Banks will have a significant role to play in the development and growth of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Qatar, which represent 97% of the country’s private sector institutions, Qatar Chamber chairman Sheikh Khalifa bin Jassim al-Thani has said.
In an interview in ‘The Report: Qatar 2022’ published recently by Oxford Business Group (OBG), Sheikh Khalifa stressed the need to encourage banks to offer solutions to entrepreneurs seeking to expand or launch new businesses.
Sheikh Khalifa also emphasised the importance of enacting legislation that protects, promotes, and empowers SMEs, as well as offering services that facilitate the launch of businesses and providing training services, consultations, orientation, and incubation opportunities for entrepreneurs.
According to Sheikh Khalifa, SMEs in Qatar account for “some 15% to 17%” of non-oil GDP, describing these businesses as the “backbone of any economy” and “important drivers” of economic diversification and GDP growth.
The Qatar Chamber official noted that various initiatives have been launched in Qatar to support SMEs, such as funding programmes through governmental institutions and guarantee mechanisms like the Al Dhameen programme. “The country also has several incubation programmes targeting SMEs and startups,” he said.
On its role in supporting SMEs, Sheikh Khalifa said Qatar Chamber has been keen on helping SMEs compete in the national economy. The chamber hosted three editions of the ‘SMEs Conference’ and shared best practices of its foreign partners, he further said.
Qatar Chamber is also supporting entrepreneurs and owners of family businesses by promoting their products during exhibitions, primarily through its highly-successful ‘Made in Qatar’ exhibition, he noted.
Similarly, the chamber forged a partnership with Qatar University and Qatar Development Bank (QDB) for the establishment of the ‘Ma’an’ (“together” in Arabic) initiative to support entrepreneurs, Sheikh Khalifa explained.
Through this initiative, Sheikh Khalifa said four editions of the ‘Best Innovative Ideas of Entrepreneurs’ competition were held to support the most forward-thinking start-ups. The ‘SMEs Excellence List Award’ was another partnership with QDB in which 50 high-achieving enterprises from the local private sector were recognised, he said.
On sectors that offer the best potential to accelerate economic diversification, Sheikh Khalifa said many sectors have seen significant growth during the pandemic, such as the industrial and food security sectors. "The industrial sector has witnessed great development and the number of factories in Qatar has reached 835 with investments amounting to QR293bn", he said.
Sheikh Khalifa also underscored Qatar’s progress in the food security sector, affirming that this is a top priority for Qatar and one of the main pillars of sustainable development under Qatar National Vision 2030.
“Apart from these two areas, other sectors most likely to accelerate the country’s economic diversification are construction, tourism and hospitality, ICT, retail, and real estate,” he explained.
On the impact of developing environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) standards on the international business community, Sheikh Khalifa said strong ESG practices could help companies improve their reputation, increase competitiveness, and attract investments.
“Other benefits include boosting revenue by raising productivity and reducing costs, protecting shareholder value, creating opportunities for growth and innovation, retaining talent, and setting the foundations for long-term success. Businesses with effective ESG policies can contribute to safeguarding the environment and improving society, all the while enhancing their own performance.
“The growing focus on ESG standards is compatible with Qatar’s development and diversification strategies. Promoting ESG among investors, companies, and the wider business community will contribute to the realisation of the economic, human, and environmental goals laid out in Qatar National Vision 2030.” Sheikh Khalifa added.