Interview: Sheikh Mohammed bin Hamad bin Qassim Al Thani

In what ways is the non-hydrocarbons economy expected to evolve in the short term?

SHEIKH MOHAMMED BIN HAMAD BIN QASSIM AL THANI: Qatar anticipates substantial growth and diversification in its non-hydrocarbons economy, aligning closely with the objectives laid out in the Third National Development Strategy (NDS-3). This blueprint aims to position Qatar as a top-10 destination for investors and businesses, foster specialised economic clusters and nurture a business-led innovation ecosystem, with the goal of achieving 4% annual growth in the non-hydrocarbons economy by 2030.

Qatar has solidified its standing as a global business centre and a preferred international investment destination, securing the top position for foreign direct investment (FDI) in 2023, according to the FDI Intelligence report from the Financial Times Group. FDI in the country saw a six-fold increase in 2023, reinforcing Qatar’s status as an attractive market in the MENA region. Qatar’s GDP increased from $98bn in 2009 to $236bn in 2022, which underscores this transformation. NDS-3 aims to sustain this momentum, targeting average annual GDP growth of 4% through 2030.

Which policies, strategies and incentives is Qatar pursuing in order to support trade?

SHEIKH MOHAMMED: Qatar aims to enhance trade activities and position itself as a leading regional investment destination, with economic policies and strategies geared towards strengthening economic openness, forging partnerships with major global economies and fostering increased trade. During its presidency of the GCC in 2024 Qatar will place considerable emphasis on its trade policy, with a specific focus on signing free trade agreements with key partners. Having successfully concluded agreements with South Korea and Pakistan, and engaging in positive negotiations with the UK and China, this initiative aligns with the country’s overarching goal of fostering robust international economic ties and advancing global trade relations.

Qatar actively seeks beneficial international partnerships in non-oil sectors and explores collaborations in emerging fields. Simultaneously, significant investment in infrastructure, including ports, airports and transport networks like Hamad Port and Hamad International Airport, are under way. To boost exports and attract foreign corporations Qatar has created an investment-friendly environment in free zones, logistics parks and special economic zones, featuring entities that include Qatar Science and Technology Park, the Qatar Financial Centre, the Qatar Free Zones Authority and Qatar Media City. Support for the trade sector is evident through institutions like the Qatar Chamber and the Qatar Development Bank.

Shaped by strategic and developmental goals, Qatar places an emphasis on investment that contributes value to society and supports sustainable growth in the local economy. To achieve this, the government has revised regulations and laws to align with international investment standards and best practices. Furthermore, Qatar’s economy has demonstrated steady growth while retaining a competitive tax regime.

Where do you identify the main priorities for supporting commerce and industry in 2024?

SHEIKH MOHAMMED: Between 2024 and 2030 the MoCI will prioritise initiatives outlined in NDS-3. This comprehensive strategy acts as a guiding framework for the country’s development, outlining key outcomes, targets and crucial initiatives to fulfil the aspirations of Qatar National Vision 2030 (QNV). Although NDS-3 covers a seven-year period, it is forward-looking, and anticipates challenges and opportunities beyond 2030 to position the country for sustained prosperity.

As a key player in the strategy, the MoCI is focused on driving progress towards a diversified, knowledge-based and sustainable economy. The aim is to leverage Qatar’s major players and advanced infrastructure to advance productivity, augment the private sector’s role in the economy, and rejuvenate business and innovation ecosystems. Other priorities include simplifying business establishment processes, eliminating redundancies in FDI initiatives and implementing measures to enhance the liberalisation and privatisation of the national economy. Ultimately, this will play a key role in fortifying the trade ecosystem, aligning further with Qatar’s overarching development objectives.

How can utilising technology and digital innovation drive economic growth and diversification?

SHEIKH MOHAMMED: Qatar has made strides in leveraging technology and digital innovation as catalysts for economic growth and diversification, with a particular emphasis on advancing the industrial sector. To meet this objective, there has been a substantial increase in knowledge-sharing, as well as funding dedicated to innovation, research and development. These initiatives have resulted in heightened technical capabilities within domestic industries, notably in manufacturing.

In tandem with these efforts, Qatar has participated in global agreements focusing on intellectual property protection and innovation standards, such as the Madrid System and the Patent Law Treaty. The enactment of Law No. 10 of 2020 on the Protection of Industrial Designs further enhances the legal framework to safeguard the formal aspects of industrial innovations.

Moreover, the NDS-3 outlines ambitious plans to cultivate Qatar’s digital economy and establish enduring strategic capabilities in artificial intelligence and emerging technologies. The strategy envisions the creation of clusters centred around key technologies and national assets, such as media and creative industries. Within this framework, Qatar is committed to prioritising the adoption of Fourth Industrial Revolution practices and promoting circular economy principles to ensure longterm competitiveness. Beyond these initiatives, Qatar recognises the importance of fortifying supply chains. Substantial investment has been directed towards enhancing transport and communication infrastructure to incorporate the latest digital and logistical systems. These endeavours position Qatar as a pivotal player in the global supply chain landscape.

What are some of the solutions to increase food security and the safety of food systems?

SHEIKH MOHAMMED: Addressing global concerns surrounding food security, improving supply chains and ensuring the resilience of food systems remain critical issues, particularly in light of ongoing production challenges and supply disruptions. In Qatar, these concerns closely align with the principles outlined in QNV. To mitigate potential food shortages, Qatar has implemented various measures, including the creation of an integrated food security system to foster longterm sustainability. At Hamad Port, a dedicated food commodity terminal is equipped with the necessary assets for the transport, storage and processing of food commodities. This project features 51 silos with a total storage capacity of approximately 290,000 tonnes, ranking among the largest food silos in the region.

The MoCI has been instrumental in implementing the country’s national food security strategy. Notably, an electronic system has been introduced to manage and control the strategic stock of food and consumer goods, showcasing Qatar’s leadership in meticulous planning, expanding storage capacity for essential commodities and ensuring the security of food supplies. Moreover, a comprehensive plan has been devised to diversify food import sources and foster partnerships with the private sector to enhance the resilience of the food supply. The incorporation of emerging technologies, particularly environmentally friendly agricultural systems like vertical farming, is a standout strategy in optimising the food value chain. These initiatives collectively underscore Qatar’s unwavering commitment to securing food supplies, ensuring food safety and leveraging technology to achieve these vital objectives.