How has Qatar's SME development changed in the past year?
In 2017, Qatar was behind the region by about 20%, but this figure has since significantly improved as a result of many variables. The number of initiatives that support SMEs has increased, including incubators and educational support, which is where Injaz has a direct role, especially in entrepreneurial education in line with our partnership with the Ministry of Education. The whole ecosystem of entrepreneurship has developed rapidly, including all the different stakeholders; the blockade provided the last push in the right direction, and we are now seeing the results. Entrepreneurs typically ask: What do we need, and how can we be less codependent? Answering these questions is where ideas emerge and businesses are set up. In addition, one of the main changes is legislation, which has significantly improved to support the SMEs sector. In just one year, we saw massive changes in the entire ecosystem.
Private sector companies mentor and sponsor Qatari students. How much of that is international companies versus domestic companies?
It is a mixture of different sectors, public and private. We want to attract more industries to be involved in this process and create awareness of these industries and the job market here, especially to fill the large gap between the job market and the educational system. According to available studies and statistics, many students are not employment ready and lack certain soft skills to identify a suitable career that fits their skills. We help bridge that gap.
Which sectors need the most help at the moment?
When it comes to SMEs, there are many gaps. For example, companies in the local insurance sector are struggling to recruit local talent, and this is also the case in the banking sector. It all falls under same the gap that we addressed earlier, which starts early on from high school. If it is a matter of lack of knowledge, we come in and provide this knowledge and the influence to encourage students to explore different options, even when it comes to things related to the arts, for example. It all comes down to a cultural change that we are trying to encourage, and it is a process. It needs everyone to come together and complement each other to achieve that; it needs different stakeholders, time, effort, and in some cases money. There are three main pillars in terms of what Injaz focuses on: employability skills, entrepreneurship, and financial literacy. Financial literacy and financial inclusion have become hot topics, and we are working closely on these with the Qatar Central Bank, under the administration of the Governor. We set up a committee for financial inclusion with the goal of catering to the younger segment of the population. Financial literacy is an extremely important pillar and it has been neglected before, and we are thus working hard on this as well.
Is Injaz funded by sponsors from the corporate side or does it receive government funding?
We are considered as a private entity for public benefit, though our funds come mainly from our board companies. Most of our board members are from the private sector and include companies such as Boeing, Qatar Financial Center, Citibank, and Deloitte, among others. These are the main funders of Injaz, though we also have other non-board sponsors. Partnerships do not necessarily mean financial partnerships because we do have many other partnerships, for example most recently with the French Embassy. We continually seek to partner with new companies, organizations, and affiliations, because the involvement of the employees of that company is essential as mentors. People who represent a certain company or industry are needed as well, and partnerships can come in different shapes and forms.