Interview: Sheikh Meshaal Jaber Al Sabah

Which sectors offer promising investment opportunities in the post-Covid-19 recovery phase?

SHEIKH MESHAAL JABER AL SABAH: Kuwait was in a strong and stable position after the Covid-19 pandemic due in part to the mitigating measures taken to alleviate the adverse impact of the crisis. The country has witnessed a gradual economic recovery supported by higher oil prices and export revenue. In the post-pandemic era, the country continues to work towards the New Kuwait 2035 goals of economic diversification, private sector development, sustainability, effective governance and an improved business environment.

KDIPA figures show that ICT, oil and gas, and construction services attracted 78.3% of the cumulative approved direct investment in March 2022. The pandemic triggered interest in segments including pharmaceuticals, medical and food industries. ICT remains a dynamic sector due to its role in supporting accelerated digital transformation in the public and private spheres.

How do you evaluate Kuwait’s regional competitiveness in attracting technology investment?

SHEIKH MESHAAL: Kuwait has a competitive ecosystem for attracting technology investment from leading international firms. The ICT sector is the most appealing for investors, making up around 32% of the $4.4bn cumulative approved direct investment by KDIPA in the country from 2015 to 2022. Kuwait can be considered a centre for advanced technology thanks to its regulatory stability, competitive cost and vibrant young workforce.

The government established the Communication and Information Technology Regulatory Authority (CITRA) to regulate the services of telecommunications networks in the country, and to monitor and protect the interests of users and service providers, while ensuring transparency, equality of opportunity and fair competition.

The country’s ICT statistics tracked by CITRA show that 100% of the population is covered by LTE, which is a standard for wireless broadband communication for mobile devices and data terminals. The internet penetration rate is approximately 99.7%. With 97% of people having access to 5G and a rate of 158 mobile subscriptions per 100 residents, download speeds are fast even during peak usage.

Kuwait has improved in innovation inputs and outputs according to the Global Innovation Index (GII) 2022 and was among the top-ranked countries in electricity output (fourth out of 132 countries); ICT services exports as a percentage of total trade (sixth); ICT access (eighth); e-participation (18th) and software spending as a percentage of GDP (26th). Kuwait also earned top rankings for education expenditure in the GII 2022 as a percentage of GDP (11th), and the pupil-to-teacher ratio at the secondary level (fifth), which are important for nurturing local talent.

What role will foreign direct investment play in realising the main goals of New Kuwait 2035?

SHEIKH MESHAAL: Direct investment plays a crucial role in New Kuwait 2035 in terms of attaining economic diversification and sustainable growth, with the private sector driving increases in productivity and ensuring the effective deployment of both resources and talent. The country’s project pipeline is valued at more than $170bn across various sectors, ranging from traditional oil and gas, to the technology- and innovation-driven ICT and creative industries that continue to provide lucrative investment opportunities.

Furthermore, Kuwait aims to attract investment that contributes to attaining the UN Sustainable Development Goals, yields new jobs for youth and provides advanced training opportunities for local talent. Kuwait also seeks technology transfer through the opening of specialised labs and research and development facilities. Lastly, the country is looking to attract investment that contributes to environmental protection, carbon emissions reductions and other green initiatives to fight climate change that is affecting the whole world.