Qatar."

The webinar is in line with its "#AccessQatar: QFC Webcast Series" through which it seeks to cover the latest trends and developments across several industries and topics including fintech, digital and sports.

"There is no better time than now to invest and tap into this market," he said, adding the Covid-19 crisis has highlighted the necessity and possibility of applying technology by financial institutions to better interact and service clients, including remittances that eliminate the need to visit an exchange house; contactless payment solutions; the processing of insurance claims and payments remotely; and supporting lending to small and medium enterprises.

He said the Qatar Central Bank also officially launched its regulatory sandbox, inviting and accepting firms seeking to safely live-trial their services in the digital payment services space.

“We will be focusing on fintech and this is a crucial area of growth post pandemic,” al-Jaida said, referring to specific segments as cyber security, cloud computing and block-chain based technologies and artificial intelligence.

“We believe in the digital sector, which is one of the most promising catalysts for our economy,” he said, adding the digital solutions have become integral to all sectors during the pandemic.

The QFC official said Qatar’s ICT spending would continue to expand at a compounded annual growth of 9.2% to reach $9bn by 2024.

Highlighting that businesses, citizens and governments have turned to digital solutions to keep afloat; he said Qatar has been attuned to the value of this industry through investments in digital and technology solutions and is continuing to do so.

He said there has also been a pick-up in digital sports, which is a new area in Qatar, especially in the backdrop of 2022 FIFA World Cup.

“There will be opportunities in digital sports marketing and media as well as digital venue management services,” he said, stressing that sport, along with media, digital and financial services would continue to be its focus areas in the future.

Qatar and the QFC offer a host of incentives - including waiving application and registration fees, offering workspaces rent-free, and other benefits - for fintechs that give the country a competitive edge over other markets, according to al-Jaida.