Qatar National Vision 2030 recognises the need to diversify the economy by enabling a flourishing private sector and supporting entrepreneurs, who need seed capital and land for factories, offices and warehouses in order to grow. In 2ence011 the state created Manateq, tasking the agency with managing special economic zones (SEZs) and encouraging businesses and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to locate there.
Manateq oversees a number of industrial parks, including Mesaieed Industrial Zone (MIZ), which covers an area of 12m sq metres and is situated 30 km south of Doha, near Hamad Port and Um Alhoul free zone. The SEZ Al Karaana will be four times the size of MIZ and located off the Salwa Road between Doha and Abu Sumra. Jery Al Samur logistics park lies north of Doha and has a range of plots over a 745,000-sq-metre site. Manateq’s four remaining logistics parks are Aba Saleel, spanning 512,000 sq metres; Al Wakrah (4.4m sq metres); Al Wukair (1.48m sq metres); and Birkat Al Awamer (9.4m sq metres). Manateq’s logistics parks are adjacent to main roads and have infrastructure for water and electricity, offering long-term rent and lease options. The logistics parks have space for warehousing, workshops, showrooms, office space and options for worker accommodation.
Manateq also sponsors four warehousing parks, each of which cover approximately 500,000 sq metres. These parks are being constructed on a build-own-transfer basis by private companies that have facilities for cold chain logistics and other products. In addition, Manateq offers a range of options for potential clients, from finished units to plots that companies can develop themselves. In December 2019 local media reported that from the second quarter of 2020, the Birkat Al Awamer logistics park would be expanded in order to meet the strong demand for plots.
In December 2019 Qatar’s largest sharia-compliant bank, Qatar Islamic Bank (QIB), announced that it would be offering preferential financing terms for the tenants of Manateq’s four logistics parks. Under the agreement the investors would be able to raise 60% of their project financing against land and personal guarantees from QIB as part of the bank’s commitment to supporting the SME sector. “We are happy to work with Manateq to help draw new investments and expertise to Qatar and develop an entrepreneurial culture in the country,” Bassel Gamal, CEO of QIB, said at the signing of a memorandum of understanding between Manateq and the bank. “SMEs significantly contribute in areas such as innovation, efficiency, job creation and international competitiveness, all of which are key to Qatar’s economic diversification.”
In addition to Manateq’s industrial, logistics and warehousing parks, free zones are being developed adjacent to the country’s main air- and seaports. Established in 1998 the Qatar Free Zones Authority is responsible for the development and regulation of the country’s free zones. For instance, Ras Bufontas free zone is being built by Hamad International Airport, while Umm Alhoul free zone is near Hamad Port. Both zones have welcomed major new international companies. International courier DHL Express is investing approximately QR120m ($32.9m) in a new 19,000-sq-metre logistics centre at Ras Bufontas that will feature 17 loading bays, a break-bulk express facility tailored for retail, ICT and e-commerce customers. Proximity to the airport is vital for its operation. A wide range of international firms are establishing operations at the country’s free zones, such as Germany’s Volkswagen, France’s Thales Group, Malaysia’s Wasco Coatings, France-based Gaussin, China Harbour Engineering, US-based Inventus Power and China’s Unistrong. These companies will benefit from proximity to Hamad Port, from which they will be able to serve the Qatari market as well as export their products across the MENA region. The free zones are succeeding in attracting foreign direct investment to Qatar, but are also introducing new technologies that will play a part in helping to diversify the local economy.