Jul. 12, 2021
During the first days of January 2021, the news of Qatar and Saudi Arabia's agreement to end the diplomatic crisis in the Gulf region excited many analysts. The agreement was reached with the mediation of the US and Kuwait—a fellow GCC nation.
The news became more serious when HH Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani travelled to Saudi Arabia to attend a GCC summit and was warmly greeted by the Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman. The reconciliation efforts, which were formalized with the signing of the Al Ula statement, will start with the reopening of borders with Saudi Arabia and hopefully put an end to the blockade imposed on Qatar since 2017.
Although Qatar welcomed its lifting and the renewing of diplomatic titles with fellow GCC and Arab nations, the blockade was, in a few ways, a blessing in disguise; for one thing, Qatar focused more on the localization of supply chains on its soil, one of whose manifestations is the “Made in Qatar" initiative.
The initiative was launched in 2009, well ahead of the diplomatic crisis in the Gulf region, but since the beginning of the blockade, its organizer, the Qatar Chamber, became even more determined to leverage the event as an opportunity to showcase the country's great capabilities, especially in the non-oil sector. As the country's largest trade fair, and under the watch of the Ministry of Energy and Industry, the event brought together over 220 Qatari firms in its latest edition in 2020.
Made in Qatar 2020 gave a chance to the representatives of Qatari manufacturers to get in touch with each other and carry out negotiations about forming up potential deals, thus creating a great deal of synergy in the country's economy. The event was not limited to Qatar, either; as its third appearance abroad, the Made in Qatar initiative was also held in the Kuwait International Fair in Mishref in late February 2020. The event concluded successfully with the inking of several partnership deals between Qatari and Kuwaiti businesses—which, in retrospect, may be interpreted as a kind of prelude to the end of the diplomatic crisis in the GCC region.
By attending the main event in Qatar or its overseas edition in Kuwait, one could easily see that Qatar has come a long way in the diversification of its manufacturing sector away from oil. The achievements of SMEs active in the food industry, the furniture industry, and the petrochemicals industry were particularly eye-catching in 2020.
The advancements in the manufacturing sector are in line with the Qatar's National Vision 2030, which stipulates that Qatar should become an “advanced society capable of sustaining its development and providing a high standard of living for its people."
2020 was an unexpected challenge that tested the robustness of Qatar's economy, in general, and the country's supply chains and the manufacturing sector, in particular. Despite the combined pressures of the blockade and the COVID-19 pandemic, the manufacturing sector showed signs of recovery in June and July, well ahead of most nations in the Middle East and North Africa region.
By June 2020, the production of cement, chemicals and petrochemicals, plastics and rubber, most food products, and refined oil products recovered, with the nation's industrial production index (IPI) growing by 0.6-0.7% on a month-to-month basis.
Although this may not sound like an impressive figure under normal circumstances, one must take the fact into consideration that many countries were exhibiting negative IPIs at the time, and the mere fact that Qatar's IPI was above-zero as early as June is a testament to the robustness of the Gulf nation's economy, making the observers more optimistic about the successful implementation of Qatar's National Vision 2030.
If the country managed to keep calm and carry on through a thousand-day blockade and a devastating pandemic, while preparing itself perfectly to host a world-class event—the 2022 FIFA World Cup—it can surely meet the objectives outlined by the Qatar National Vision 2030.