Interview: Sheikh Ali Al Waleed Al Thani

How has the launch of IPA Qatar in 2019 impacted the investment ecosystem in the country, and what are the strategic priorities moving ahead?

SHEIKH ALI AL WALEED AL THANI: IPA Qatar has had to adapt to a challenging economic environment brought by the Covid-19 pandemic. This has involved a shift to digital platforms for marketing and promotion, with the expanded use of online channels and tools to reach our target markets. One of our priorities has been to utilise digital platforms to connect investors with investment, financial and legal services in Qatar. Digital investment offerings include the facilitation and streamlining of licensing and registration procedures, which is a key area of focus for IPA Qatar in the post-pandemic recovery period. These services will help investors to fast-track entry into the market through entities such as the Qatar Free Zones Authority, the Qatar Financial Centre, the Qatar Development Bank, and the Ministry of Commerce and Industry. Similarly, IPA Qatar has emphasised expanding our research activities – both in terms of quantity and quality – and utilising this information to advance the local business environment. This research will be used to draft specific investment policy recommendations in the coming years.

Which sectors have the most potential to support growing levels of foreign investment?

AL THANI: It is clear that the pandemic hastened digital transformation in economies worldwide. Qatar is no exception, and this shift has been aided by pre-existing efforts and investment made by the government in this area in recent years. These factors have supported several areas of growth, key among them is ICT. The industry’s development is gaining traction and attracting both local and foreign investors, especially in emerging segments such as artificial intelligence, data analytics, cybersecurity, machine learning and the internet of things. Another promising area is the domestic food and agro-processing industry. We have seen remarkable development in this area in recent years, which bolstered Qatar’s self-sufficiency in food and, in turn, minimised the country’s reliance on imported food.

The health care sector is also attracting significant international interest, supported by Qatar’s advanced health care infrastructure. Building on this, there are opportunities for expansion in promising segments such as medical tourism.

Similarly, the logistics sector continues to perform at international standards. We have the one of the largest seaports and busiest airports in the region. These two facilities have proven to be a key driver of growth for the local logistics industry and the broader economy. Moreover, Qatar is making strides in advanced manufacturing through the use of technology to increase productivity and sustainability. The value proposition of companies operating in this space is very attractive, thus presenting notable opportunities for investment.

What opportunities does the 2022 FIFA World Cup present as a showcase for the country?

AL THANI: Qatar had proven its capability to host large international events even before the 2022 FIFA World Cup was awarded. The upcoming football tournament will undoubtedly help draw more international attention to Qatar, and will consolidate the country’s long-standing efforts to become a centre for sports, tourism and culture.

In the run up to the event the government implemented a series of large-scale infrastructure development projects, including sports stadia, hotels and an airport expansion. There has also been significant progress related to entrepreneurial and start-ups involved in sports. We remain confident that hosting the event will have a positive effect on Qatar’s long-term economic growth prospects.