Interview: Zayed bin Rashid Al Zayani

How will the Industrial Sector Strategy 2022-26 support small businesses, and what can be done to facilitate their integration into global value chains?

ZAYED BIN RASHID AL ZAYANI: Launched as part of the Economic Recovery Plan in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Industrial Sector Strategy 2022-26 focuses on developing an advanced, innovative and sustainable industrial sector. One of the pillars of this strategy is to strengthen national industries and develop initiatives to assist industrial small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). For example, a platform will be provided to encourage large factories to purchase products and services from their smaller local counterparts. Other priorities are the provision of industrial incubation and acceleration opportunities for SMEs, improvements to regional import and export supply chain management through solutions provided by Export Bahrain, the further development of the Made in Bahrain trademark and the launch of the Industrial Excellence Award to foster competition between factories.

It is essential for the industrial sector – mainly SMEs – to adopt the latest technologies and industrial innovations. We believe it is the right time to encourage digital transformation, which will play a significant role in achieving sustainability and contribute to additional industrial production capacity and efficiency on manufacturing lines. The whole world is striving to achieve social and environmental responsibility. This is creating opportunities for growth in sustainable and green industries, which can be achieved by accelerating digital transformation in manufacturing. This means automating and digitalising production lines and adopting renewable energy solutions.

Which manufacturing segments have the highest growth prospects in terms of contribution to GDP, and in what ways are they being supported?

AL ZAYANI: The sector’s contribution to GDP reached 13.9% during the fourth quarter of 2021, as reported by the Ministry of Finance and National Economy. This outcome was aided by the aluminium segment, with Aluminium Bahrain (Alba) achieving the highest production volumes in its history, at more than 1.5m tonnes in 2021. We expect aluminium will remain a vital contributor to the economy and export growth going forwards, especially as Alba operates the largest smelter in the world outside of China.

A main objective of the Industrial Sector Strategy 2022-26 is to increase industry’s contribution to GDP by boosting national origin exports, as well as creating job opportunities related to the Fourth Industrial Revolution. A circular carbon economy approach will be used to attract investment in digitalisation and improve regional supply chains. It is important to encourage industrial innovation by finding solutions to widespread challenges and capitalising on global trends. As such, strategic initiatives were designed to provide fertile ground for the industrial sector to reach its potential by promoting local content and adding value.

What more can be done to support Bahrainisation objectives in industry and commerce, particularly concerning skills development?

AL ZAYANI: One of the pillars of the Industrial Sector Strategy 2022-26 focuses on professional career guidance, which includes coaching and mentoring Bahrainis. To that end, the ministry is working with Tamkeen, a semi-autonomous agency that supports private sector development, and the Bahrain Institute of Banking and Finance to make progress in this area. The framework is dedicated to human capital development and has the support of technical and vocational training institutions. Courses, workshops and professional certification programmes will be launched to encourage the employability of Bahrainis in the sector. Manufacturing companies will also be encouraged to establish internship and apprenticeship programmes for graduates from technical and vocational institutes.