What were the major highlights for QDB in the first half of 2020?
QDB's direct financing reached QAR7.14 billion by July 2020, supporting over 950 companies and driving a 36% growth in our capital deployed in start-ups. Our export trade financing also grew to reach QAR1 billion in 2019. Meanwhile, we continued to help SMEs access local and global markets with over QAR1 billion worth of contracts awarded to local buyers and orders valued at over QAR560 million booked for exports. In 2020, disruptions caused by COVID-19 prompted the bank to put in place an agile strategy to address three areas of focus for entrepreneurs: surviving the pandemic; reviving their businesses amid ongoing challenges; and thriving in the new economy. First, we delayed SMEs' loan repayment without interest fees for six months and granted special exemptions to tenants at the Qatar Business Incubation Center (QBIC) as well as in our commercial complexes (Al Furjan Markets) and Jahiz 1, and Jahiz 2 factories. In parallel, QDB launched the National Guarantee Program as part of the country's QAR75-billion incentives package, helping more than 3,500 companies finance their employee wage bills and pay rental fees. We also introduced an entire suite of virtual consultation and training services and relaunched the bank's situation room to deal with supply chain disruptions for SMEs, among other related initiatives. Finally, we established the Revive program to support SMEs with packages covering the areas of finance, knowledge, and skill development, to help them overcome challenges while turning crises into a platform to grow and access new markets.
How is QDB, and the business ecosystem in Qatar, supporting entrepreneurs and SMEs towards becoming the backbone of the national economy?
QDB and its affiliate institutions adopt an ideation-to-fruition approach to supporting SMEs in Qatar. We start by instilling an entrepreneurial mindset in our younger generation through Bedaya Center while helping aspiring entrepreneurs turn their ideas into start-ups at QBIC—the MENA region's largest mixed-use business incubator. With the outstanding impact of QBIC, we were inspired to launch a number of specialized incubators in collaboration with our strategic partners covering various areas that had witnessed growing demand such as Fintech and Sports-tech. We also have yet another incubator coming up soon for entrepreneurs in the fashion industry. But that's not all. To bring fruition to the ventures and endeavors of established Qatari SMEs, QDB provides them with a rich range of advisory and financial support services to fuel their growth, while granting them access to local and global markets.
What innovative initiatives and new partnerships can we expect from QDB in the medium term to achieve these goals?
In addition to its ever-growing SME-focused funding, support, and capacity-building programs, QDB works closely with government entities and Qatar's wider SME ecosystem to promote localization, export development, and self-sufficiency. For example, the COVID-19 outbreak prompted QDB to establish a dedicated hotline for affected SMEs, providing them with on-the-spot consultations tailored to their situation and context. Moreover, the bank has played a vital role in accelerating the acquisition of raw materials for hand sanitizer and mask production businesses to maintain local supply amid the sort of deglobalization that is currently taking place.
How is QDB creating localization opportunities for Qatari SMEs, and how does cooperation between Qatar's authorities and private companies through public-private partnerships benefit local SMEs?
We are continuously pursuing avenues for localization, including signing a cooperation agreement for a localization program with one of Qatar's biggest national enterprises. During our first B2B workshop within this framework, 17 F&B SMEs were directly introduced to the brand's current business opportunities, and we plan to continue providing SMEs with direct access to market and supply chain localization opportunities with our strategic partners. When it comes to PPPs, we see them as an additional growth for private enterprises, while introducing private-sector expertise and innovation to public projects. The recently introduced PPP Law grants them access to partnership opportunities with the public sector at a scale that was never before available, which complements the various channels QDB makes available to them in this domain.