STRENGTHENING THE BASE

Kuwait 2017 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to HE Khaled Nasser Abdullah Al-Roudan, Minister of Commerce and Industry (MoCI), on tools and strategies for diversifying the economy, the role of international players in supporting a wider range of sectors, and the rapidly developing food industry.

HE Khaled Nasser Abdullah Al-Roudan
BIOGRAPHY
Before his appointment as Minister of Commerce and Industry, HE Khaled Nasser Al-Roudan worked in the private sector, with extensive experience in media and marketing. He was the founder and vice-chairman of Senyar Marketing and Branding Company. Furthermore, he worked in investment firms like Bayan Investment Company, M-Net Payment Services Company, and Kuwait and Middle East Investment Company (KEMFIC). Al-Roudan has a degree in business administration, focusing on finance and financial Institutions from Kuwait University. As of January 2017, he also serves as the Acting Minister of State for Youth Affairs.

How would you describe Kuwait's progress in diversifying its economy, and how is the ministry equipped to drive diversification of the economy?

The 2015-2020 plan could be named “the rebirth." Kuwait was the first country in the region to build a comprehensive infrastructure between 1950 and 1960s. This infrastructure has reached its maturity and it is time to rebuild the country. But, infrastructure does not build countries, economies do; therefore, we have concentrated on different initiatives to achieve the target of becoming a more open economy and focused on diversifying its sources of income. This has been the cornerstone of the development plan. MoCI is committed to utilizing the ministry and its affiliated bodies to enhance and improve the ecosystem of Kuwait. We aim to achieve that by simplifying and automating the procedures and processes of establishing and maintaining business licenses and registration, while taking into consideration the best practices and latest technologies, enhancing regulatory requirements for trade and commerce supervision, and improving the skills of employees attending to those tasks.

How can Kuwait use its vast resources to drive surrounding industries?

Kuwait is one of the main oil providers in the world and has some of the highest reserves. The country has been successful in its partnership with global leaders in petrochemicals and we are witnessing more companies entering this market in Kuwait. At MoCI and our affiliates, we are taking into consideration the needs of businesses in those industries and are working closely with stakeholders to improve the underlying platform and enhance the process and procedures related to them. We also encourage international companies to enter the Kuwaiti market, and the Kuwait Direct Promotion Authority (KDIPA) has been successful in executing and inviting international firms to start their direct business in Kuwait without a local agent, such as Huawei and IBM, along with many others that already have operations. On the other hand, we will soon have the Authority for the Protection of Competition (APC) working at its full capacity to enhance and improve the competition in the Kuwaiti market as well as ensure fair trade for all stakeholders in the economy. The National Fund for SMEs has been working vigorously to consolidate and enhance and promote entrepreneurial initiatives among the youth in Kuwait in order to enhance the local business communities. The fund has been engaged in different financing programs and training and development program and we aim for the National Fund to be a major driver in the near future and would be a factor in increasing the employment of Kuwaitis in the private sector. The National Fund also focuses on enhancing the engagement of small and medium enterprises in that field, in which we believe it would be an added value to the overall economy and assist as well in the knowledge transfer by linking international players with the know-how with local business to collaborate in the field, similar to what is happening between multinational companies and the government.

Kuwait has a strongly developing food market, with national giants like Mezzan and Americana increasingly becoming regional leaders. What potential can be further unlocked for the F&B and FMCG market in the country?

Kuwait is an active and versatile market for the F&B and FMCG industries with major players, not just locally, but regionally. This has been the norm for a long time. Americana and Mezzan are indeed recognizable publicly traded companies; yet there are other players in those sectors, varying from SMEs to multinationals. We have witnessed many new brands in both industries originating in Kuwait and expanding into regional countries, which have been a great added value to our economy and we aim to encourage those businesses to expand into other countries and continents as well as encouraging similar businesses to take the footsteps of the predecessors and increase the Kuwaiti footprint in other economies.