Interview: Ahmad Al Sayed

What are the key developments and most promising projects taking place in Qatar’s free zones?

AHMAD AL SAYED: Major projects completed during 2021 were built to provide business- and industrial-space solutions to investors. These include the Business Innovation Park, which provides more than 6000 sq metres of office space and 78 light industrial units with 79,000 sq metres of industrial space. Similarly, the main intersection and entrance at Ras Bufontas free zone will be finalised by end-2022. In addition, the completion of the Marsa Marine project in Umm Alhoul free zone has enabled growth in the marine cluster.

To date, we have attracted around 250 investors including technology leaders such as Google, Microsoft and Thales; logistics players including DHL, UPS, Gulf Agency Company and Gulf Warehousing Company; and vehicle manufacturers, including Volkswagen, Gaussin and Yutong. This has helped to create more than 3100 new skilled jobs, leading to total employment of 6400. Moreover, the leasing area in free zones has reached approximately 700,000 sq metres and will reach more than 1m sq metres by end-2022.

Major upcoming projects include a cluster of specialty distribution centres, the QW alk promenade in Ras Bufontas free zone, as well as additional office and industrial buildings for new investors entering Qatar’s free zones. Furthermore, with Qatar being accepted into the Kimberley Process in 2021, QFZA will establish a new diamond centre that will serve as a cornerstone for the growth and development of the high-potential gem and jewellery trading industry in the region.

How is Qatar supporting industrial growth, and how does it intend to attract investment and capitalise on emerging opportunities?

AL SAYED: The recent push by Qatar to diversify away from hydrocarbons will ensure long-term sustainable growth. At the same time, the government is leading various projects to localise some key industries. The pandemic highlighted the necessity for digital transformation to drive industrial growth. We have therefore worked to increase opportunities in our digital ecosystem for local and international companies working in the industrial and emerging technology sectors.

Research institutions and incubators looking to attract local and global talent are also considered as good drivers for the growth of industries. In this sense, to attract investment, Qatar has offered companies the necessary supporting laws, legislations and licensing, quality transport infrastructure, robust telecoms connectivity, and a developed education system that forms the basis for a skilled domestic workforce.

Which segments in transport and logistics are best positioned to benefit from digitalisation?

AL SAYED: The emergence of new technologies has generated more economic activity online and enabled a significant increase in the demand for logistics, e-commerce and cloud data services. As a result, QFZA has redoubled its efforts to boost these segments through an investment attraction approach. In transportation, segments that have benefitted from digitalisation are mainly related to innovative mobility solutions and autonomous vehicles. This segment is well established to facilitate the movement of goods and people within closed environments. Digitalisation benefitted logistics by improving tracking, tracing and creating transparency for critical products like pharmaceuticals and food through the blockchain and telematics. This is supported by the ongoing investment in smart government and digital incubators, among other initiatives.

The country is also investing in key emerging technologies, including artificial intelligence, the blockchain, cloud computing and aerospace. With the presence of tech giants such as Google and Microsoft in Qatar’s free zones, and the creation of e-commerce and logistics regulations, we will be able to contribute significantly to the development of the start-up ecosystem.